Guest blog post by new entrepreneur Natasha Spencer. This is the first in a series of monthly columns she'll be contributing on the trials and tribulations she encounters as she launches a new business.
Deciding to leave the rat race and go it alone is an extremely liberating, yet utterly knee-trembling move to make. The initial feelings of exhilaration soon disappear when you suddenly realize it’s all on you. Setting up my own business - finding work, completing work, keeping work and not to mention all the admin and accountancy that’s needed - is not an easy gig. But that unbeatable sense of achievement soon comes back once you make that first sale, have a happy client and form an ongoing business relationship.
My route to self-employment was definitely a bumpy, frustrating and challenging one, but not for the reasons many people think. And as I’m only seven months in, with a whole load more to learn and do, I want to share my honest experiences with setting up my own business from absolutely nothing to, well hopefully, something that's successful.
Firstly, here’s how I got here in a very fine nutshell.
I got a degree in law.
I then got a Masters in journalism.
5 internships completed and 1000 job applications later (ballpark)... still no success.
Brief stint at being self-employed.
Success, I get my first job as an editor.
Followed quickly by redundancy.
Second success, I get a job as an assistant editor at a publishing house in London.
Toxic environment left me dreading the office.
Not going anywhere!
At this point, I decided that my fleeting and very much accidental go at being self-employed was an option. With the promise of one social media consultant opportunity when I left, I jumped. Looking back, it could have very easily gone either way; I didn’t have a flurry of work lined up.
So that was it. As of February 9th 2015, I was out on my own, setting up my own business. It’s been seven months of being extremely persistent, working a whole host of hours for a range of less than glamorous and unwanted writing jobs at a fee much lower than industry-standard. I haven’t exactly been living the dream. But I’m getting there.
This week, and every week it seems, I run out of time. As we all have the same amount of hours in the day, I’ve reached the conclusion that it’s either that I’m being unproductive or overambitious. I swing from one extreme to the other. It’s not that I’m sat watching the US Office over and over again (tempted as it may be), but rather, I’m not utilizing my time in the most efficient way. Largely however, I’m trying, it seems, to take over the world.
Maintaining work/life balance
The main reason I went out into the scary world on my own in the first place was because I wanted to bring more freedom and flexibility into my life. It’s not that I’m adverse to authority, but I felt uncomfortable with someone else dictating how I spent 12 hours of my day, 5 days a week. I wanted the opportunity to do what I love, see more of my friends and family and try to make a difference. I’ve still not reached that entirely, but I’m working on it and certainly a lot closer than I was before. This week saw me mix work and life to the max, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Contract coming to an end
Next week, a contract that I’ve had for five months will be coming to an end. This isn’t any contract either, but my biggest paying one. I teach social media to small businesses on behalf of a funded organisation and as their new contracts are negotiated in August, I’ve got to wait before the flurry of work that has been my bread and butter money since April gets going again.
Scheduling my workload
This is one tool that is free but has proven to be invaluable for the business, but most importantly my sanity. As simple as it sounds, scheduling what to do and when rather than producing a never-ending to-do list that, quite frankly, is only setting me up for failure has reassured me that I am working hard, yet it’s not possible to do everything I’d like all in 10-12 hours. And that’s ok.
Getting back on track
So this week I fulfilled a promise to my brother that he could stay at mine for two days before the summer holidays end; something I never would have been able to do if I was still working in London. I was in a slight, or somewhat blind, panic as to how to make this work with numerous deadlines on the go. But apart from one morning where I couldn’t sleep and so got up at 5am to crack on with them, I’ve managed it and come through the other end meeting them and fingers crossed (always do this until the first job comes in or the contract’s been signed), I’ve got two new clients. It’s been a whirlwind but I’m ending it happy with a big smile on my face.
Panic mode: Chasing new contracts
Now, while there will be future work with this client, I have no idea if this will be in September, December or next February, so it’s time to take a back seat and decide what to do with that day a week. I have two options, I can chase new contracts to replace the money I will be temporarily losing or I can use the time to focus on building a strategy for the next steps of my brand-new business. While in an ideal world, I would do the latter, this will not pay and so to keep me out of panic mode, I will ideally do both. Rather than fearing this, I’m exercising optimism and looking at it as a time to regroup (that’s ironic as I’m on my own) and refocus.
A client approached me
This the first time this has happened in seven months and so has helped ease the worry that I’m temporarily without one contract. After seeing my profile on popular freelancing website People Per Hour, I was asked to write a regular blog for them. We negotiated my fee, which I’ve recently increased due to demand and value and am truly seeing what months of slogging can provide.
Variety of projects
I love to get words on a page and am fortunate to write on a variety of topics for a variety of clients. It is this that keeps my job anything but stale. When I think about my previous roles, I would lose attention and focus far quicker when commissioning and editing extremely technical and scientific white papers solidly for 8 hours! No surprise that, perhaps!
I have ended my working week (yes, I’m going to aim to not work for the entire bank holiday) with a meeting with an interesting and uncharacteristically candid businessman I met through a networking event. Genuinely not thinking any work would be sent my way, I’m on track to receive two blogs a month at least and so am utterly chuffed! What a way to end the week!
For more trouble, strife and triumph in the world of a true start-up, come back next month for the next installment!
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