10 years solo, but not alone.

by Tim Martin on 22nd May 2024

I’ve been looking around for stats about business lifespans in the UK. According to the FSB it seems that there are 3.1 million sole traders, out of a total of 5.6 million small businesses. After a bit more rummaging around the internet we find that the average lifespan of a business is 8.6 years. So, on May 24th, 2024, I join the select 49% of businesses that make it past 10 years.

It took a long time for the ideas that became Selling Service to mature, but in the end leaving corporate life behind was my 50th birthday present to myself. And I’ve never regretted it. I sent my first invoice in July 2014 and except for a couple of months in early 2020 I’ve brought money in every month since then.

Even as a lone businessperson you are never truly alone in your work. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have built some wonderful partnerships over the last 10 years. My first two ever networking one to ones are still my closest business colleagues. Angela Fumpson has been my thought partner for most of that time, and we continue to work together for clients and on our own businesses. My other long-term colleague knows who they are and has my gratitude for the shared work, advice, and friendship

What have I learnt in 10 years?

  • Networking, networking, networking: I struggled until I found 4N 6 months in, with no focus on who my customers could be and what I had to offer them. When people started asking me questions about my business, I sharpened up quickly and got a strategy in place.
  • Having other voices in your business is important. Call it coaching, mentoring or whatever you want, but get some. The various people who have advised me at one stage or another have all made me think about what I do differently and challenged my perceptions of how I work.
  • Have a plan: 90 days at a time breaks it down into manageable chunks, and a longer-term plan for where you want the business to go, and most importantly what you want it to do for you.
  • Manage your time effectively, a default diary is the most useful tool you can have.
  • Learn the value of “No.” Tell people when you don’t have the capacity to take on more work or attend an event. The world won’t end, and you will work more effectively for having that little bit of extra time.
  • Know your limits. I hit a low point in 2021, I’d had eighteen months of working 7 days a week trying to rebuild post Covid. Mentally, physically, and emotionally I’d had enough. It’s become a cliché to talk about self-care, but it really matters.

Many people talk about their “business journey,” and I’m no exception. You need to be open to the possibility that the journey may take you back to where you started. Having been talking to clients more about strategy for content and marketing recently, I’m pleased to be using many of the skills I’ve built up over the years and continuing to work with some interesting people and businesses as clients and partners. So, if you have been, thanks for being part of the journey or if you want some words to inspire your customers and build a consistent voice for your business let's talk.


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