I’ve just finished my third year in business and what a ride it’s been! It’s certainly not been easy, starting from scratch with no clients and just a handful of local business contacts, against a backdrop of Brexit uncertainty and a global pandemic. But I’m still here and business is better than ever.
I’ve learned so much over the last three years that I thought I’d share a top three of things that have helped me, as they might also help other fledgling businesses.
- Stay in your own lane
It’s so easy to compare yourself to others, especially when you’re on social media. Remember, most people only present a highly filtered view of their life or business. In truth, things are not always a bed of roses and everyone goes through tough times. I do think social media feeds (particularly LinkedIn) are becoming more balanced, with people starting to talk about their vulnerabilities and when things haven’t quite gone to plan. I think that can only be a good thing.
It pays to remember that although you may not be the only person offering your particular product or service, there is only one you! It’s an old (and perhaps overused) saying but ‘people buy people’ – people they know, like and trust. You won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but neither will your competitors, so being authentic and staying true to yourself, means you’ll attract the right clients for you. There’s enough work to go round, you just have to put yourself out there to find it. Which leads me onto my next point…
2. Build your professional and personal support network
‘Your network is your net worth’ is another popular saying and I’ve found it’s so true!
In the early days, when I was still chasing that elusive first client, I put a lot of time and effort into building my professional network. It was certainly time well spent. I can attribute 85% of my business to networking – either I’m working with people I’ve met at events (in person or online) or I’ve been referred work by people I’ve met while networking!
When Covid hit I was so glad to have this strong network in place. We supported one another through an extremely uncertain time – we laughed and cried together, and supported and encouraged one another. I’ve continued growing it over the last 18 months, and networking will continue to be a key business development activity for me.
As well as acknowledging the importance of my professional network, I couldn’t have kept going without my personal support network. I have two young children and my husband works away in the week. Both my parents and in-laws have been absolutely amazing, as have the friends who happily took in my kids at 6am so I could get to early networking meetings or who’ve covered the school pick up.
3. Build your resilience
Running your own business is hard. It’s not for the faint-hearted or easily offended! You will likely hear ‘no’ more times than you hear ‘yes’, especially in the early days. And although people are generally kind in their delivery of a knockback, it’s still disappointing. That said, wallowing is not allowed! You need to always be looking, and moving, forward.
I knew I was pretty resilient before I started my business, but the last three years have really tested my mettle and I’m all the stronger for it. When I do face a challenge or setback, of course I have a little ‘pity party’ and feel down for a bit. It’s important to go through that process, but I also know that I mustn’t stay there, that I need to learn and move on from any disappointment. At times I’ve needed help in order to be able to reflect properly and that’s absolutely okay, that’s what your support network is for.
Work in progress…
What I’m not very good at is switching off. I have a constant ticker tape going through my head of everything I need to do (for my business and at home) and I need to get better at managing that constant hum or I know I’ll get burned out, no matter how much resilience I might have built up.
So if anyone has any tips for switching off, I’d love to hear those!
There you have it, my top three takeaways from three years in business. Thank you to everyone who has helped me get here, and I’m looking forward to the next three years and beyond!