Sometimes a thunderbolt strikes and your whole world is turned upside down. But, as I have discovered, it does not have to be the end of the world.
A month ago, I made the difficult decision to leave my secure and comfortable job to embark on a new chapter. Setting up a new business is terrifying and exciting in equal measure, but if you feel the fear and do it anyway, good things can and do happen.
This is what I have learned so far from my experience of setting up Plan B – my own marketing and design agency.
1. When one door closes, another opens (and sometimes you need the door to be slammed in your face to take the leap)
It required the threat of redundancy for me and three colleagues to take the leap and set up an independent newspaper in 2014 (Read the full story here) And it took the threat of my role within that newspaper changing dramatically for me to take the leap and set up my own business in 2018.
Sometimes we do what we do because it is comfortable and easy. We need a good kick up the backside, or the threat of losing that stability, to force us to give something else a try. I have wanted to set up my own business for a long time but it has been easier to stick with the safe option – the support of a team and a guaranteed salary – than to make the leap and fly solo.
I realised that it was only fear holding me back from giving my dream a chance when the rug was pulled out from under me.
It’s been less than a month, but already the absolute terror I felt at the prospect of going it alone has all but disappeared and now I feel free, empowered and excited.
2. Opportunities present themselves when you are open to them
I’m lucky in that Plan B has got off to flying start because I have taken my clients from my previous job with me and have ongoing work to get me started.
But since word has started getting round about my foray into self-employment I have already been approached by several potential clients with ideas for projects I could help them with.
These are clients who would probably not have considered approaching me in my previous role – although I am actually doing exactly what I was doing before. The projects are not necessarily things I would or could have got involved with when I was employed, but they all fall within my skill set – if not my comfort zone.
Since taking the leap I have spoken to several people who have taken the self-employed route and all of them have spoken about how one job has led to the next. Word of mouth referrals still appear to be one of the best ways of securing your next client.
That doesn’t mean that I am expecting self-employment to be all plain sailing, with work literally falling in my lap as I hop from one job to the next.
I am prepared for a rollercoaster of dips and troughs, but I have hope that the old adage that the harder you work, the luckier you get, holds true. I hope that by being prepared to consider things I may not have given head space to before, I will be open to lots of new opportunities that are just around the corner.
3. People will go out of their way to help – all you have to do is ask
I am also lucky that I know a lot of people. My work, in the town where I was born and have lived for most of my life, has brought me into contact with a large number of the area’s business people. This has given me a head start in launching my business as I have reached out to many of these people and literally asked for their help.
I have asked them to consider me for any marketing projects they have coming up, I have asked them to pass on my details to anyone they know who may be in need of my services and I have asked them for help and advice on getting started.
I have been genuinely bowled over by the response. Opportunities for work have already arisen as a result of these requests from people who know me and have projects they think I can help with.
People like to help others succeed
The other day I had lunch with one of those acquaintances I asked for help and I told her more about what I am doing. She had loads of ideas for potential clients and she took a handful of my business cards to give to people she thinks might be interested in what I do. She has already put one potential client my way.
Another local businessman invited me for coffee to see how he could help. He has some interesting projects in the pipeline which he believes he might be able to involve me in. He also offered to introduce me to his network to widen my circle of contacts and has made some really valuable suggestions about what I can do to promote myself.
It can feel a bit cheeky, or desperate even, to reach out to people you barely know. But, in my experience, people like to pass on their expertise and experience to help others succeed and will go out of their way to help if they can. All you have to do is ask.
4. You still have to show up and be the boss
When you tell people you are working from home, that looks flits across their face. The one that suggests they don’t really believe you are working. They think you are spending a couple of hours at your desk in your pyjamas before getting distracted by the pile of washing that needs doing or Bargain Hunt on TV.
The truth is, I am more motivated to work at the moment than I have ever been. If I don’t show up and give 100 per cent, I am setting myself up to fail.
So, I am at my desk by 9am – without fail – if not earlier, and my work day ends when the work is done. I usually dress for the office and my make-up and hair are done – just as if I was going into an office to work. (OK, sometimes I put my slippers on – just for comfort, you understand!)
Working for myself means I can be more flexible with my working days and weeks. For instance, I finish early every other Friday to pick my girls up from school and we do something special, like a movie night or meal at a local restaurant. I couldn’t do that before.
But, then I’ll put in a few hours at the weekend when the girls are with their dad. I work in the evenings if necessary. It’s no longer work a regular 9-5 job. Running your own business is never going to be.
I have no one to answer to – except myself. Which means I have to be a tough taskmaster. My future literally depends on it – and that’s motivation enough!