Starting out as self-employed has been one of the best moves I have ever made, but it has been a steep learning curve at times. I thought I’d share some of the key things I have learnt for anyone out there who may find it helpful.
Promote yourself as a business
Promoting myself was one of the things I initially struggled with the most. I decided to use my own name for my company name to aid recognition, but didn’t realise the issues this would create for me. I’m used to promoting things – events, projects, businesses – but at first it felt really uncomfortable and contrived to promote myself. I have never enjoyed being centre of attention, and blush horribly if I feel the spotlight turning my way. It actually took a friend questioning why I couldn’t take my own advice, after I’d been giving her some tips on how to promote the family business, to help me understand I had been approaching it with the wrong mind-set. I came to realise that I was thinking how do I promote myself without sounding like I love myself, when what I should be saying is look at these fantastic services I can provide for you. If, like me, you begin to struggle when it comes to promoting yourself remember it’s not you as a person that you are selling, it’s the business you have set up.
Have a retreat to work in
I’ve already written a blog post about how important I think it is to have a dedicated workspace if you are going to work from home, but in my opinion it is that crucial I’m reiterating it again! It doesn’t need to be anywhere fancy. Just somewhere you can go, get into the right frame of mind to focus on your work, and not have to worry about being interrupted, or about people moving your things. Even if your chosen profession means you have to work all over the place (or you just enjoy doing so), having a personal space at home where you can do your admin and keep your paperwork together is still important.
Make your connections work for you
I could have used the term network here, but I don’t like the mental image it conjures up for me. The term is too structured, too formal. Instead think of it as talking to as many people about what you are doing as possible. You never know where your next client will come from, and so far I have got the majority of my business this way. In addition I’ve managed to get my clients some great opportunities too. So dust off that address book, scroll through your social media friends, take note of who you see each day, and have a think about what opportunities may lie with each of them.
Be strict with your time
Changing from working to someone else’s timetable and attending work at specific times, to being your own boss and working when you like, is extremely liberating. It is a massive benefit to working for yourself and one of the main reasons I decided to go it alone. The thing is it is also quite a tough thing to do if you are not used to it. I had a head start in many ways as I studied for my masters degree by distance learning, so got used to having to exercise my self-discipline. I give myself set times to work, based on a weekly timetable, and stick to it as far as possible. Of course I may move a session – that’s the sole traders prerogative – but I always endeavour to fit it in at a different time that week. This is easier when you are doing work for clients, especially when there is a deadline, but don’t forget to include time to do your admin and to promote your business too.
I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more as I continue on this journey, and that’s one thing that makes it so exciting. I’d love to hear about other people’s experiences too. What have you learnt since setting up your own business? Do you have useful tips to share?