Maybe you woke up with an epiphany one morning. Maybe you have a long-held ambition and know your goals. Maybe you hate your job. Maybe, you just know that being self-employed is right for you.
Whatever your reasons for going it alone, starting off can be daunting. Here’s how I did it five years ago:
1) Have savings. This is actually a lie. I had very little savings, but I did have (and still do) a supportive partner who was happy to take the burden of our household bills until my income stabilised. If low bills (who has low bills anymore?!), a partner with financial security or a lottery win aren’t in your immediate future, it’s essential to have some savings. I’d recommend at least 3-6 months’ worth, but the more you have, the less pressure there is to become financially stable straight away.
The reality is, unless you have a watertight business plan (and even then, it’s unlikely), your business will not make money immediately. You need time to market yourself, potential clients to discover you, plus allow for any time difference between working and getting paid.
2&3) Know your market, and don’t be put off by the competition. This two-part rule is entirely necessary because a) starting a business without researching your clients is daft, and b) understanding that others do what you want to do isn’t a reason you shouldn’t do it. I’m a digital marketing consultant that also offers PR and copywriting. In my immediate area, there are probably 20 other companies and freelancers doing the same thing, which seems very competitive, and it is. But are we all chasing the same clients? No. Can we support each other? Absolutely. It’s just knowing your market that’s important, and how to tailor your own.
I can’t speak for all of my competitors, but I know that the majority of clients I work with fall into the same sectors and audience type. I’m aware of my competitors’ clients, and who it would be really bad game to pitch work to. I work at a respective distance, and so do they. The great thing about having competition, is not viewing them as competition. I know from experience that as soon as things get tough for any agencies local to me, they know I could lend a hand, and vice versa.
4) Research business help in your area. When I went self-employed, there was a brilliant organisation which offered free business advice to local start-ups. Through them, I discovered all the practical knowledge I needed to become registered with HMRC, set up a business bank account, and how to access specific support. Unfortunately, this service isn’t funded anymore, but there might be something in your area that is. If you’re not sure where to look, ask at your local library.
5) Know your social media platforms. I’ll be honest, I’m a bit sick of LinkedIn. So many people seem to think it’s incredible for networking and sharing personal business news. In my experience, Instagram and Facebook have been 100% more effective for this. For you, it could be Twitter, YouTube, or Pinterest. Find out how far your messages travel on the platforms you’re comfortable with, and don’t waste endless hours on those you’re not.
6) Tell everyone. It’s a cliché, but clichés exist because they’re true. Tell everyone your plans, even before you take the official first step. You never know who will say, “I know someone who could use a service like that”. Which leads me to…
7) Don’t describe your business with what you do, but instead explain how you help people. This resonates with potential clients much more clearly, and saves you a job explaining why you’re relevant to someone you know you would benefit by working with them.
For example, if you’re a nutrition coach, don’t say: “I provide healthy diet advice and meal plans.” Do say: “I make improvements to people’s health by altering their eating habits.” See how the second statement makes you think about the service fitting into your life? Figure out what your client needs as an end goal, and offer this in your business description.
8) Ask people to go for coffee. Anyone who you’d like to work with should be someone you see in person. If you have a portfolio of work you can show off, do it over a table, not a screen. With a face to face meeting, you have someone’s undivided attention, and they’re investing their time in you, even if it’s just 20 minutes. You’ll have a stronger follow up email or call, and give yourself an easier chance of resonating each time you make contact in the future.
9) Make a financial plan. It might go out of the window, but nobody reaches their goals without markers to get them there. Your first quarter’s financial goals can essentially be made up, within reason. Choose figures you’d be genuinely happy with, even if it doesn’t reflect what you need to be making in the future. If you achieve goals bit by bit, you’ll look and feel more successful, making long term business ownership more realistic.
10) Socialise. Some people, me included, love working for themselves in part due to the relative solitude. I work infinitely better at home, without distractions, where I can get my head down and get through a solid day’s work without worrying about appearing antisocial. However, everyone needs to use their voice, hopefully directed at another human, now and again. Use social media to find out who else works for themselves nearby, and suggest a co-working coffee, or just meet up for lunch for a quick chat with someone else who gets it. You could also look into co-working spaces, but you might want to save this for when you have a clear idea of your income, as they can eat into your finances. If you don’t have time for this, join some Facebook groups to find likeminded people. There are some amazing ones out there, like Doing It For The Kids, a group aimed at freelance parents.
Because 10 is a nice, round number to finish on, let’s just call this one Bonus Tip, because it’s also the most important.
Practical advice can be researched and discovered on your own. What you can’t
Google, however, is self-belief. Have some. Then throw in some more.
This is your idea, your ambition, your business. You can do it. Write some affirmations if that’s your thing, write a list of reasons why you want to do this to reflect on. Write a list of reasons why you’re perfectly able to succeed, and why your skills and knowledge will set you up for success. Then believe all of it. You can do it.
Looking for more advice? Drop me an emailand let me know what questions are on your mind.