2nd November 2015 marks the day I was unemployed (well until my self-employment was registered!). Last time that happened was in 2000 and I was in-between jobs for a week as a new graduate.
I was much more emotionally drained from the redundancy and transition process than I had realised, so fits of business activity were interspersed with binge-watching “Scandal” and visualising the new work-life balance I was to create for myself. Whilst most of that vision has come to pass, the idea that I would also de-clutter, re-decorate and stay away from the daily chocolate shop outing, haven’t quite come to pass.
I have kept a mental journal over the past year, and wanted to share with you the top ten things I have learnt in my social entrepreneur journey. I feel these can be applied to any career change, so hope that my experiences can help you if you are in a similar position. This is a longer article, so get comfy and start reading!
This was something I struggled with and was wider than the question “what do I charge”? My previous 15 years work experience included being told what I was worth (aka salary bands or commission rates). It also involved working towards a targets or KPIs that, whilst mutually agreed, weren’t always what I wanted to be successful in. Now I was working for myself, how would I measure my value?
In terms of the financial value, my advice to you now is one that stands in all careers. At any moment in time you are the total sum of all of your experience, skills and education. If you move into a new sector, things don’t start off as “zero”. Consider this when you are creating your pricing or what salary level you should command.
Mark your successes every day
This is advice I give my clients, and it comes from personal experience. Since starting my career in sales, I am used to marking progress, considering what is working and how to replicate that. Whilst I did struggle in the early days working out what my targets and success measures are (see point one) this really helps in start-up phase when the financial results aren’t as clear. Incremental successes, from great conversations to seeing my email signups increase, all lead to my financial goal, which leads to my social impact mission!
“Comparison if the thief of joy”
I am an academic at heart; I researched, researched, then researched some more. I pulled together personal SWOT analysis, and wrote lists, and plans. I studied the people that I admired, reviewed the market place and sent out questionnaires.
Then I started to panic. I didn’t know enough. I didn’t have enough money to have swish marketing campaigns. I had a wobble.
WHAT. HAVE. I. DONE?
It didn’t last long; I quickly realised that in business appearances aren’t always what they seem. Often the loudest people in social media are the least busy in their actual work.
The great quote from Theodore Roosevelt really helped me in these moments.” Comparison is the thief of joy.” I started to concentrate on what I was doing and the joy came right back!
Don’t get stuck behind a screen
The internet and all its communication channels are amazing. It is opening up my business and I to people across the globe. However, it can give you the illusion of activity and connection, and before you know it, you haven’t spoken to anyone face to face (apart from your family) for days. I moved from a bustling, busy department and organisation to being on my own for up to six hours a day. Not every day involved client time, so I could actually have days in the early stages where I didn’t talk to anyone between 9:30 and 3! If you have ever spent any time with me, you can imagine how that had me climbing the walls.
Self-employment can be incredibly lonely; I have built up a great network through leaderships groups and having some great clients (both 1-2-1 and corporate) so my sense of tribe is being recreated. This is not just important for my own wellbeing and business support, from a practical perspective, people are who I want to work with! So, if you are working on your own, either as a remote employee or self-employed person, I implore you to find your tribe and meet them regularly!
There are no competitors
Seriously, believe me when I say, the sooner you understand this the better your life will be. Everyone has an USP in career and business: Themselves. You can be offering the same service, or even a product, and it will have differences that are generated by YOU that will attract customers.
When I started “getting out there” with The Balance Collective, I was overjoyed by the support I received from those in the same “space”. Ultimately, we are all after the same end goal (to support parents in their work-life balance) and can’t do this single handed. The partnerships and co-operative conversations are rapidly building after such a short time. I ask you to stop and think, who could you partner with?
I don’t know everything
I am “eldest child – Type A – overachieving” stereotype, so accepting this level of vulnerability was hard. But so worth it. I held back on launching the business as I felt like I had to do and know everything. As soon as I realised I didn’t need to, and worked with people that had the knowledge and skills I hadn’t, things moved so much faster.
For the topics I wanted to know, but didn’t, nothing makes you learn quicker than taking action!
I have also worked with my own coach who helped me “unpack my own inner bulls**t” and I am soon to get a mentor from a social enterprise programme I am on. Some of what I needed I could learn; the rest I needed to just “get out of my own way”.
Know your figures
I was lucky to know about my redundancy option several months in advance. It meant I was able to start saving like crazy to fund my business, but also start cutting back on my living costs to see where the financial stressors and compromises would be, before it was needed.
My EU funding background has meant that my budgets and financial records are all in place – much to my Accountants amusement, but I am also able to track the actual costs of the business.
So, for any changes you are due to make, do you know what your NEED is financially and then what your WANT is?
SAY YES …
Then work out how to do it. This is the oldest advice in the book, but trust me, it will take you places you never considered before. This has led me to open up my coaching to a whole different client base that I hadn’t considered (parents that are also university students) as well as ignite a passion to giving talks that I had actively avoided in my corporate career!
Don’t take things personally
Building a brand and business takes time; even the most supportive friends and family don’t always engage or support the way you would expect them too. DON’T TAKE THIS PERSONALLY.
On a practical level, platforms like Facebook are always changing how information has been presented. There was a time I assumed that a programme I was promoting was being ignored. It turns out people hadn’t seen it. Use old fashioned techniques like phones, email and face to face conversations, and don’t believe the “sales hype”. You can’t go from zero to multi-figure turnover in eight simple steps. It takes time and patience to build trust and relationships.
This is the thing that took me so long to do. If I had removed the self-doubt, outside pressures and the need for a perfect platform, I could have started about six months before I actually did. Whilst I don’t regret my timing, as I believe everything works out for a reason, sometimes the best time is NOW.
Hope my ten points have helped – for those of you that are longer in the tooth with this business lark, what did you learn in your first year? I would love to hear your advice over on The Balance Collective with Clara Wilcox