How not to lose the plot starting your own business...
Taking the leap from the stability and routine of the 9-5 into the world of self-employment can seem scary. OK, really flipping scary. We've been going for 6 months now and trading for 4. Here's a few of our tips and tricks we've learnt the hard way; hoping they'll make someone else's journey a little less terrifying!
1) Find your tribe
Whether you've liked them or not, you've been used to having colleagues around to talk to, moan at, get second opinions on work from. Now you're sat in your make shift office at home trying to make small talk over a brew with the cat. Starting up on your own can be really lonely. Having other people who are in the same or similar position around you is crucial for camaraderie, proof reading and motivational pep talks. There are so many incredible groups out there created to support women in business; both online and offline. We're a member of Business Sorority based in Manchester and SisterHub based in Chester. Both would be described as networking groups, but they are both SO MUCH more than that. The support and inspiration both offer is invaluable. As well, through Twitter we've found other bad-ass ladies also operating as lone-rangers in the business world. Having them on tap is like long-distance co-working, pinging emails over to check over before sending to clients and making sure we're taking our regular breaks. Huge shout-out to Anneli at Pigletish who's been an angel over the last few months while we've both been setting up our businesses.
2) Daily 'go-outside'
Some weeks can see a bit of a drought in meetings and it's mega easy to slip into a habit of working from your sofa, and before you know it days have passed and you've not seen a real life human. Even if it's just a 5 minute walk around the block or something more long distance, getting out into world, fresh air, real people and a bit of Vit D stops you losing your marbles too soon. And if anything, it's an excuse to treat yourself to the shop for a treat or two :)
3) The boring stuff
Getting all of the boring but essential stuff boxed off early on gives a huge peace of mind you won't have to stress it out when you're busy with clients. Things like accounts, late payments, tax, business & health insurance...they're all super yawn-tastic but it's such a weight off your mind knowing they're done and your business can run smoothly.
4) Put your processes into place
While your business is in it's infancy, even before you start trading, test out your processes and get this learning curve done out of customer eye-sight. Every business has a visible learning curve and development path but there some things the customer doesn't need to see your journey on. Before we started, we tested out responses to enquiry emails, service information packs, invoices and other routine business tasks on our friends and family. This allowed us to tweak as necessary until we were happy the wording was cohesive, clear and on-brand, meaning we could send things out straight away to real clients, 100% with them.
5) Transparency is key
From the offset with all client interactions, it's important to be completely clear in what you're offering, what you're including; especially your payment terms. Giving customers a nasty shock or causing confusion isn't going to win you any friends. We make our terms and policies completely clear from the start, so no-one is in any doubt about what's expected on both sides of the partnership. We produce a business agreement including what they can expect from us, what is expected of them, what happens if additional work outside of the remit is completed and what happens if these expectations aren't met. Signed by both parties, this gives 100% peace of mind about the works and services to be carried out, creates trust on both sides as well as a safety net for if things maybe don't go to plan.
6) Get in the zone
At first, the novelty of working from home in pjams with last night's cold pizza for breakfast seems like a dream; unfortunately it doesn't last long. We've found a fully immersive scene-setting of our working day really helps us get in the zone. Some people have go-to playlists, but we've gone a few steps further with also using the same smell incense and herbal tea; it really adds to the concentration and focus. Find what works for you and be consistent in that. We've even got "daytime pyjamas"!
7) Organisation, organisation, organisation
As a new business owner you'll have so many plates spinning it's difficult to keep track. We note all appointments, meetings and events in both our gmail calendar as well as an old school real life diary. In addition, we find using a Productivity Planner really helps us keep on top of that 'to-do' list. We also LOVE Trello for project managing, keeping track of business ideas, notes from meetings and development plans. It's super handy as it's web based and has a really user friendly app to keep you on the straight and narrow whilst you're on the go.
8) Baby steps
We hate cliches, but you're getting a few here (sorry!). 'Marathon not a sprint' and 'don't run before you can walk' spring to mind. It's amazing having goals and vision for where you want your business to go, but 'Rome wasn't built in a day' (there's another!). Take the time at the very start of your business to lay your foundations; get the basics right and ONLY when you're completely happy with how they're running, only then do you upscale adding more strings to your bow. We've been super gentle in how we've started our business, occasionally closing our diary to make sure all clients are happy and things are running smoothly before taking on any extra work.
9) Set boundaries
It's super easy to get stuck working 24/7 when you start your own business. But working in this manner won't do you or your clients any favours. Set key working hours for yourself and be strict with yourself about them. Sure, every now and again there might be a need to jump on outside of these but this should be an anomaly, not the norm. We really try to work no later than 6pm on a week day and keep our weekends free. It's essential for your self-care to set those personal and business boundaries with both your clients and yourself.
10) Know your worth
You've quit your day job, riding solo setting up your own thing and you're panicking because you've got bills going out and nothing coming in. You want clients, so you start accepting business at heavily reduced rates. Whilst this seems a good idea, it isn't going to do ANY wonders for your confidence or self worth. You'll be stuck with a client, busting your lady-balls for peanuts and you can't just bump their rates up to what they should be. Sure, do a favour for a mate or offer discounts to leads from certain networking groups but offering huge discounts just to get a client on the books isn't good for business longevity at all. Know your worth and stick to your guns. Do what you do, and do it well, you'll soon have folk flocking to you willing and wanting to pay full price.
11) Power up your pants
Yes. We're talking undies. If you've got an important meeting you need a confidence boost for or a networking event you really CBA to attend; stick on your fave bra and knickers. NOT the super saucy stuff you save for those special occasions. The ones that when you put them on, you feel AMAZING, you feel empowered and ready to take on the world. It really helps, trust us! And if you don't have any - GO GET SOME GIRL!