Before going freelance, I had dreams of sitting in a beautiful co-working space, surrounded by amazing creatives, eating delectable croissants and sipping fresh coffee whilst chatting about the exotic vaycay I had just got back from and how great my newest client is.
Let’s just say, what other people had told me about starting my own business was nothing like the reality. It certainly didn't include nearly enough croissants.
Seeing as we had been hoodwinked ourselves, we thought it was down to us to let you in on the reality of starting your own business, away from dreamy Instagrammable desk spaces, delighted shouts of "10k months" (check out Alice Benhams recent podcast about this) the pretence that we don't just all sit in our pjs every day, with no make up on and 5-day-unwashed-hair.
1. Finding clients…it’s bloody hard work!
Ok Queen, here's the thing: if you’re starting from the ground-up, the biggest hurdle for you will be building your client portfolio. Where are they all? Sure, you can join all the facebook groups, forums, and project matching sites as you want, but first and foremost, you need to actually get OUT THERE. In the world. Build relationships. If you’re still in employment, get this ball rolling ASAP. Attend local networking groups (I know a pretty darn good one!), invite people for coffee, send them nice emails. Schmooze them! Getting your name, personality and face out there, means you’re much more likely to be considered for pitches than your digital counterparts. But, it's all hard work...which leads us nicely on to number 2...
2. “I want to work less”.
Uhoh. This is a big one, starting your own business, it’s hard-bloody-work! It’s lots of long-weekends, late nights and early mornings. One thing we’ve found incredibly useful is to start a morning routine - but honestly, you do whatever suits the way you work. Personally, I hate mornings, they can get trucked. You quickly learn that the more work you put in, especially at the beginning, the more you get out. But set boundaries early on. Ensure when you pitch for work you send your potential client your working hours and how they can contact you, e.g. "Monday-Friday 8am-5pm by email and phone." Do not get sucked in to WhatsApp messaging and treat your holidays as holidays! Put your “out of office” on and be strict. It’s tough but something you definitely get better at. I think.
3. No one gets it.
Let's talk friends and family. Unless they’re business owners or entrepreneurs themselves, they’re unlikely to understand the additional pressures of building your own empire. They don’t get the late nights, they don’t understand why you have to work on Saturday afternoon to edit your website or attend a weekend networking event. That’s ok. It’s ok because joining a group of people that DO understand is how you counteract this. Something like *shameless plug* Women Who Do, can introduce you to people that DO get it, they're with you, they've been there.
4. It can be lonely.
Seriously. Unless you have a good start-up fund and can rent an office or co-working space, you’re more likely to be sat in your hoffice (home-office) surrounded by spider plants and postcards of inspirational quotes. Find other people in your area you can buddy up with now and again, meet at each other’s houses or a coffee shop or the library. Try to break up the monotony of being on your own.
5. You have to be an entire company - by yourself.
Finance Director? That’s you. Administrator? That’s you too. Marketing Department? Also you. Sales Team? You’ve guessed it…it’s you. When you start your own business all of a sudden you’re met with roles and jobs you previously only heard about around the water-dispenser in the office. If you’re keeping a tight grip on the purse-strings, it’s unlikely you’d be able to outsource much, but it’s important to start to work towards outsourcing the elements of your business that are a priority. Work out how much it would cost to have someone do your finances or social media or website design, then put together a saving plan to help you get there. Having a clear goal will allow you to have something to work towards. In the meantime, there’s always the opportunity to skill swap with someone else, or to find apps/software that can help you streamline some of the additional processes you need to do.
Starting your own business can be much tougher than you expected, but grit, determination and a supportive community surrounding you can help you push through those trickier parts. Never lose sight of the future but also take time to reflect on how far you’ve come and the achievements you have made. Simply starting your own business is a massive success already, because it’s a scary thing to do. But you have 100% got this!
Emma Downey, Founder and Editor
Emma can be found glued to her laptop/kindle or embarking on her next favourite hobby. Avid cake-eater, Disney superfan and passionate about female empowerment, Emma founded WWD in 2017. She's also a marketing consultant, Girlguide Leader and converting a Sprinter van (@Minnie_the_van on Instagram) into her office/home to take around Europe in 2020 with her partner, Rupert (who features heavily in most of her anecdotes).
If you'd like to contact Emma about being featured on our blog, or about other advertising opportunities WWD offers, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org