The last month or so has featured a number of significant milestones for me. My eldest son starting school, the 25-year anniversary of the release of my favourite album, Definitely Maybe by Oasis – my first purchase with my hard-earned paper round money, and my one-year anniversary of setting up as a freelance marketer. This past year has taught me a lot – about myself, about the realities of running a business alongside raising a young family and about the business community in the South West. With a nod to Oasis, here are some of my reflections from the last twelve months:
Invest wisely – you’re not a Rock n’ Roll Star
I’ll admit that I was a little naïve about how much I would need to invest to get things going. On the face of it, I have minimal overheads but there were still things I hadn’t quite factored in and I had to make some necessary adjustments. One thing which was quite an investment but one I feel has paid off is hiring a desk in a business hub in Tavistock.
It gave me a real focus and got me into the right mindset which was needed as I’d had a period of maternity leave before setting up the business. I loved ‘going’ to work and although I was often the most overdressed person in the office, wearing my ‘work clothes’ got me into the head space I needed to be able to pick up the phone and make cold calls, to write blog content and to develop proposals. Having my desk also gave me an opportunity to meet and learn from other freelancers and develop a local network which has been invaluable.
Let there be love
My highlight from this year has got to be meeting so many wonderful people with whom I would not have come into contact had I not embarked on this journey and who have helped me endlessly and selflessly.
As I’ve mentioned before in a previous blog, I have been touched by people’s kindness. People have been generous with their time, taking time to tell me about their business and hearing about mine. People have referred me to others to whom my services might be of interest and they, in turn have taken time out to meet me. I have also been offered opportunities to raise my profile through speaking at events and writing articles, and for these I am also extremely grateful. A huge ‘thank you’ to everyone I have met this year who has helped me move my business forward.
You’ve gotta roll with it
As with everything in life, there are ups and downs and when you are working in a business of this nature, you really do need to roll with the punches and build resilience. You might have a proposal accepted but, months later, still be waiting for the work to start, you might have a really positive meeting and then follow up to find the person you met has moved on, you might have the full support of a key decision maker but then need to rely on them to engage other relevant stakeholders in order to move forward with a piece of work. All frustrating things but, I believe that with grace and patience, some of these things will come to fruition but some may not, and I know that’s not due to anything I have or haven’t done. I also know that in the meantime I need to be out there making new connections and building a pipeline of new opportunities and focus on the things that I can control, rather than those I can’t.
Married with children
There is such a vibrant business community in the South West and you only have to look on LinkedIn to see how many networking events take place daily across the region. I have had to be careful not to feel I should be going to everything because I can’t. I have two young sons and my husband works offshore so is away for chunks of time – funnily enough no-one wants to babysit at 6am! So, I can only attend breakfast events when Matt is home. Additionally, rather like our capital, the South West isn’t blessed with great North-South transport links, so some events take an inordinate amount of time to travel to and I have to be sure I’m making best use of my time. This is one of the reasons why LinkedIn is so important – because you can successfully network from anywhere if you put in the necessary time and effort.
I know once my children are older things will get easier but for now, I want to make the most of them being lovely (most of the time!) and little and one of the reasons I went freelance in the first place is so I could work flexibly around my kids.
Keep the dream alive
As I head into my second year in business, I am looking forward to consolidating the relationships I have formed over the last year and developing new ones. I am pleased to still be forging ahead with my plans despite a number of uncertainties on the horizon (thanks Brexit!) and I hope that by being true to myself and my reasons for setting up the business in the first place I can maximise opportunities, add value and make a real difference to my clients’ businesses whilst still being mindful to the needs of my family.