What I learnt in my second year

Jan 11, 2016

Following the groundbreaking blog I posted last year. Here’s the eagerly anticipated follow up…

Two years into running my own business and it feels like I’ve learnt more than I ever did during almost 14 years of being an employee. If you’re starting your own business or if you too are also in your second year, hopefully you’ll find some advice here.

(Sometimes) it’s OK to give up

As a small business owner your time is valuable, often you’ll be the accountant, marketing department, sales director as well as doing the actual work. For this reason alone you should pick your battles wisely.

In the last year I had a problem with a company that I felt tried to hold me to ransom over hosting and domain name charges. I spent a couple of hours a week for three months hounding the “customer service” team about my issue. Basically, they were uninterested in my problem and unwilling to help me. I was quibbling over no more than £50 worth of charges and I had spent just over 24 hours of my own time on it.

At the national living wage (which is lower than my hourly rate) I should have paid myself almost £180 – which is almost 4 times the amount I was disputing. The moral of the story, for me at least, is: If it’s less than £50 then just pay up and call it a lesson learned.

Spend your time wisely

Your time is valuable and you might feel that you need to spend as much of it as possible on work. However, that’s not always the most productive use of your time. Sure there will always be the odd project that takes up a little more time, and that’s fine. Just don’t let it become the norm.

For me it was important go establish a clear work/home life. My children are both under 5 and working from home can be a challenge, but they understand the difference between me working and when I’m with them. It’s not always been easy and has sometimes resulted in the odd late night but by mostly sticking to a regular working day means I’m not too tired to spend time with them and I actually think it has improved the work I’ve done this year.

Join a community/group

This one is probably more for those of you working alone. Find a group or community of people with similar interests. Websites like Meetup and Eventbrite are fantastic for this. They’ll even give you a list of events happening in your area within the categories you specify.

Finding the right community can be a great way to find new friends, learn new skills and sometimes even get new customers or work. I’ve found a few groups over the last year that have made a real difference to my social circle as well as my bank balance!

Get involved

As with any business you’ll probably have people asking for your support. Maybe they’ll be after a skills exchange, perhaps a raffle prize. Whatever it is, if you can contribute then do it. Don’t be too worried about what you’ll get – think about it this way.

I’ve done a few free jobs this year, but every single one I’ve judged against 3 ideas:

Do I have the time
Is it relevant to my business
Do I want to do it

As long as it hits at least two of those, then I’ll generally help out. It’s led to some great new friends as well as a project for 2016 that will be really exciting.