Happy 1st Birthday: My Lessons of Starting a Company

My company is one year old today :0)

I feel this is a milestone worth celebrating! In the past 18 months I canned the corporate life, had the summer swanning around France, became a French Wine Scholar and then got to the point of knowing I needed to work again!

As readers know, I was incredibly fortunate to spend a few days with Beth and Jimmy the owners of West London Wine School during that summer. Towards the end of last year they asked me to work with them to support their marketing activity and therefore my company was born.

Since then I continue to work with them and a number of other clients across a variety of industries and these are my top tips for working for yourself.

1) Get in touch with every single person you know! Work the LinkedIn list. Almost all work I have got has been through someone who I know or someone who has recommended me. Once that happens your contact list grows even further so you’ll continue to be recommended.

2) Network. Whilst the above is true you never know who you’re going to meet if you’re in the right place. I met the owners of a fantastic wine bar at a wine tasting event who needed some marketing support; all it took was being sat next to them to pitch for that work. You could argue that’s just lucky and that’s true, but you have to be in it to win it!

3) Prepare before you network! I was completely overwhelmed at my first trade tasting that I more or less panicked and left quite quickly. Now I research who is going to be at an event; I have a couple of opening lines ready to interact with people and when I get there I always make a note of somewhere where I can stand or sit if I find myself on my own so as not to feel out of place and work out my next move.

4) Don’t worry if it’s not quite as you expected! I was convinced I was going to get a full time comms career in the wine industry. Whilst I may have got a dream job in the wine industry I do other things too including communicating about logistics! As I work longer with each client the roles have developed and I find myself doing new things and building skills I didn’t know I had. And that’s great.

Working at my first wine event – turns out I’m not bad at sales and speaking to customers!

5) Don’t be afraid to say goodbye to a client when the time is up. I left the corporate life for a number of reasons which I won’t go into again and I felt with one client that it was becoming all too similar. So I decided not to renew my contract with them despite the financial loss. I posted a blog on LinkedIn by Seth Godin last week which gives some great advice about this. It can become easy to fall back into financial security, but I left a stable well paid job 18 months ago to try something new and I intend to keep doing that!

6) Become a negotiator. Whether that’s agreeing your working hours or how much you’re going to get paid it’s up to you to get what you’re happy with. The work I’ve done across my clients for the past year has been really varied; from social media posting to big cultural change programmes and you have to charge accordingly to the work and the industry and there is a balance. It can feel awkward to name your price but the way I see it, if I’m going to be working for someone for three days of my week that’s three days I can’t accept other work so it has to be mutually beneficial! There was a super LinkedIn post by Brigette Hyacinth a few weeks ago with the leading paragraph saying ‘If I do a job in 30 minutes it’s because I spent 10 years learning how to do that in 30 minutes. You owe me for the years, not the minutes.’ Enough said.

7) Take advantage of the quiet times and take advantage of the busy. In my Famine to Feast blog I talked about being busy. Right now I have a little more time on my hands. I would consider doing more work if a client comes along but at the same time knowing that I will be working solidly for the first four months of 2020 I’m just enjoying more time out. I’m getting Rex out on some super walks, I’m visiting some lovely vineyards, I’m catching up with friends and just chilling out!

8) And finally. Make sure you keep up the home life / work life balance. I found that because of my flexible working I actually ended up working seven days a week. Admittedly not eight hours a day but I wasn’t having any time off and I was shattered. If you work from home it also becomes becomes very easy to not go out. Remember, a lot of your friends don’t have your flexibility so post work drinks are still their culture and it should be yours too! So don’t get lazy!

And well that’s it. I could talk about the sensible stuff like get an amazing accountant (I have – if you need one let me know), keep on top of the books etc etc but that’s just common sense. The things I’ve talked about are the heart pieces – the things you might just not know.

I can still say though, that despite some challenges (inevitable uncertainty and lack of daily banter with work colleagues!) it’s still the best working decision I’ve ever made.

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