"What I do know is there is nothing wrong with learning the hard way sometimes, so long as you pick yourself up, reflect and learn."
-Jemma Caldwell, Managing Director at Tanami
I complete my first full year as an entrepreneur feeling satisfied and optimistic, with ambitious plans for the next twelve months; but if I knew then what I know now, what would I have done differently?
Surround yourself with like-minded peeps
When I first set up Tanami, I decided to base myself at home. Needing to keep costs down, I didn’t think I had a choice. The first few weeks were fine, in fact quite enjoyable. I was excited to get up in the morning, motivated, disciplined – showered, dressed and working by 8am sharp. But slowly things began to change. The snooze button became justified with no commute. The fridge and I became BFFs. Worst of all, the time of day by which I had showered and changed into ‘day clothes’ got increasingly late – oh the shame!
So what was my alternative? I tried working in coffee shops but the whirring of a percolator isn’t an ideal background noise for conference calls – I was developing caffeine cravings and spending a small fortune. Then I heard about ‘coworking’. I discovered that there was a coworking office in my city centre full of people just like myself – start up businesses that were looking for an office but unable to justify renting a premise to themselves.
I based myself in this coworking office for nearly a year before recently relocating due to my requirement for a meeting room. It has been fantastic and I cannot recommend it to new businesses enough. I have met so many people, gained new clients, made invaluable connections and lifelong friends. Coworking has been Tanami’s saviour and I only wish I had heard about the concept sooner.
Know your worth
When you first go solo, you price yourself competitively so as to attract your first few clients and in my case populate a showreel. Of course! No one blames you, that’s how most businesses begin. However, highly competitive rates can sometimes be mistaken for inexperience. When the service you provide is second to none and you have bags full of experience, there comes a point where you need to have the confidence to price yourself correctly – without being greedy – truly acknowledging your value.
I will be honest… I have quoted a price to clients and then kicked myself once I’ve got home. I have undersold my skills and in the early months I did a lot of favours. A line certainly needs to be drawn.
Is that reduced day rate fully justified? Will that favour pay off? It’s important to remember that a client is not only paying for your time, they are paying for your years’ of expertise. Follow your instincts, use your time wisely and don’t be pressured into agreeing something you’re not fully comfortable with.
Nail accounts from the get-go
From day one – be organised. Scan and save down all receipts religiously and adopt good habits from the start. If you look after your own bookkeeping make sure you keep on top of this daily. Yes, daily! If you’re busy and you let it go weekly, the danger is this will soon slip to monthly and then you’ll be sat with a desk full of receipts and a blank spreadsheet sobbing into your keyboard.
Enlist the help of a good accountant. I started off by using a remote accountant which works for some, but personally I like to see the whites of people’s eyes in business! Developing rapport over the phone is pretty hard and it really helps to be able to pop by and speak face to face with your accountant a couple of times a year over a cuppa – hey and if you do work from home, it’s a great excuse to leave the house! I recently took on a local accountant and only wish I had done so sooner.
Get a mint mentor
From the minute I took a desk within the coworking space I realised the value in surrounding myself with like-minded entrepreneurs – people who understand what it’s like to start a business and can offer advice. The next level up from this is to get yourself a mentor; after a few months, I became aware that a lot of my coworking buddies had individual mentors. These mentors were not necessarily from the same industry as the person they mentored. They typically sat down together once a month, perhaps setting objectives or acting as a sounding board for a new business direction. The meetings are confidential and I have only heard positive things about these kind of relationships in terms of business growth. Some people have several mentors, so they talk to different people for different reasons.
Somewhere inside of us, we usually have the answers to our questions, but sometimes talking through the problem or situation can help to draw the right conclusions. Even the most confident people have hang ups and doubt themselves – no one is invincible!
Network like a ninny
It’s 6:45pm. I’m about to head home after a long day in the office. I’m dreaming about that G&T with my feet up. Oh and I’m very hungry (huge factor). A reminder pops up in my calendar “Networking drinks – West End – 19:00 – 21:00”. Oh lord, no.
Back in the early days, i.e. twelve months ago, I underestimated the value of networking. Retrospectively, I can see that every single networking event I have attended has lead directly to an important new connection which in the majority of cases has brought me work. No matter how tired I am, I always make time for networking.
My original question still stands. What would I have done differently? Well nothing actually. Until mistakes are made, it is impossible to learn lessons and it’s not always easy to listen to other people’s advice or warnings – sometimes you’ve just gotta live through it. It takes experience to grow a business and experience takes time to accumulate. I still have plenty of mistakes ahead no doubt and perhaps another year on I will look back again and kick myself! What I do know is there is nothing wrong with learning the hard way sometimes, so long as you pick yourself up, reflect and learn.
Jemma is The Managing Director of Edinburgh based Tanami, offering creative video and effective PR for businesses of all sizes.
Jemma’s television experience embraces high-profile productions including Countryfile, Fifth Gear, The Gadget Show, Coast and X Factor; furthermore, she has executed PR and film projects for brands such as Siemens, Chevrolet, npower and David Wilson Homes.
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