Starting Your Own Business; The Things Nobody Tells You

2017 seems to be the year of "following your dreams." Everyone seems to be taking risks and making changes; particularly when it comes to work. As a "small business owner" I get asked a lot about how and why I started doing things on my own so I thought I'd put a post together with things I've learnt in the last 2 years - half to help you guys, half to remind myself. There are so, so many factors to consider (if you're a blogger considering full time you might find this article useful) Enjoy...

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Are You Cut Out For Self Employment?

It baffles me how few people actually think to ask themselves, "Can I work for myself, by myself?" Be mature enough to remove the dream from the reality. Strip your idea bare and make sure there is a viable business in there. Understand that behind every, single #startuplife Instagram image of the perfectly frothed coffee and perfectly handwritten to do list there is an employer pulling their hair out over a VAT bill/supplier issue/staffing problem (possibly all in one go).

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In addition to that, ask yourself what do you love about work? If it's being part of a team understand that you probably won't have that for a while. If you can't work efficiently from home make sure you budget for office space from day 1, etc.  The first 3 months of going full time with One Roof Social were miserable. Yes, I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing (running influencer campaigns) but also I was my own assistant, my accountant, my web developer, my creative, my colleague and my boss. It was hard.

outfit links = stripe top / trousers / shoes (available in 3 colours) / sunglasses / bag

Find Your Tribe

When I set up the business I was really lucky as I had a couple of friends who were 6 months ahead of me with their companies who were happy enough to share their successes and pitfalls. I also asked previous bosses what they thought my weaknesses were (that was eye opening) and my strengths (slightly more enjoyable to hear). It's important to have more than you're own opinion of yourself; you need to know what you're like to work with. 

Make sure you pick people who are honest with you and not afraid to tell you how it really us. As an example I never go to my Mum when I want to know if my business is going ok. She's my Mum and will obviously tell me I'm brilliant  - but also wont know the answer because she's not an influencer marketing expert. Don't give yourself a false sense of security by asking the wrong people. That said, I go to Mum when I just want a verbal-hug or some general confidence boosting/home cooked meal.

Know Yourself

This sits quite nicely with the self employment thing but in addition to that; know how you work best and understand what that means for your business. For example, I work really well first thing in the morning and last thing at night. In the middle of the day I'm not so great so I have my meetings then - I'd be wasting time trying to get tasks done. That means that if a client emails me in the middle of the day wanting something doing, they probably won't get an answer until that evening.

I also know that if I go out with work in the evening I can't have more than two glasses of wine otherwise I'll be completely inefficient the following day which creates a spiral of self hatred for the rest of the week. That said, sometimes you have to do it - if I'm out the night before I'll never leave something pressing to do the following day. It'll already be done, or I'll have given myself the extra time so I don't need to panic or submit something I'm not proud of*

*on that, I always imagine I'm my Year 11 maths tutor** when I'm "marking" my own work. If it's not an "A" I can't leave the classroom until it is.
**Anyone I was at school with knows exactly who I'm referring too. Terrifying.

outfit links = stripe top / trousers / shoes (available in 3 colours) / sunglasses / bag

Don't Ask For Too Many Favours

I thought this sat quiet neatly after "tribe gathering" because all too often new business owners forget that the world doesn't owe them a favour and they over-expect from those around them. If you can't get your business up and running without the help of others, ensure those "others" are paid employees and not people you have to constantly ask favours from. You'll ruin your relationships and your business will fail (I nearly called this section "If You Can't Do Something Properly, Don't Do It" but it meandered into the below...).

This is a tricky one to explain but in short; asking for favours follows the same rules as texting at the beginning of a relationship. Wait until you've established a connection with someone and position the favour/request honestly. If you don't hear back don't be offended, move on - it's very hard for people to say "no" sometimes so they bury their head in the sand instead. Never "double-text" the situation, i.e: chase them vehemently or ask for anything else until you've been able to help them out in return. Oh and - newsflash - no matter how you dress up asking for a favour, everyone knows your asking for a favour. 

I find this particularly difficult as a blogger; I often get asked to feature a brand via a connection and obviously I want to support them all. However, there comes a point that I can't keep on doing it without something back in return. I think this even applies to your closest friends; Yes they love you but it's their job to earn money and support themselves, not you.

Lastly, if someone does you a favour say thank you. As in properly. Send a card.

outfit links = stripe top / trousers / shoes (available in 3 colours) / sunglasses / bag

Have Some Money Aside, But Not Too Much

I worked part time as a social media manager for the first year of One Roof Social. It worked perfectly as it meant I had just enough money to live, feed the dog and be a reliable housemate, but also needed to push forward in order to have any fun in life whatsoever. I honestly think if I'd had loads of cash I wouldn't have worked as hard - I'm the type of person hugely motivated by money, which not enough people admit to. It's not that I want a boat and a housekeeper - it's that ultimately £ does indicate success and I do want to be successful.

I quit the part time job when One Roof Social could sustain itself (and myself and a staff member) for the following 3 months. You need to put yourself out there to a little bit of risk in order to get that drive to make things work.

outfit links = stripe top / trousers / shoes (available in 3 colours) / sunglasses / bag

The Highs Are Really High... The Lows Are Really Low

This is a big one for me and a statement I always repeat to anyone thinking of starting on their own. The upsides are so much better than when you work for someone else; the success is yours. But if things go wrong there is nobody else responsible other than yourself. Even if you have staff it's your company, therefore your responsibility and you have to be prepared to own it.

In a nutshell working for myself is brilliant but it's exposed elements of my personality and abilities I didn't know were there. For example; it turns out I'm hopeless with Excel spreadsheets. I'll cry over them regularly. But I'm brilliant at the creative ideas and getting someone to understand what the business does. 

Crucially when you have a successful moment, celebrate it. Really celebrate it = give yourself goals. My entire business is built on the premise for every client we win I get a back massage. It works and my posture is now excellent.

If It Isn't Working, Change It

I always knew I wanted to work for myself, but the first business I started failed and I'm not afraid to admit it. Well actually it didn't fail so much as not take off in the way I thought it would. In truth, it was mainly the name. I called the company "Pitch and Post" which in 2014 made total sense as bloggers we "pitched" work and then "posted" it. Fast forward 18 months and the expression wasn't relevant and clients couldn't really *get* us. So I took a deep breath and started again.

outfit links = stripe top / trousers / shoes (available in 3 colours) / sunglasses / bag

Overall, I bl**dy love what I do and I cant imagine ever doing anything else. But there have been unexpected hurdles; I wish someone had told that I'd now know the "on hold" music to Go Daddy as well as I do the Eastenders theme tune. It's ingrained into my soul. I hope this little post has helped you rule in/out starting your own thing. As I said, there are a million more things to consider. Myself and Naomi continue this discussion on her podcast series here (episode 15) if you'd like a further 44 minutes of my career journey. 

Finally, I'd just like to say that if you're not the type to start your business thats fine too. There is so much social media pressure that you need to be hustling your way through life I can imagine being content with being an employee rather than an employer could sometimes feel not good enough. That's bullsh*t. If it wasn't for people like you, I wouldn't be able to have a business like mine - and probably vice versa. So thank you very much.

Photography by Claire Menary


Lauren Black said...

This is brilliant. You’re an inspiration!

Julia Damjanovic said...

This is brilliant, so true and so succinctly written. Loved it!

Abby said...

What a wonderfully written roundup! I would like to extend a Special thank you for the last notes on not being a Business owner. Yes! I am an employee and I love what I do, but my peers are all for the start up game and I just am not, but keep feeling like I need to apologise for that. Personally, I think it can be as hard to have a boss as it is to be the boss. Just because you are employed doesn't mean you are not aiming high enough or reaching your full potential.
Everybody to their own - as long as we work and contribute to society we should all get a pat on our backs.

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