Exactly one year ago, I resigned from a secure government job in Melbourne and set-up my own law firm, working from home in the suburbs. At the time, people said I was everything from brave and visionary, to crazy and stupid. But now, one year on, having achieved my revenue goal and established a successful business, I don’t regret my decision for a second.
Every start-up business owner faces a rollercoaster ride of emotions and challenges. Here’s what I’ve learned in my year of working dangerously:
Courage and self-belief will get you through the tough times
Find out what motivates you and use that to draw strength and energy. It might be financial independence, or having more time to spend with your young children. For me, it was both of those things, but more powerfully the fear of having to return to paid employment and reporting to a boss.
I am the worst employee: insubordinate and stubborn. I want to run the show the way I think it should be run – not the best attitude an employee should have. And that’s why being my own boss has been a long-held dream. I was – and am – determined not to fail. Even when the phone wasn’t ringing and my inbox was empty, I knew it was just a matter of time.
Write down your goals and motivating reminders on post-it notes and scatter them around your working environment, as well as your bedside table, bathroom mirror and car. Keep reminding yourself why you will succeed – and you will!
Your brand should reflect your values
Wisdom, strategic thinking, trusted advice and excellence: these are professional values that I hold dear. And that’s why I chose an owl as my business logo. My branding reflects my values. The way I answer the phone and speak with clients; the way I sign off emails; how I interact with colleagues and referral partners: everything reflects those values.
As a professional services provider, I want my clients to feel that they are in trusted hands and that helping them solve their problems is my top priority. I also want them to know I enjoy a laugh and am pretty laid back about most things. That’s why my branding has a fresh and modern look and feel. Taking the time to produce quality branding that truly captures who you are will be one of the smartest investments you’ll ever make.
Life is not necessarily more balanced with work
At the moment, I am the receptionist, executive assistant, social media manager and cleaner, as well as the principal lawyer. I am up late most evenings doing administrative work. But I’m now able pick up my daughter from childcare earlier, or attend a leisurely networking lunch, or enjoy a walk around a park in the sunshine during the week, or even sleep in sometimes: things I was never able to do before. The flexibility of working for yourself is, ultimately, liberating. And as revenue increases, the less glamourous tasks can be outsourced.
Take advantage of every marketing opportunity
I must have drunk 1000 cups of coffee meeting people during my first six months in business. Everyone I’d ever met was a potential client or referral partner. When you’re a start-up, you need to get out there and sell: go through your LinkedIn, Facebook and phone address book. Contact former colleagues, service providers you’ve previously used, your neighbours, childcare parents, mothers’ group parents, everyone you can possibly think of.
Proactively submit articles to publications, write post blogs, be active on twitter and attend local business networking events in your community and industry. I even have magnets on my car that promote my business and I always, always carry business cards. If you make a connection, make sure you follow up promptly via email or social media, and always personalise any LinkedIn request. Acknowledge every referral you receive and touch base with referral partners on a regular basis. You’ll never know in advance which referrer or customer will lead to significant growth in your business, so treat them all like royalty.
This article was originally published on Women’s Agenda.