If you’re thinking of running your own business, my one piece of advice is to plan ahead before you quit your job!
It’s exactly four weeks since I quit and the forward planning has really paid off. The Start Your Own Business course that I attended earlier in the year is a good example. It taught me how to put together different types of business plan for different audiences and that saved me a lot of time this month.
The course also helps you work out the right sequence for the various startup things you need to do — registering a business name, registering as a sole trader or company, sorting out your accounting and tax and so on. That, too, saves you a lot of time and hassle when you’re ready to get your business up and running.
I met some great people on the course and hope to keep in touch with them over the coming months. But, great as all the preparation is, there comes a point when you have to stop being ‘busy’ with that activity so that you can get on with actually running your own business. I reached that point a few weeks ago and it was a relief to pull back from training and networking to focus on the practicalities of getting up and running.
Moving into the now
I’d been planning the move to self-employment for a long time and the planning became more focused and practical from the beginning of this year. If anything, I overdid it. My schedule for my first four weeks was packed. Meetings with potential clients — each of which led to additional meetings and proposal preparation —filled my days. At the same time, I had arranged to attend three conferences (two of which were two-day events) and agreed to judge a national social media competition. All of this left me pretty tired and taught me that I’m going to need to put some ‘down’ time in my schedule.
One of the striking differences about running your own business is that you seem to live much more in the moment. It is wonderful to be able to make a decision and move forward quickly. Apart from being frustrating, office politics wastes a lot of time and I’m loving being free of attending meetings for meetings’ sake. It suits me to be more agile and I enjoy the diversity and faster pace of working for myself.
Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing
Even though my new team consists of just me, I’m still going through the forming, storming, norming and performing of a new work situation. Right now I’m at the forming and storming stage — learning to manage expectations of myself and the stress of dealing with new client relationships. I’m also learning how to do my new job, which creates its own pressures and stress, but I recognise that these are normal stages in the work cycle and that helps me to stay calm and focused. I’m looking forward to moving into the norming and performing stage and I hope it won’t take too long to get there.
Working for yourself and running your own business is still work so another thing I’m having to learn is that it’s okay not to be superwoman. Working a full day — even if it’s from the kitchen table — means that housework and gardening don’t always get done. Somehow I thought I’d be able to do everything when I was at home all day. Big mistake. For one thing, I’m not at home all day — I’m actually out a lot — meeting clients, going to the bank and generally running around — and when I’m home, I’m researching, writing and preparing proposals. Not surprisingly, there’s still a backlog of washing, ironing and cleaning and I don’t see it improving any time soon.
Benefits of running your own business
A totally unexpected and really wonderful benefit of working for myself is the rapport that has developed between my mum and myself as a result of the new venture. She’s really interested in the work that I’m doing and excited to see clients coming my way — and she’s good to talk to about business because she and my dad ran their own business for many years. Thanks mum!
Something else I didn’t expect was that so many of my former colleagues and team mates — some from more than 25 years ago — would get in touch to wish me well. I’m really touched by their kindness and good wishes. Old friends, and friends of friends, also reached out — some with business proposals and some with offers of help — all very welcome and very much appreciated.
Another great perk of this new life is being able to go for a walk during the day — whether that’s a walk by the sea or a walk in the mountains. Apart from feeling healthier, fresh air and walking are also good for creativity so that’s a double bonus.
It’s wonderful to work at a quiet desk beside an open window on a warm day — away from the over-heated, noisy open-plan office of my former life.
So, all in all, it’s been a good month — hectic and stressful at times but also stimulating and rewarding. I’m very happy I made the move.