With my maternity benefit pay recently coming to an end, thoughts of returning to work have been occupying my mind. Before having our baby in December, I had spent just over a year working for myself. I’ve been reflecting on my first year of business and especially how I can try my best not to repeat some of the struggles I faced.
I’ve had this post sitting in my drafts folder, nearly completed, for a few weeks now but, for some reason, I’ve not quite been able to finish up and hit publish. It would be understandable to perhaps be feeling vulnerable in sharing about difficulties I’ve faced since becoming self-employed -but I could tell it wasn’t that which was getting to me. My problem was actually with what I had originally titled this post – ‘Five mistakes I made in my first year of business’.
Of course, it’s not as though I haven’t made mistakes whilst running my business.
When I set out as a fledgeling freelancer, having been made redundant autumn 2016, I dived headfirst into self-employed life without a whole lot of forethought and with no business plan to speak of…I think it was pretty inevitable that I’d make mistakes along the way!
But that’s just it – mistake making is such an intrinsic, and even integral, part of running your own business that I’m not sure it’s helpful to use that word at all. It just feels too judgey and I want this to be a judgement free zone. Whilst it’s good to be able to reflect on how things are going in your business it’s important not to beat yourself up for past decisions. Running your own business is a constant learning curve.
Anyhow, now that’s cleared up, on to these struggles (not mistakes) that I encountered in my first year of business. There are some that I have an inkling of how to overcome and others that I am very much still working through. I think they are all pretty common struggles for those who are self-employed or running their own business – maybe you can relate?
Five struggles I faced in my first year of business
One // Not having a set offering
I think it’s a common tendency when you’re starting out freelancing to want to be all things to all clients. I know I worried that someone might not want to work with me if I didn’t offer a particular service they were looking to outsource. I took the attitude of doing any and all work clients wanted to pay me for. Never really stopping to think about what I specifically wanted to be doing and, more importantly, if there was any type of work I did not. This meant I ended up doing work that didn’t always play to my strengths and some that I downright didn’t enjoy.
I found that another issue with not having a clear offering is that, of course, everyone wants something slightly different. And whilst tailoring your service to a client’s specific needs may be important, having a different package for every individual is pretty unsustainable. I realise now that through trying to people please I was actually diluting my output.
Moving forward… I know there’s always going to be trial and error in business when it comes to offering. I think the key is to keep it as simple as possible, constantly honing in on what works best and not being afraid to change things up if I recognise that something isn’t working.
Two // Undercharging and over-committing
I think you’d be hard pressed to find any self-employed folk who haven’t struggled at some point with how to price their products or services. In that first year, I had some clients on an hourly rate and others on a set monthly price; honestly, my pricing structure was all over the shop! As with my offering, I pretty much let my first few clients dictate how much I charged based on what they were looking to pay. This inevitably led to undercharging. And along with that comes overcommitting, because reducing a service and rate to meet a client’s budget often doesn’t actually reduce the work-load.
Moving forward… I think it’s important to start by getting really clear on your numbers. How much do you need to charge to cover your costs and time? How much do you want to make? Then there’s the mindset work needed to feel able (and confident) to charge your worth. This is all very much a work in progress for me!
Three // Not having faith in my experience
One of the (many) ways my self-doubt likes to show up is to give me bouts of amnesia when it came to trusting my previous experience. Sure, I might have been working as part of a team in the past, but that shouldn’t negate the years spent working on some pretty awesome creative campaigns and managing clients accounts day in day out should it? Nevertheless, working for just ‘little ole me’ really rocked my confidence in my ability at times. Why was I suddenly so anxious about even replying to email enquiries?!? Going it alone can be downright scary, that’s why.
Moving forward… Things to do to help to build confidence – gather client testimonials and customer feedback, talking things through with a coach or co-mentor, doing guided meditations to cultivate a positive mindset. Also, remember that even the most badass lady bosses you admire have days when they feel like they don’t know what the f⚡️ck they’re doing.
Four // Lack of self-promotion
Ironically, even if you work in marketing it still feels really hard to market yourself. I wasn’t totally awful at putting myself out there but the fact that the majority of my clients came through already established relationships or word-of-mouth connections tell me there was a lot more I could’ve been doing in terms of outreach.
Moving forward... Ultimately I want to create content that will resonate with my dream clients and establish relationships that will lead to people wanting to work with me. I will be doing this by showing up consistently on Instagram and sharing my story and learnings here on the blog. The consistent part is definitely something I need to work on. I also have podcast and newsletter launches in the works too!
Do these struggles resonate with you and your business? Or perhaps there’s something else that you struggle with even more? Goodness knows I’m about to encounter a whole new set of struggles as I navigate being a working mum. Come, share your struggles with me on Instagram and let’s figure this shit out together!