When you work for yourself, you realise that there is a never-ending stream of things to learn. But it seems as though the minute anyone gains an ounce of knowledge, they forget what it’s like NOT to know it.
So here’s ELEVEN THINGS I WISH I’D KNOWN WHEN I STARTED. I’ve by no means got it sorted - I’m continually learning. Last week I was at an event where the person on stage declared that she tends to consult an astrologer every 3 months to “see what’s coming up in business”. That was my cue to channel my chakras/burn some incense/manifest some sanity, and get out of there. My lesson? Research the speakers.
1) YOUR WORKPLACE. Working from home? Do not keep snack food in the house. Your waistline will explode. The only things available for snacking should be fruit. Trust me. You can have croissants if they come pre-frozen, and it takes you 17 minutes to cook them and 5 more minutes for them to cool down. Make it hard to be bad. And if you’re working in an office, keep a drawer full of protein bars and a massive bottle of water on your desk. Or you’ll be eating vending-machine dinners at 9pm on a Tuesday, because there’s something you Need To Finish.
2) DELEGATION. Ruthlessly ignore everything you’re not good at, and have someone else do it. You know the people who tell you to ‘work on your weaknesses’. They are talking out of their seat-area. If you’re terrible at paperwork, send all your receipts in a shoebox to someone who does book-keeping for a living. If you’re messy, hire a cleaner. If you work from home DEFINITELY HIRE A CLEANER. You’re in the house more hours, which means more mess and chaos, and finding random cups of cold coffee everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
3) MONEY. Hire an accountant. It might be the same person as the bookkeeper, but a good one will save you more than they cost, and if you’re forgetful, they’ll ensure you meet your tax deadlines/annual company filings, and keep you out of the clink, too. Handy.
4) DESIGN. There are amazing free/cheap design resources like Canva. But if you’re bad at design you’ll lose 4 hours of your life learning how to format a banner image for LinkedIn, and forget to email back the client who could have given you a massive deal. Get help.
5) PEOPLE. The first people you hire need to be very flexible, and very smart. Pay more for intelligence and insight. Right now YOU are the most expensive resource in your company – because without you, there is no business. Give people actual work tasks to completed as part of the hiring process. Hire freelancers wherever possible, and be VERY slow to hire full time staff. Because staff need offices. And desks. And you to give them time and attention and career development. Outsource as long as you can. There are amazing freelancers on Fivr and other sites, but there also complete head cases who will send you strange emails, because you decided not to re-hire them when they did terrible work/disappeared in the middle of an important project. Get recommendations wherever you can.
6) SOCIALISE. It’s very easy to become a hermit. I accidentally overcame this by starting a women’s networking event my first month in business. I run drinks one night a month, and it’s brought me a surprising amount of new and wonderful friends. Bonus: when you run the network, you actually have to show up every month. Dressed. With your hair combed. Looking like a sane adult. Try it.
7) CLIENTS. If you say you ‘manifest your dreams’ in a business conversation I’m likely to set your coat on fire and pretend the roman gods did it as a punishment. To create a business which you love, think about this: Who do you like spending time with, and who do you like helping? Who are your people? I like funny people, smart people, people that believe in science. My MindMafia.com brand is for small business owners, and the sense of fun comes out in the brand, because I made it to amuse myself. If you think it’s silly that’s fine – you’re not the client for me. As the legendary Ash Ambirge of themiddlefingerproject.org says, think about who you want to attract. Then be really clear about who you want to repel. Explain how you are NOT for them. Make it really clear who will hate working with you. Shoo them away. Begone, evil spirit!
8) KEEP YOUR OLD FRIENDS. When you become self-employed, your reality shifts. Your former workmates still get to complain about their boss, and brag about their holidays to foreign climes, or show off their fancy new bag or wristwatch. Meanwhile, the novice entrepreneur will tell their friends and family that everything is going great. Because if you say anything otherwise, you’ll hear how you can ‘always get a job’. But keep your friends. It’s too easy to drift off into your new & un-chartered waters, and forget to connect. Stay in touch, even if sometimes it feels like you live in different worlds.
9) MAKE NEW FRIENDS. In the same way that workers need to complain about the boss, the self-employed need a safe space to complain about nightmare clients, employees, overdue invoices, work that pays the bills but makes them want to cry, and to chat about obscure online tools & courses that make the world a better place. Online groups are great, and Facebook is full of super-niche ones, but also head out into the real world and meet real humans once a while. REAL. HUMANS. Meet them in all their 3D squishy-faced glory.
10) SEATING. Get a really good office chair if you sit at a desk, because you will spend HOURS SITTING IN THAT CHAIR. I recommend an AERON chair. Best money I’ve ever spent.
What do you wish you’d known? Tell me in the comments – let’s stack this with advice!
11) This gets a double entry. No snacks in the house. Seriously.