Can experience be worth 2p?


SBSA has now been in business for 25 weeks.  On paper, it doesn’t seem like much time at all.  It is still early days.  However, thinking back to the start of those 25 weeks, this period feels like a very long time.  A quick calculation reveals that this time represents 1.6% of my almost 30 years.  If my life was represented by a pound, this time would be equivalent to about 2p.  My instinctive reaction is that the relative value of that time is worth far more than that.  If this comparison to coins isn’t a good enough reason to share my two pennies worth, I don’t know what is…

My last reflection on becoming self employed took place after 10 weeks.  Having just re-read that post now, I find myself smiling at my blog photo choice: an aircraft ascending into a clear, blue sky.  It feels as though the lines ‘and he lived happily ever after’ are just about to appear.  Those first 10 weeks represented something of a honeymoon period, when the excitement of striking out on my own was still fresh.  Working up towards such a watershed point, it can be hard to think about what running a business months or even years ahead really means.  Now that I am past that honeymoon phase, I am experiencing the reality more fully.  After 25 weeks, this yields five further lessons adding to the five I shared last time.

Lesson 6: Resilience
Toughen up!

Rejection happens.  And it does hurt.  As a bit of a perfectionist, I have pored hours of time into what I thought were killer proposals.  I felt sure that my potential clients would be blown away by the solution offered to their problem.  But the possible working relationship goes no further when the client appoints someone else.  Oh dear.  Talking to a friend who has been doing this for a long time, she explains that this is part of the day-to-day and helps build resilience.  She adds: the lows are low but the highs are high.  When rejection happens, brush it off and focus on the next opportunity.  Tomorrow is a new day.

Lesson 7: You develop a love/hate relationship with your business
It’s all about Marmite.

There are times when you wonder why you took the self-employed route.  It can be beautiful Saturday afternoon, but you have a deadline to meet, receipts to file and invoices to raise so are cooped up in the home office seething with frustration as the world outside celebrates ‘The Greatest Day Ever’ (well, maybe not quite…).  The Monday to Friday 9-5 seems like a much more desirable option.  Then there are times when you are answering emails al fresco with a cappuccino in hand watching suited City drones marching by, thinking that self-employment is awesome.  And then you get an email from a client saying how brilliant the work you just did for them was.  Even more awesome.  Fortunately I do like Marmite.

Lesson 8: The Art of the Pivot.
Do a few things really well and review this as you and the world change.

During my first 10 weeks, I already recognised that my business plan could not be static.  While the vision hasn’t changed, the routes to get there would need to.  I recently met up with someone who had been running his business for almost 15 years and I commented that I had several directions that I could take my own business and was still figuring this out.  His response got me thinking.  He said that he reviewed his business plan every 6 months and pivoted his business according to opportunity and interest.  This made immediate sense.  Trying to be all things to all people just doesn’t work, but clearly focussing on a few things that people need whilst occasionally amending this as you and the world change does.  I’ve yet to reach my 6 month milestone, but look forward to reviewing my business plan and considering a focussed pivot of my own.

Lesson 9: Business is a marathon, not a sprint.
Over long distance, Mo Farah is better than Usain Bolt.

When I started my business back in April, I leapt in with gusto.  I’d be at the desk during evenings and weekends, and when I thought I already had plenty on my plate already, something else would come up and I’d say yes to that as well.  25 weeks later, this now seems rather foolish.  I haven’t taken much time off yet and if I’m honest, am feeling the need for a break.  While I fully accept that putting in extra hours to meet a pressing deadline is part and parcel of any work, firing on all cylinders all of the time should not be.  It is just not sustainable.  This brings me to my final lesson for today…

Lesson 10: Look after yourself
Life is more than work. Enjoy time out!

You are the most important asset in your business.  You can readily replace equipment, manage finances or hire staff or contractors, but without you none of this can be orchestrated.  While it can be hard to prioritise this at times, it is important to make time to keep yourself fit and healthy.  And I’m not just talking about physical health.  Personal wellbeing is just as crucial, if not more so.  Once of the reasons I went self employed was to have more control of my time to do things I love doing.  Writing this blog on a Saturday morning, I’m now starting to feel like a hypocrite.  I’ll stopping here to head off on a walk while the weather is good and then will indulge in some gaming later…