As we celebrate the beginning of a new year I also celebrate my 2 year ‘Biziversary’ (YAY!!). 2015 was one mighty swift year but I managed to finish it a little smarter, older, and, uh, maybe even more sarcastic (kidding! I’ve always been sarcastic). For those who would like to read my 1st year learnings, you are in luck because its right HERE. Otherwise, here are the lessons learnt from my 2nd year in business:
1. You Choose Your Clients
As the sales department for my own business I used to get obsessed with the concept of clients choosing to work with me, completely forgetting that I also choose to work with THEM. If you have managed to get past that part of your business journey where you desperately take on any and all work that comes your way then this is relevant to you. Whether you are a work-a-holic squeezing toilet breaks into your 55 hour working weeks or a lifestyle business owner comfortably doing 20 hours per week, you have a limited amount of time. Make sure that you spend those limited hours working on projects, or with clients that you chose.
2. Motivation Isn’t Limitless
Like any sole trader, freelancer or self employed bod, I get demotivated. I have times when I trundle into the office and find myself staring into the ether when I should be working. I have chatted to many other freelancers about these phases. Firstly, they are normal. You are not a robot and as a result you are going to have times when your mental agility lags.
Secondly. go get some fresh air. Go and grab a coffee with someone you have been meaning to meet for ages. Go to the gym to work off some stress. You get it. Just give yourself some mental space away from your working environment and tasks. Sometimes an hour may be enough but other times a week may do it. Just know that it is normal and you will bounce out of it.
3. Ownership Is Like A New Pair Of Shoes
Bear with me here. Starting your own business is a damn daunting experience and can seem overwhelming in the early days. Like buying a new pair of shoes that need time to be worn in before they’re comfortable, owning and running a business is a constantly maturing process. It has taken me up until now to feel comfortable being a business owner. This includes selling what I do, what my business offers and the stresses and strains it brings. That’s not to say I don’t have a hell of a lot still to learn but comfort and confidence in your own business take time to achieve. Dont expect this in the first few months of year.
BUT don’t ever get too comfortable. That breeds complacency which can be dangerous for business owners. You should keep yourself on your toes and revamp yourself / your business regularly.
4. You Cant Invoice Happiness
I have sent off over 80 invoices in the two years of business. When I see that invoiced amount finally come into my bank account I look at it and try to quantify it against the amount of stress, hassle and/or grief I went through to achieve it. I strongly believe that a client who delivers minimal hassle, effective communication, value appreciation and a good working relationship is worth more than the client who doesn’t but earns you a ton. Never forget to factor in things like this when considering a new or continuing client project. Trust your gut feeling on whether this project will earn you happiness or solely financial gain. You wont regret it.
5. Love A̶c̶t̶u̶a̶l̶l̶y̶ Flexibility
I know that some people genuinely ‘love’ what they do for a living. There is a misconception that all freelancers or those who are self employed fall into that category. I’m here to correct that fallacy. We (self employed) are often people who have found an opportunity to take control of our careers and earning through utilising skill sets developed over previous years. Yes a passion is important when running your own business but this does not have to be your dream job. The flexibility achieved by being your own boss can give you the time to find out what it is you truly love to do.
6. Don’t Live To Work
Saying that you work to live feels like one of the biggest clichés in the world of freelancing. But I genuinely strive to run a lifestyle business and have no shame in admitting that. What that means to me is that I dont take on so much work that I never stop working. For example:
- I ensure I work on my terms
- I keep a flexible schedule so that I am never tied to my office chair.
- I make time for other hobbies and interests
- I try and experience things that I simply wouldn’t or couldn’t in my previous 9-5 role.
- Essentially I work to live and don’t live to work.
Of course this is a privileged position to be in but it doesn’t just happen by accident. I started the business with the firm goal of this venture leading me to experience life, that I had missed out on in my 9-5 role. Consider whether you want to live to work or work to live. If it is the latter then you need to make that happen.
7. People Are Your Support
The longer I spend in self employment the more I realise that the people in my network are one of my greatest resources. I am (sadly, perhaps) one of those people who is not afraid to call on people for help. That may be picking the brain of an email marketing expert for some advice on a client project. That may be posting a question on the Freelancers Hub Facebook Group. Or tweeting a load of industry chums for their opinion on a new blog post. You need people around you that can give you constructive feedback on anything or just assure you you’re not an over privileged ass-hole after getting your photo in a national paper.
I simply cannot underestimate the value of all these great people who surround me both physically and virtually. Don’t forget to give back to anyone who helps you out. That may be by sharing their content, giving them a recommendation on LinkedIn or simply thanking them the old fashioned way, with a pint and a hug. In the spirit of connections and acknowledging help, I wanted to thank the following lovely folks for their support and advice in 2015:
- Tony Dimmock
- Scott Dylan
- Duncan Woodward
- Kieron Hughes
- Daryl Burrows
- Richard Silver
- Ned Poulter
- Alan Whaley
- Sanjay Morzeria
- Hassan Iqbal
- Dan Root
- Ryan Gibson
- Russell McAthy
- Adam Gosling
8. “Bigger, Better, Faster, Stronger” No Longer
As a one man Digital Marketing Consult I often get asked if I am going to up-scale and start an agency. The short answer is “NO” and the short reason is because I love to retain control of how I operate and be responsible for me. That is not to say I will always feel this way but I am very comfortable telling people that I don’t have plans for growth. Let’s just be honest with ourselves. If you cant when running your own business then when can you be?
There seems to be an insatiable appetite for growth, often at the expense of quality and many other elements. People seem to bothered by this Sillicon Valley crafted concept that you must start small and get big FAST. Remember that the tortoise not only won that race, he also had a much less stressful time doing so.
9. Profits & Losers
Some of you may be wondering searching this post for the paragraph where I post my revenue and profits. Everyone is obsessed with money based goals and financially beating others in their industry, company or even family (I’ve played Monopoly). I am happy to admit that I made less revenue in my 2nd year than I did in my first year. But I had a hell of a better time doing so. My 2nd year was made up of almost purely client based projects rather than agency white label work. This meant that I had a direct line of communication with my clients and was able to take credit for the results. On top of that I was able to get over to Dubai twice during 2015. My accountant may disagree but I cant help but see this as a more successful year despite the figures. Try setting goals for your 2016 that don’t focus on income but instead focus on achievable experiences.
I would love to hear your lessons learnt in 2015. Pop them below in the comments section.