LinkedIn reminded me of our 14th birthday this week. It has been quite a decade plus four. I had two beautiful girls, built up and scaled down the business, got divorced, changed my business brand and worked for some amazing and horrible clients. I have also learnt some harsh lessons, survival techniques and experienced tremendous growing pains both professionally and personally. But out of it all, GinjaNinjaPR lives. In celebration of this small milestone, here are 14 tips to consider about being self-employed, a PR specialist and running a small business as a single Mom.
- You will be fearful – the adage that FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real is true. Use it to motivate you, not immobilise you. It is not a sign to quit or not start at all, it is the consequence of taking a leap, so use it positively.
- Know that if you were a success working for someone else, chances are, you will be successful on your own. The reasons are often because you are skilled, have the right attitude and can add value. None of this changes when you decide to work for yourself, so remember that when you start panicking.
- In keeping with the above tip, remember that the network and reputation you have built up will be vital to your new business. Perception is reality, so assuming you have built up a valuable network and have a good reputation, use it to your advantage and protect it. You will need them more than they need you.
- Stick to your knitting – don’t try and save money and do all the administration yourself. I have, in the past, done this and it doesn’t serve you well. While as a business owner you become a generalist, rather ensure you have a strong administration backbone with the right people managing the right tasks. Understanding that you won’t initially have budget for a big team, simply ensure you employ the right accountant and bookkeeper for a start. By having these two people engaged will save you immensely. Do not underestimate the value they bring to small business.
- Decide upfront what you want from the business. If you want to grow and develop into a large business, then plan accordingly. The hardest part of a business strategy is sticking to it. Unless there are grave circumstances, don’t change course, remember who and what you were at the beginning and aim to fulfill that vision.
- Know that you will do six things at once and this could include watching sport or dancing lessons, while dealing with a client crisis. It is tough and requires skill, but the benefits far out way the alternative.
- Use what you have created. Don’t try run your business like a corporate or an agency. Make use of the flexibility, mold it around your life and the variety of activities you want to achieve. Example – don’t set meetings for 8am, do the school run, train and get into the office at 9. Meet clients after 10. I can promise you the world doesn’t come to a standstill. You have a mobile phone and if there is an issue, clients can reach you.
- Leave your guilt at the door. Aside from the motherhood guilt, some of us feel guilty for not being glued to your self-employed desk. You don’t guarantee success by spending more hours at your desk. Work smart, with passion and within a structure that serves you and your family well.
- Quickly gain an understand the things you can never forget. These grudge purchases are generally VAT, PAYE, company and provisional tax. If you have the right finance team behind you, this shouldn’t be a problem. Avoid the bigger accounting firms because you are even less than a number to them. They also don’t enable you to make use of your small business status within the bookkeeping and limit you as if you were a big concern.
- Have an identity – no matter how simplistic, in today’s times, you simply must have a website, twitter handle and LinkedIN profile for your business. You will not be taken seriously if you don’t. So develop a brand, again with people who are specialists, and ensure you have a digital footprint. Also make sure this brand is consistently implemented across all your collateral and remember it must speak to your original strategy, so if you want a big business one day, choose a brand that represents that vision.
- Work with like-minded people. There are many reasons why you are self-employed and one should be that you get to choose who you work for and with every day. It sounds preposterous but let me tell you that unless you are kindred spirits and the chemistry is there, the relationship in whatever form will not last. I am clearly not a corporate person, so I limit how many big companies I work with at any one time. My biggest disappoints over the years has come from working with monstrous brands who, while saying they support SMEs, treat us with very little respect. I have also learnt from employing people who are not cut from the same cloth as the team. If you clock watch and stick to a job description, then you won’t fit in. Likewise, if you can’t handle a few million swear words and a dark and dry sense of humour, then don’t work for me, ever!
- Create an environment that pleases your soul. I have four dogs and every so often a cat that visits the office. I also have two kids that fly into the office after school for a quick catch-up. Having a Mom who is so accessible makes a difference to them, and it keeps me connected. My dogs, all of them, are happiest at my feet for as long as they are allowed to be there. That said, the office is separate to the house, which is a big must for any small business.
- Find a working style that works for you. I am old school and love my notebook and pencil bag. As a tech PR consultant it is almost laughable, but nothing beats the power of a notebook and pen. I retain information better if I write it down, I have it as a reference for as long as I need it, and it helps me to not forget what I am meant to do. You may be opposite, it doesn’t matter, whatever works is what you adopt as a methodology. After all, you want to succeed don’t you?
- Believe in what you do. Don’t get swayed by market changes or trends and fads. I started in PR 26 years ago and despite the onslaught of social media, I still believe in the power of PR. We have all evolved to a certain extent, but the basic fundamentals stay the same and remain important. Today, PR is about content, but it is till about relationships, perception shaping and communication. There will always be a role for PR and those that disagree will pay the bigger price.
I thought that 14 tips would be hard to find, but I have run out of time, not information. I’m privileged to have learnt so much and to evolve my new brand of GinjaNinjaPR. I can promise you that no matter the struggle, the challenges defined me in a far more positive way than anything negative. Today, I am a brighter and bolder version of my old self who started a business with no clients and pregnant with my first child. After all, I am a Ninja, even though I didn’t know it at the time. Don’t ever quit!