You hear it all the time. If you survive the first year of business then you’re doing alright and it’s no surprise when everyone says that over half of small businesses don’t make it past their first year. This is enough to put anyone off, especially myself as an indecisive, perfection driven self-doubter but much to my crippling lack of self-confidence, I did it. I set up my own business a year ago after much deliberation over the months leading up to this huge decision, but business doesn’t come naturally to me.
I hated Business Studies in school and thought I’d never need to know any of this because I would never have the guts to do it in the future, how wrong was I! And I think that was my first lesson and something I always try to keep in mind to this day, you are never the same person you were a year ago let alone 8 years ago so never rule anything out in the early days, at least, because you never know what you might be able to achieve. Even though I was absolutely terrified I knew if I didn’t give it a go then I would be sat at an editing desk in a big corporate office wondering how successful I would’ve been if I did it myself.
So here I am, a year into it and I’ve learnt so much, but it’s come with its major ups and downs and that’s all part of the business journey that you learn and grow from. In this blog post, I’m going to share what I’ve experienced in the hopes that if anyone reading this who is considering starting their own business might benefit from gaining an insight into someone who’s done it, survived it but also still has a long way to go.
How It Started
I’ve always had an enthusiasm for media in general. Having had a background in journalism studies and doing TV jobs on the side like set runners and co-ordinator assistants, I was trying to gain as much experience as I could in the magical world of film and TV, but it wasn’t quite what I expected. So, I decided to try and teach myself how to make videos. This was around the time when video was just starting to become a hugely popular form of digital marketing. This was the creative part of media I enjoyed and wanted to invest my time and effort to develop these talents I recently discovered when volunteering at my university’s television station back when I was a student.
The Initial Push
Last year was the perfect time for me to try adventuring into self-employment. After being made redundant from my main job and having the usual struggles a young person has when breaking into the media industry, I decided to make my own dream job. Before I knew it, I was opening business accounts, registering on GOV.UK, deciding brand colours and designing logos. This part was rather exciting as it was something myself and my business partner were solely in charge of and I found that quite liberating. Yet there are parts of setting up and running a business that you never had to think of before and that’s when it gets challenging. Nothing worthwhile is ever meant to be easy and setting up a business is far from a walk in the park. If there’s one bit of advice I could pass on during the setting up process is no one is good at everything. You will have to carry out jobs and fulfil roles that most companies have a small team for but for now it’s just you. You may not be good at admin or finance but these are the foundations of running a business and you will get by until you can hire someone who is an expert in it to do it for you.
Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself
Failure will always be a part of the journey. Hopefully there won’t be as many failures that cause you to shut up shop for good but when you get something wrong, that plants the seed of self-doubt for it to manifest itself into your belief in running a business. At this point it would be easy to throw in the towel whilst it’s still young, get a full-time job working for someone else and have a steady pay whilst you line someone else’s pocket from the hard work you put in. Persistence is so vital in the early days to help you through those tough times when you feel like you’re getting nothing back. Keep going and know that all the ground work you’re doing now will be so helpful once the work starts coming in and your time starts to become rather precious.
Getting Out There
Business networking was something I had to learn how to do well. I’m still very much learning at this point but as a business that mostly does work with other businesses, I had to learn fast. Trying to get your business seen and heard by the right people has always been an art form that is tweaked and altered as you go along. Finding that right client base for you to target and tapping into their needs is tough sometimes and does require a huge brainstorming session of demographics and mind mapping. Then once you have that it’s a case of getting out there because they won’t come to you. Taking that step into a room full of strangers who do business in negotiation on a daily basis and convince them to buy your service or product over many others is daunting. It’s a long game of trust building but it pays off when someone came to me asking for a video and trusted me to do a good job. We discussed business, the video was made and the client was extremely happy with what we produced. This paved the way for my understanding of our services up to this point because through your first client you learn what worked best and what didn’t, you constantly improve and develop as time goes on. Of course, you will have your fair share of awkward customers and clients but that’s a given when you run a business. Learning to deal with those issues in a professional manner is something I picked up on very quickly. The last thing you want to do is burn bridges before you’ve barely started but don’t let them take advantage of your services just because you’re the new kid on the block.
Where We Are Now
Overall, these last 12 months have been a huge learning curve for me. Something I was told recently was the first year of your business should be learning and years 2 and 3 sees you reap the benefits of this. I think most business owners would agree with me here when I say surround yourself with like-minded people. It’s so easy to lose yourself in the business bubble where you think you are the only person in the world who has these problems but there is huge relief and development in meeting people who went through the same thing. Even though we are told not to dwell on the past, in this instance it does do me some good to see how far myself and the business have come in this short period of time. As a business owner, there’s no one to give you that pat on the back when you’ve done a good job but looking back on what you’ve achieved gives you a huge drive to do better in the years to come.