I passed another milestone recently - 7 years in business with Ariadne's Thread!
Everyone says that running your own business is a rollercoaster ride. I can only agree. There have been times when I've been ready to throw in the towel and crawl back into employment. (Easier said than done at my age!) At other times there's the heady combination of new contracts and great clients.
The flexibility and freedom I get from being self employed is something I would never want to lose. I frequently work long hours so that I can fulfill a contract - or just because I'm enjoying the work. The key point here is that it's my choice when and where I work, which is what makes all the difference.
A few people have asked me what I've learned since my start-up days so here are my top 3 tips:
1. Be wary of working for free.
Many people will ask you to give your expertise for free. In return they'll offer "exposure" or that their event will help you "to establish your credibility". Weigh up what is being asked of you very carefully. I still talk on local radio and contribute quotes to newspapers for free because it really helps with my PR and search results online. The occasional talk at a networking group is often ok as well. I soon learned not to give away my core business (social media training, writing and marketing) for free. You'll soon learn the people that always want something for nothing and start to avoid doing business with them!
2. Watch your cashflow
It's said that cashflow problems kill more businesses than anything else. Even though I don't need a premises or stock to run my business, I've not been immune to the effects of stifled cashflow. It really only takes one key client to default on their payments, or a contract to end before you planned for your finances to take a major hit. This is particularly true in the first couple of years. Keep an eye on your accounts, update them regularly and chase any late payments promptly. You can't always avoid a cashflow crisis but you can often see it coming and plan to survive.
3. Don't be afraid to say "no"
You will not suit every client and they will not always suit you. Sometimes you are better off saying "no" and moving on to people that actually value what you do. It's particularly difficult to do in the first few years as the aforementioned cashflow can be a problem. However, as soon as you can, be selective about who you work for and who you team up with. In the long run, it'll give you a more sustainable and productive business.
Here's to the next 7 years...!