Today marks 3 years since I launched my own business, and there's not a day that goes by I don't continue to learn, be proud, pleased and uncertain - all at the very same time!
To mark the occasion I wanted to share what I've learnt for others who might have taken that same leap, or better still - for those considering it, yet hamstrung by the 'great unknown' that lies on the other side...
Here's my top 10 for today:
1. You're not actually 'solo'
Despite being a company 'one' you might find like I have that you've never worked with so many people! Launching your own business and brand creates the opportunity to connect with others in a way you might not have otherwise. There are so many amazing entrepreneurs and kind people out there, only too happy to connect with you and offer whatever advice and help they can. With co-share office spaces and people working from cafes etc, you only need to strike up a conversation or reach out to someone to realise just how 'un-solo' you are. I've actually never met more people than I have over the last 3 years. Working for a bigger company you might be surrounded by lots of people, but they're generally the same ones each day. When you're 'solo' you have the opportunity to meet and work with many different people, and enjoy the benefits of diversity that brings. So don't be myth-ed that by doing your own thing you're solo, you can be as solo or as surrounded as you want to be, it's your call!
2. High 5 yourself often
This should actually be #1, I think it's my favourite! I started doing this early on when I realised no one would be at the desk next to me giving me a pat on the back and congratulating me on a job well done. Although granted we don't always get that feedback anyway, I think it was the opportunity for feedback from colleagues I recognised I'd miss. So along with my focuses for the week ahead (in green) on my white board, I keep another list (in red), and I add to it each day. It's called my High 5 list, and as I have a win, a good experience or achieve something - however big or small it may be, I mark a 'tick' and alongside what it is. It could be winning a job, or it might be a media interview, meeting an amazing person, going to an event that opened doors, something I'd learnt, a great piece of advice I'd been given, it might be a new opportunity that's arisen, going for a run, getting something done I'd been putting off - it could be anything at all! And as the week progresses, so too does my list. When I get to the end of the week I take each of those high 5's in before I rub it off and start again. As business owners, and for women in particular, we're really good at focusing on what more we should be doing, where we're falling short - but I tell you what, start a High 5 list, and it will soon become your favourite list, because it will naturally encourage doing even more things worthy of a little high 5!
3. Do what 'feels' right
I can't over emphasise this one enough. It's funny often in personal situations we trust our gut, do what feels right, then when it comes to business we roll with the numbers, what the data says, what logic tells us, and we often leave this 'gut feeling' at the door. Why should trusting our gut, or intuition be any different personally or professionally? We might not be able to explain why 'it just doesn't feel right', but if we trust it, I bet we won't regret it. And I don't know about you, but I'd prefer not to learn that mistake too many times the hard way! So do what feels right, and YOU are the only person who really knows what that is, and if it's your brand, your business, your baby - you even owe it to yourself to do what feels right by it.
4. Work where and when you're inspired to
You just kissed the 9 to 5 office gig goodbye, so don't try and force yourself to continue in that mould. Now more than ever you need to respect working from where you're inspired to work, and the hours you're inspired to work. And this might change over time, even daily. You get to design your days your way, it can be a hard mould to break after however many years in the workforce, and because 95% of the people around you might be heading to their same office Monday to Friday. But honour the new way of working you've created. You might need to set yourself boundaries to avoid falling into a 24 x 7 model, it's an occupational hazard when you're doing what you love! But don't let those boundaries limit you, use them to guide where and when you're inspired to work.
5. Allow your 'offering' to evolve
Be open to change, because you get to do it your way! You'll be inspired by other people, other ideas, even clients coming to you asking if you could do something not currently part of your offering. Allow it to evolve - because you can. It doesn't mean you should change direction on the hour, but it means you can mix up your offering and where your focus lies as you see fit. I think I've created more business cards in the last 3 years than I have in previous jobs ;) I'm still the same person with the same purpose, but how that's articulated in what I do has changed a few times, it's evolved into something I had no idea I'd be doing when I first started, I allowed it to evolve. So be open to whatever type of evolution might feel right for you as you progress on your journey.
6. Reach a point of acceptance for your own proposals
It took me a while to be comfortable with what I wanted to charge, and what I knew I was worth. Particularly early on when you're pretty eager for the work. But if you can move from a place of 'crossing your fingers' as you send your proposal - to knowing in your heart it's a good proposal, it will help that company and it's worth the value you're asking, despite them accepting it or not - that's a good place to strive for. It might sound a little strange, and I take nothing away from celebrating the 'wins', but when you experience it, you'll know what I mean. It's not naive or arrogant, it's a level of comfort in backing yourself and what you're proposing. It's totally up to them whether they say 'yes' or 'no', that's out of your control, and either way, if you're okay with it - that's a good place to be.
7. Embrace the uncertainty
I recall a conversation not long after launching my business, with a brilliant and very accomplished Marketing Professor, John Morris, a great friend of my Dad's. I asked him when he reached a point of being comfortable with not knowing what lay ahead, where his next client would come from. Into his 70's he told me with a chuckle of how he still lay awake at night even now! I laughed but totally got it. I'd have to get use to this feeling... and believe me it's still very much a work in progress, but life can be uncertain, and it can just be a little more amplified when you run your own business. But if you're following your passion, good at what you do and have a sound business model, then it will somehow work out - so just embrace it, and enjoy the ride!
8. Listen to your own voice more than any other
With the amount of information we have access to through various digital platforms, it's brilliant, but it can also be a little overwhelming. Everyone is an expert at something and knows the best way to do it. And if you've wisely surrounded yourself with others, they'll naturally offer advice and opinion. Some of it will be super useful, and just what you need to hear, but other elements not so much. This one also ties into #2 of 'Do what feels right', because of all of the information and data coming in, you need to do what feels right for you, listen to your own voice over any other. Because what worked for them, might not work for you. And you're the only one able to gauge that. By all means learn and listen to others, but do filter it, if it doesn't feel right for you, it's probably not.
9. Remember why you started, it'll keep you going
This is my favourite question to ask someone running their own business. And more than satisfying my own curious mind, I also love seeing them reflecting back and remembering why it was they started doing what they're doing. I often see the joy light up in their face as they share it with me, especially the longer they've been in business, it's easier to lose track of why you started in the first place the more time goes by. But it's worth keeping this top of mind, because it's often a bloody good reason, it'll keep you passionate about what you're doing, and be just the motivation to keep going when you need it most. So... why did you start? Or why will you start?
10. Have a game plan each day
This is a more practical one. Each day will be different, and might not turn out as planned, but if you kick off the day with a bit of a game plan, it will keep you focused, and working on the things that matter, the things that will get you to where you want to go! In designing your days it might be a bit of a mix of key things you want to spend chunks of time focusing on, catchups with people, and then smaller less important activities, make sure you throw a few breaks in there to keep you energized and focused - looking after brand you is always time well spent when you're running your own business. And I'd also suggest designing your days in line with your energy flows, go with them not against them. If you're not feeling it you can't force it, so go with those flows and you'll be far more efficient and enjoy it at the same time. Knowing when you're 'on' and keeping that time free to work on those key things that flow more easily during that time, is really key. So have a game plan, and then adapt it as the day unfolds.
So there we have it - my top 10 as it stands today, 3 years on. I hope there's something that resonates. And as I reflect on my journey, I know there's nothing better than sharing that knowledge with others. So feel free to share this with anyone you think might benefit, even comment on what your top tips would be, this is by no means a conclusive list, I could write a book on it - but I already have one in the making, so I better get that one done first :)
Here's to more people doing what they love, and those of us who can share what we've learnt on our journeys to help them.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, and just by doing so - you're now part of my journey, so thank you!