12 Feb Starting a business in lockdown?
Starting a business in lockdown?
During the last year I have seen an increasing number of individuals who have either taken lockdown as an opportunity to spend time nurturing their side-hustle into a fully-fledged business, or others taking that step of working for themselves as a result of other external factors that were outside of their control.
In fact, its’ one of the positives that has come as a result of the current situation that people are reflecting on what gives them joy and what they want to be focusing their time and energy on.
A couple of years ago when I turned 40, I decided to write the 40 lessons I have learnt running my own business. I thought that I would re-share in case its helpful for those starting a business from scratch or super-sizing their side-hustle!
So, are you ready to dive in?
In The Beginning
1. YOU MIGHT MISS THE 9-5
Shock horror! You might actually miss the camaraderie of having a team around you and that 9-5 lifestyle. This is totally normal and it does pass. Look for networking groups in your area or your sector to fill that gap and don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and family members.
2. MORE TIME!
You will be amazed at how much time you have on your hands now that you aren’t involved in organisational politics.
3. WELL MEANING COMMENTS
You should charge everyone a £1 who says, “You are so brave – I wish I could do that!” You’ll make a fortune!
4. NEW JOYS
You’ll experience the joy of finding skills you never knew you had. I love designing and marketing.
5. DOING IT ALL
You’ll also be reminded if the things you DON’T like doing – for me it was anything administrative or financial.
Defining Your Business
6. DON’T TIE YOURSELF DOWN
I found that not creating a definitive strategy for the first six months really helped me. I was planning on focusing on one area, but I actually ended up focusing in other areas that I couldn’t have predicted.
Also don’t claim to be a Jack of all trades.
8. DEFINE VALUES
Develop values that you live and breathe and use them to inform your decision-making.
Growing Your Business
Mark out time to create and develop your strategy so that you have a clear path of where you are going. It’s very easy to get ‘shiny object syndrome’ and a strategy will help you stay on track.
10. GET CREATIVE
Strategise in the way that works for you – my strategy for 2021 has been drawn out onto a A3 sheet with 5 business goals, 6 goals for how I want to work in my business and 7 personal goals.
11. BE PREPARED
As your business grows there will be a new devil at every level!
Ask clients and ex-colleagues for recommendations on LinkedIn.
Ask for referrals from clients that you have worked with.
Those tasks and activities that you recognise you are no good at – delegate these as soon as you possibly can. Working with a Virtual Assistant really helped me professionalise my business.
Don’t underestimate the importance of systems and processes and documenting these. Who knows if or when someone may need to pick up where you left off.
Working with Clients
Don’t get caught out. Always have terms and conditions for your clients.
Always give organisations CLEAR deadlines as to when you need information by (to meet their TIGHT deadlines!) Don’t assume that they will get it to you in plenty of time.
When writing a proposal clearly state how long the proposal is good for e.g. 30 days. Your rates or the scope of work may change in 3 months time and you don’t want to have that tricky conversation if they come back to you later down the line.
19. SOMETIMES WE HAVE TO LET GO
Don’t be afraid to part ways with a client if they don’t align with your beliefs and values.
Building your Freelance Network
20. SUPPORT NETWORK
Don’t be an Island. Build and maintain relationships with like minded people who really understand the challenges of working for yourself.
21. STRETCH YOURSELF
In addition to support, don’t be afraid to stretch yourself and keep adding to that bank of skills.
22. FREELANCERS ARE COOL
They have all been in the same position as you and so most are incredibly generous with their time and advice.
23. NETWORKING CAN BE FUN!
Networking doesn’t have to be boring. Find ways to network that YOU enjoy. Its much more likely that you will build genuine relationships when you are feeling CRINGE.
24. RECORD YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS (AND LESSONS LEARNT)
Recording keeping is a great way to reflect on what is working and what isn’t. You can then also share this with colleagues and help create that sense of community as your business grows.
25. SELF CARE IS CRITICAL
You’ve heard the saying you need to put your own oxygen mask on first? There will always be SOMETHING that needs doing when you work for yourself. But YOU are the priority.
26. RECOGNISE WHEN YOU NEED HELP
27. AND ASK FOR IT (SEE POINT 20!)
28. WHO IS YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK?
Friends, family and ex-colleagues are all amazing sources of support and help. Don’t be afraid to use them.
29. POSITIVITY IS KEY
Keep a record of all the positive comments, feedback and emails you receive. You can use this as a plaudit pocket when you have a wobble. It’s also great to start building up a bank of new testimonials.
30. BE KIND TO YOURSELF
You’ve just taken a MASSIVE leap into the freelance world for the first time! So go easy on yourself.
Register for VAT straight away – otherwise you are limiting yourself and your financial income.
32. CASH FLOW IS KING
Keep on top of those unpaid invoices.
33. INVOICE UP FRONT
For project work invoice for 30% to 50% upfront.
34. GET AN ACCOUNTANT
Your accountant is about to become your new best friend. Get a kickass one based on word of mouth recommendations if you can.
Try and keep a minimum of 3 months income in the bank as a backup.
36. INVEST IN YOURSELF
You are the key asset in your business! Make sure you keep on investing in yourself and set aside time for professional development.
We know that we get more done when we are held accountable to someone else. Not having a ‘Manager’ around can make this a lot harder. Identify people who will hold you to account when you need it!
38. COACHES/MENTORS ARE AN INVESTMENT
Finding a good coach or mentor can be beneficial to your business. They can see things that you can’t when you are so involved in the day to day. Think about hiring one when if you reach a sticking point.
Just because you no longer have a manager doesn’t mean you can’t have an appraisal! Give yourself a yearly appraisal – I do mine as a story.
40. MY FAVOURITE QUOTE
‘You have to have nerves of steel when it’s p*ssing down with rain in January and no one is calling you’
41. BONUS POINT
Have total and utter faith in yourself, know your worth and persevere. You will be a magnet for those people that align with you, and the work will come. Those that don’t? Well, they aren’t your people. Don’t change who you ultimately are just for them.