There are many routes to self-employment or to start your own business. And my own route will be familiar to many, even though the catalyst is unique. Because I never set out to be an entrepreneur or to run my own business.
The catalyst wasn’t a burning desire to create something that was missing in the marketplace. Or to improve what was already out there.
And it wasn’t as a result of a change in circumstances, like redundancy, an illness, or a big birthday where you reassess your life and decide to ‘go it alone.’
However it was related to that. Set in motion at midnight one night….. At the time I was a senior manager of the Textiles Task Force in the North East of England. Responsible for an office, a large budget, and a team of employees and associates. Working very long hours and also trying to fit in quality time with my two young children.
It was at midnight, whilst sitting at my laptop trying to finish my work for the day, and with my children and my husband all poorly and asleep in bed, that I had a lightbulb moment. I asked myself “What on earth am I doing?” and for once, I stopped to really listen.
And it hit me that I simply had too much to do. And that, as well as feeling pressure from my organisation, I was putting more pressure on myself to do a good job, by continuing to work these very long hours. In a moment of clarity I knew I was heading for a breakdown…..that I would be off work with stress if I carried on the way I was.
Once I realised this and accepted that I wasn’t happy in my work, and that this was affecting everything…my energy levels, my productivity, and most importantly, my family relationships…
I felt the need to DO something. Not just shrug my shoulders and get back to work.
What did I do? I wrote a one-line resignation email! Then I pressed send, turned off my laptop, went to bed and slept soundly for the first time in months.
So that was the start of my entrepreneurial journey….Even though at that stage I didn’t know what I wanted to do next, I only knew what I didn’t want to do, which was be a senior manager.
Whilst working my three months’ notice, many people questioned my sanity, and others asked whether I was going to set up my own consultancy.
So, the seeds were actually sown by other people, although even then, I didn’t have the confidence to start up on my own. I remember saying “No way! I can sell for other people, but I can’t possibly sell myself!”
But, as I said, the seeds had been sown, and they started to grow when I received information through the post about a coaching qualification.
Coaching appealed to me because I recognised that what I loved most about my previous roles in management and HR was developing people, and supporting them to realise their potential.
So what I did after finishing my notice period was to get really clear on what I wanted for myself. To focus on helping people develop and grow. To work two days a week to gain more skills and experience in training and presenting. And to use one day a week to get my coaching qualification. All with the aim of launching my own business within two to three years.
It’s amazing what clarity and focus bring. Because that’s what I did. I got two job offers. Opted to work for a small organisation (as I’d just left a larger one). And set my own working hours and days. Before setting up my own business a few years later.
Essentially, I defined a cross-over plan to be in a position to start my business with more money, more confidence, and more experience.
At first I continued to do both – work part-time for this company and part-time for myself. Then, after negotiating a contract with the owner for 12 months work on an associate basis, I left this employment.
What I was prepared for at the start was to set up my business, deliver my service – coaching and training – and collect payments. What I was unprepared for was how to effectively market and sell my services. I really wasn’t clear about exactly what I was offering and to whom. However this didn’t hold me back, because I learned and did research along the way.
My first business lesson was that people don’t pay for what they need, they pay for what they want (which may not be the same thing). And my second big lesson was that they don’t care about what you do or how you do it, until they’re confident you can help them solve a particular problem or reach a goal.
Over the years I’ve pivoted and changed focus in terms of my target market, my clients, my offerings, and messages. And I’ve continued to learn…a lot!
After 15 years of working for myself, I can confirm, that provided you’re prepared to be open, flexible, resilient and persistent. And provided you always focus on your clients problems and goals, showing them how you can help them overcome or reach them. Then not only can you give your clients what They want. You can also achieve what You want, in terms of income generation and how you set up and run your business. Which is why I urge you to do what it takes to build Your confidence and resilience before, during, and after you start your own business.
Want to find out more?
If you’d like more info about my journey and personal philosophy you can read Stepping into Success: The 7 Essential Moves to Bring Your Business to Life. Or, for more lessons from my start-up story, read or listen to Top 10 Business Lessons from a Small Business Owner.