Every business has to start somewhere, and it just so happens that mine started just over three months ago, in November 2016. My business is built on skills I have honed over years working in industry, so I have the writing bit covered. However, running a business is new, being my own boss is new, and being in control of my life and time is new, and a steep learning curve. How should I market myself? What should I charge? These are all questions that I am learning the answers to. Every day is a school day, but you can learn a lot in three months, so here are a few things I have picked up.
- It is OK to go to work in my pyjamas, but not all the time. This benefit has probably never been so true as I sit here in my pyjamas on a cold, grey Monday morning writing this blog, thinking about how just four months ago, I would be in the middle of my 45-minute commute to the office. However, and here is the key, I have learnt that some days, pyjamas are not OK - it all depends on my mindset. This morning it was easy to get up and switch on the laptop, so my outfit is irrelevant – the cosier the better. But, when getting out of bed is a bit more of a challenge, I know that I need to be my own boss, and order myself to get up, get dressed and be on time for work. I may even decide to take myself for a walk round the block before taking my seat at my desk.
- Company is important – guinea pigs are good, but they are not a replacement for people. I guess I am at an advantage here, in that I am used to working in a small office with few people around. Nevertheless, I miss the company sometimes. Who do you celebrate with when you get a new client, or rant to when something goes wrong? My two guinea pigs probably know more about my business than most humans, and I love that. They provide cuddles and the odd squeak when I walk to the kitchen for coffee – but they are not a real replacement for human company. Stay locked up on my own all day and my husband knows about it when he gets home from work, as he manages to say “you haven’t spoken to many people today have you?” in between my chatter. Fighting the loneliness is important, and I am discovering it is possible to remain productive whilst doing so. Cafes and working in public places doesn’t work for me, as I find there are too many distractions, but networking is great, and not just for getting work. It gets me out the house, meeting new people is fun and you never know where a conversation will lead. Volunteering is also proving advantageous – time in an office with company and an opportunity to help a good cause whilst building a portfolio of work. Of course, the odd social outing with friends is squeezed in, which leads me on to my next point – flexibility.
- Flexibility works for me, but some structure is essential. I like not being constrained by the confines of a 9–5.30 job. It definitely has its advantages, I needed a plumber recently and it was hassle free, none of this well I work, so can you come in evening or maybe at the weekend. It was simple, you can come around whenever you want, I work from home. I have worked the past two weekends, but because I wanted to, not because I had to. Along the same lines, I have met friends for coffee in the middle of a weekday. I work when I want to and when I need to, but I also let myself break when I am not really in the mood. If the sun is shining and I want to go for a walk, then I do. That being said, the alarm clock still goes off at 7 am, the same time it did when I worked in an office, and I still force myself out of bed. I write myself to-do lists and I (try to) stick to them. Otherwise, it is all too easy to get to midday and realise that you have achieved very little.
- Don’t take everything personally – be objective. This is going to be one of the hardest lessons for me to learn. I am a perfectionist and I take criticism, constructive or not, to heart. I have a tendency to over analyse and attack myself if things don’t go quite to plan. Luckily, I haven’t yet had an unhappy customer, but I have given quotes and not been awarded work I applied for. I have to tell myself daily that it is not personal, it is business. I may feel like moping, I may feel that everything is a disaster, but I am learning to take stock of what I have achieved, and keep going.