Guest post by new entrepreneur Natasha Spencer. She is doing a monthly column on her trials and tribulations as she launches a new business. You can read aboutMonth Ten here.
Whenever I have a day where I’m beating myself up over how little work I have done, how swamped and stressed I am over having too much work to do or how I’ve not reached the spectacularly high goals that I set for myself (even when I know in my heart they’re too much at that time), taking a quiet moment to write this blog truly allows me to reflect on what is positive, what I need to accept and what I should aim to improve for next year. When you're overwhelmed with setting up your own business, it helps to reflect on what you've learned and how I’ve gone.
So, with that said, I thought what better time than December to write a round-up of my first year setting up my own business, in order to try and a) make sense of it all b) gain some perspective and c) hope that you can avoid the not so successful decisions and attitudes of mine over the last 10 months.
I’m starting to understand the true meaning of ‘patience is a virtue’. It’s not a very attractive trait, but I’m pretty impatient when it comes to most things and I have really had to work on improving this trait this year. Although it’s more of a personal development, you can never underestimate the effect that patience has on every aspect of your life, especially when you’re setting up your own business. OK, so it was a bit of impatience that led me to leave my secure London-based editor role, but I waited it out for a year. When you truly know it’s not right for you and helping you in what you truly want to do, then that’s just decision-making, right? If anything, I needed to do it, rather than worrying what I was doing wasn’t right.
When I look back over the last 10 years, since I left secondary school, I realize that the things in my life I should have been patient over I wasn’t, and vice versa. Sometimes I think we beat ourselves up over what we haven’t done, what we haven’t achieved, what we haven’t fulfilled that we’re so scared of failure and we stop. We stop progressing and become stagnant. But you cannot do that when you’re setting up your own business. This year, while I’ve felt like I’ve underachieved again, in the grand scheme of things, I know this year and the patience I’m taking will pay off in the long run.
And things are starting to pay off already. I have my first big meeting with a law firm in January. Although I wanted this months ago, I wouldn’t have been ready and am now far more settled and prepared (a swan from the surface, a duck paddling furiously underneath). Fate has a funny way of working it all out if you work really hard towards a goal.
Knowing Your Value
When it comes to starting your own business, my whole work ethic and everything I thought I knew was right was based on the premise that if you work hard and try your best, you’ll get clients and bingo, as long as you’re earning money, you’re winning in the world of business.
What I didn’t consider was the importance of value. If we pay very little for something, we tend to associate that price with its perceived value and therefore often consider it to be of poor quality. Alternatively, when we truly want something and understand its genuine value, then the price becomes somewhat less important as we have bought into that brand and trust it will deliver what we need to a very high quality. Price and value are imperative to the successful fruition and evolution of a business.
Oh, and unlike me, the competitors knew and understood this.
Because I was so relieved and overjoyed at getting clients who actually wanted to part with money for me to write marketing and PR material, I considerably undervalued myself and the service I was providing to them and their business.
This has a snowball effect. Soon you need ten times the amount of clients a competitor (who understands this connection) needs to get anywhere close to 10% of what they’re earning. Having to manage this large number of clients, who are each paying for your time, creates a whole lot of time-management and organizational stresses, not to mention frustration and hurt at the feeling your work is not being appreciated. But, why would it? I’m creating that perspective with how much I’m charging for my services.
This has been the biggest lesson by far I have learned in business. And while I think I’ll always struggle with the need to avoid being greedy, this understanding is already propelling me to seek the type of clients who understand the value that I offer and are ready and willing to pay what my services are worth.
Progress and Accomplishment
It’s been 10 months since I became self-employed and I cannot believe what a steep learning curve it has been. I don’t want to use any reality show-style cliches, but I could never have imagined how much of a sense of accomplishment and annoyance I could have felt simultaneously. It’s a weird one. But I know that leaving the ‘bright lights’ of this new endeavor were right for me, and despite the ups and downs, I’m progressing with each deadline, meeting and startling realization that I’ve been lucky enough to have learned.
I can’t wait for the next 10 months. But first, I have no fewer than 16 deadlines, several calls, numerous emails and invoices to complete. Phew!
I hope you all have a wonderful New Year. See you in 2016.