If my business was a marriage (which it sort of is in a way) - we’d be celebrating our leather anniversary this month.
That's right, 3 whole years of Pink Spaghetti Weston super Mare.
When I first started my business, I was fresh from the corporate world - used to a desk, a set way of working, and a regular paycheck. While I’ve still got my desk (most of the time), the other two are less guaranteed - but that’s the jump you take when you go self-employed. The joy of working how, when and where you want is, initially at least, offset by the fact that the end of month bank balance boost is no longer guaranteed and ultimately it’s down to you to make it happen.
And to be honest, my timing could have been better. January 2020 was probably not the ideal time to launch a business, although no one could have predicted the complete chaos that March and the following months would bring. However - I pushed myself out of my comfort zone with the knowledge that I quite simply could not let this fail and here we are 3 years later with a thriving business and a team of 3 staff members as well.
Inevitably, starting my own business and navigating through that tricky first year in a pandemic has taught me a few lessons - so I thought I’d share them.
Organisation is key
Being organised and planning ahead can make life so much easier. When you know exactly what you’re meant to be doing and when, it allows you to do things like go on holiday without needing to work the entire time because you forgot to let clients know you’d be unavailable. Delegation is your friend here, and part of why I love being part of the Pink Spaghetti network. I can take some much needed time away from my business safe in the knowledge that my inbox is being monitored by a fellow franchisee, or I can leave it in the care of my team. Either way, it’s taken care of and I can truly switch off and recharge.
Look after the pennies
Pay attention to your finances. Keep a monthly check on what is going in and what is going out. Look at your costs - is there anywhere you can save? Look at your income - are you charging enough? This can be a tricky one to make your peace with, but you need to value your time, and you deserve to get paid for your time! Do you have any consistent late payers, and if so make a plan to change that.
Do this constantly - not just once in a blue moon - otherwise it is all too easy for your profits to be eroded without you knowing where the money is going. If accounts are not your thing - then outsource! Finance and accounts is the one area people continue to put off ‘until they have time’ but you’ll never have the time - either make time or pay someone to deal with it for you.
It’s ok to say no sometimes
Learn to set clear boundaries, and then actually implement them! A lot of us are people pleasers and subscribe to 'the customer is always right' (fun fact, did you know the saying is actually ‘the customer is always right, in matters of taste’?). But this can end up with you working hours you don't want to do, and taking on jobs that are not right for you. Don't be tempted to bulldoze your own boundaries - there'll be plenty of people willing to try and do that for you!
The new business fear of needing to agree to whatever the client wants because you need to build a client base can be your worst enemy here, but learn to be clear from the outset on what you will and won't do, and always have people to refer to if the client wants something that's not in your skill set. Trust me, they’ll appreciate it far more than if you take on too much too soon and don’t do the best job possible.
Connect with people
Develop a good network. While you probably can do it on your own, it can be lonely, stressful and hard work. Having a good network around you for support and advice and meeting other business owners can make the world of self-employment a lot less isolating, so look out for networking groups in your area.
While it's easy to take the view that every other business person in a field related to yours in your competition, it's worth spending some time networking and developing relationships with these people. They're the ones who will most understand the trials and tribulations of running a business in your particular niche - and it's nice to have someone to bounce ideas or frustrations off.
Be a forever student
Keep learning! However skilled we are in our own specialist area, there are always other areas where we can improve. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you know everything there is to know, about anything. There is always a new tip, a better way of doing things or a completely new skill to learn especially when you’re responsible for it all as you so often are when running your own business.
Finance, HR, social media - there is so much training available out there and it doesn’t matter whether you have no budget or a huge budget, there’s a course for everyone. My go to platform is always YouTube, there is a video to teach you just about anything! Keep learning and keep expanding your skills - both you and your clients will benefit.
Chin up, be brave!
Starting a business is a huge step for most of us, and we need to carry on being brave every day. Whether it’s volunteering to do a presentation at a networking event, putting your prices up, or saying no to something you don't have time to do - take a deep breath and do it. It’s rarely as scary as you first thought.
The last 3 years have taught me more lessons than I could have ever imagined. It’s been hard work, extremely hard work at times, and no doubt the future will have some tricky moments too. But all in all, it’s been so worth it. Here’s to many more successful years.
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