Recently I was talking to a contact about what it was like becoming self-employed. She said she hadn’t realised that growing her business was not going to be quick and how lonely self-employment can be. This got me thinking.
I became self-employed after years in the corporate world. There I had become quite senior and had people around me who did things: IT, finance, recruitment, admin etc and, more importantly, work was generated by the internal processes, I never had to get work, work came to me. Then I became self-employed. I can remember the first day, sitting at my desk, waiting for the work to arrive. I suddenly realised that not only did I have to go and get work (I sort of knew that) but I also had to be all the support for my business—IT, finance, recruitment, admin etc. I tried to generate work by moving my phone around but that didn’t work and I made lists of who might want my service and what “other stuff” I needed to do to run my business. I also drank a lot of coffee and cleaned a lot of cupboards! I was overwhelmed.
I was extremely fortunate because some of my friends had said they would use my service so I contacted them and that got me started. It also meant that I could practise and fine-tune my business processes and practices within a supportive environment. More importantly, they introduced me to their contacts and so the business grew. What also happened was that a contact I had made introduced me to networking. I soon realised that I had always networked, had always worked at building business relationships. So, I was comfortable with networking and realised that the people I met were able to provide the services that would support my business. This meant I could focus absolutely on doing the jobs I got and getting more jobs.
I’ve just written the last two sentences in a few minutes but the growth of my business, despite all the network of support, took a couple of years to feel stable and that feeling is always there at some level. On March 23rd, 2020 the announcement of lockdown meant that on paper I didn’t have a business. It really proved to me that as a business owner I must always be vigilant and not take things for granted.
25 years after starting my first business I’m still self-employed, still living by my three rules (have fun, never do anything I don’t want to do with anybody I don’t want to do it with, never work full-time or permanently for anybody again) and I am still staying vigilant. The difference from when I started is now I have people who know me and support me, sometimes by providing services to my business, people who are fans of my business and who introduce business people to me. But I still remain vigilant because none of us know what the future holds.
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