First year in business: The journey so far

In this blog post I will share with you how I made the leap from the comfort of the private sector to self-employment, my first year in business as a working mum and six valuable pieces of advice

The jump into self employment

Earning good money, a 35 hour week, paid holidays, a good pension and other perks… “You are going to give ALL that up to start your own business? Ooooh….” There was a few of those comments and the raised eyebrows.

Sheffield University Arts Tower

Sheffield University Arts Tower

That was true, I worked for a leading University and a place that others aspired to work at, but sadly it wasn’t enough.

I last sat at my desk on floor 3 of the Arts Tower (a very iconic building in Sheffield) on the 11th of December 2015.

I left that day to go on maternity leave and I never returned. I had a beautiful daughter and enjoyed a very special year getting to know her and becoming a mum. My life had change and I had a new view on it. I wanted more. Yes, the security was good but it wasn’t enough.

Another key thing in my life was my terminally ill Dad. Watching a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s and cancer is truly tormenting. I wanted to be able to “be there” for my Dad and my mum, his carer. Being employed wouldn’t allow for that either. I would be shackled to the 9-5.

I was preparing to go back to work in the October/November of 2016 and the opportunity for voluntary redundancy came up. I applied, got it and took the money will both hands and ran! That was my buffer to setting up whilst still being able to pay the bills!

I lost my confidence

Me and my daughter

Me and my daughter

Now what…I was lost. I’d lost my confidence becoming a Mum. I was good at silly faces, singing nursery rhymes and coffee dates with other mums. But what about ME – what was I good at? What were my skills? What did I enjoy doing? I had no idea!

I started to do some searching and posting on social media for a coach or in my terms – “a grown up career adviser” – who knew what had being going on outside the education world.

People help people become the best version of themselves. A pretty alien concept when you are faced with glass ceilings, red tape, politics and no encouragement to climb the professional ladder.

joint venture

My joint venture with Elaine Mitchell

I met a wonderful lady called Elaine Mitchell, an Empowerment Coach and my journey began.

We worked together to find my inner dialogue, at first, I was a bit sceptical… “inner dialogue” what’s that?! I’m a very black and white person, analytical, straight thinking…Mmm….how is this going to pan out? It all sounds a bit “woo” and not for me.

I was wrong, I needed to look within to find out what I REALLY loved, and I mean REALLY loved. I had an idea that I was going to be a VA (Virtual Assistant) but after looking at what I loved, my skill set and my perfect day, none of the VA elements came into play.

Now don’t get me wrong, VA’s are awesome and I have much respect for them, I’ve been a PA in my day, but it wasn’t the career path for me at this stage in my life.

Looking back

The first year has been many things – inspiring, interesting, scary and difficult at times.

Do I regret it? No!

Do I love it? YES!

I’ve learned so much in this year and I’ve met so many wonderful people. The variety and unknown is what I love.

I’ve worked with a range of clients from various industries – Reflexology, Yoga, Pilates & Holistic therapy, asset finance, electrical wholesale, web design, and a homeless charity to name a few

I’ve delivered seminars at Google Digital Garage Sheffield and for people such as Bassetlaw District Council, members of staff at LaunchPad (part of the Sheffield City Region Hub)

And I was approached to tender for a large project at the University of Portsmouth. – you never know when the next opportunity will arise.

Presenting at Google Digital Garage Sheffield

What have I learnt in business so far?

  1. Never dismiss anyone – Just because they may not seemingly be able to help you. You may be able to help them. They may know your ideal client or be able to make an important introduction. They may help you in other ways…You never know…
  2. Take time to get to know people – don’t rush to make recommendations if you don’t truly know someone. The networking principle remains true: Know. Like and Trust. Build connections slowly and naturally
  3. Collaborate – Joint ventures can be a great way to break into a market or new project.

WooDo Events. My joint venture with Elaine Mitchell

  1. Meet your “competitors” – This can be difficult in some cases, but, take them for coffee (chuck a bun into the mix), find out how they are doing (it’s not about steeling their customers!), what markets they are interested in, the struggles they are having. You maybe able to work together. They may have a specialism you don’t, vice versa. You could tender for a project together or go in as a “white collar” associate.
  2. Say yes and then figure it out – You maybe presented with an opportunity and you don’t have the right skills for part of the job or you need some help? Bring on a freelancer or sub contract part of it out. Don’t dismiss something straight away.
  3. Know your worth – Pricing is one of the difficult elements of self-employment. Should you price per hour, half day, full day rate, project…? So many options. Value your knowledge. Yes it may take half an hour to do something but someone else either could not be able do it or they would take hours or days to do something. Take the time to set your rates, compare with your competitors, research and review regularly

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