What I’ve learnt from my first 10 years of self-employment
This month marks the 10-year anniversary of me starting my journey into self-employment. So, it felt timely to do a bit of reflection work and share a few of my insights (and mishaps) from along the way. If you’re considering self-employment or you’ve been in it for a while and needing some fresh guidance, reassurance and honesty then here are a few pointers…
Don’t let your desire for the world’s best logo take you down a rabbit hole!
I did. I spent the first 3 months pouring over the perfect fonts, colours, shapes and names that I wanted to represent my business. These things are important, but they are not the best use of your time, energy and focus when you are setting out. They are the window dressing for your shop, but without a compelling, customer-focused offer and a way of generating traffic, they are pointless.
If I was starting out again, I would spend that time and energy getting crystal clear on who my business was aimed at, making sure there was a market for what I was offering and working out the best route to connect with my audience. You live and learn.
Remember your existing contacts before you try and make new ones
I can’t tell you how many networking events I went to in the first 2 years. Dishing out my business card, trying to explain what I did (Retail Consulting at the time) and eating bacon rolls (in the days before I gave up red meat) became a regular occurrence. Networking events can be a great way of building confidence and finding your audience. But they didn’t work for me, other than give me a bit of a social outlet (which was very welcome having gone from a bustling office environment to working solo). Instead, 95% of my work came from just 2 key contacts (old bosses from my corporate days). I was lucky enough that they found me and trusted me. I never looked back from that point.
When we speak from the heart, our people find us
When I first opened my doors, I was hiding. I tried to make my business sound like a much bigger entity than little old me. Even the thought of putting a photo of myself on my website felt like I was entering a Roman amphitheatre. My written content still had elements of corporate-speak because I thought that’s what I ‘should’ do. I spoke passionately about what I did and the change I wanted to help create, but I didn’t give myself the freedom to reveal my true self and speak from the heart.
In my profession, as with so many others, people buy from people. The more I have spoken honestly and openly about my background, my mistakes, my beliefs and my insecurities, the more it has resonated with my audience and the more my business has grown. Letting yourself be vulnerable, making it safe for others to be so too, is so liberating. I’ve stopped editing my blogs and posts to within an inch of their life, trusting that what flows out spontaneously is what needs to be shared. This has been a game-changer.
Self-employment is the best form of self-development
The journey you go on when you become self-employed is not just a career one, it’s a life one (and, for me, also a spiritual one). It tests and strengthen you in so many ways. For me the most important personal strengths which I’ve discovered (and have kept me in business) have been: resilience, patience and belief. You learn the hard way what works and what doesn’t work.
Self-employment has many upsides, but it is not for everyone though. You need to be prepared for some potential peaks and troughs in your income. You need to be prepared to properly put yourself out there. You wear about 10 different hats until you come to the realisation that you can’t do it all alone and you’re going to have to trust someone enough to hand over some tasks so that you can focus on doing what you originally set up your business for.
I wouldn’t change it for the world.
And so, to the next 10 years...
As I contemplate the next 10 years, what I want from my working life is substantially different to what I wanted back in 2011. I now have a deeper understanding of what makes me truly happy. And it stems from a state of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ (the focus of a future online course).
I’ve realised that whilst my motivation to enable others to create transformation remains, it’s the small things which now mean the most…a schedule which allows me to walk Madge around the lake first thing in the morning, to be able to host a breakfast for my Dad’s birthday and take a proper lunch break with my partner. And the opportunity my work offers to transcend my ego further and experience more inner peace and oneness which, for me, is the ultimate source of fulfilment.
So, my intention is that in 10 years time, I will still be happily self-employed, having supported a lot more people through their transformation and writing to you feeling more at peace than ever before.
Here’s to your self-employment journey and all that it may bring you….