So how do you stay focused, motivated and successful? As a self-employed female who has started a couple of my own businesses, I offer these tips to other entrepreneurs:
Whether you’re freelance or self-employed, maintaining momentum for your small business is no easy feat. Being the sole person responsible for its success can be both a blessing and a curse. Without any other official business partners, it’s completely up to you when you get up in the morning, when you respond to that new business lead, and when you decide to turn work down so you can finally go on holiday. But for anyone running their business solo, it’s precisely this independence, flexibility, and self-discipline that makes it all the more appealing.
Be genuinely passionate
‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’, Confucius once said. For a sole trader, putting in the long hours when required doesn’t seem like hard work if you are truly enthusiastic and driven about what you do. Website design keeps me interested as there are always new things to learn and appealing projects to work on. I also enjoy working with different clients and using my expertise to help others achieve their goals.
Find your forte
Once you know your calling, establish your unique selling point. Conduct market research and understand what it is you can offer – whether it’s the quality of workmanship, a fast turnaround time, or an extra added value such as your expertise – that no-one else can provide. Anyone can have an amazing idea, but the best small business owner identifies a niche or a gap in the market that has the potential to make money.
For example, my first company originated from my interest in cocktails and a desire to set up a cocktail bar. Knowing I didn’t have the capital to invest in an actual bar, I carried out research into the portable-bar industry and accessories, kept the concept lean, and set up my business for under £5,000. My selling point was convenience and customisation, and I thoroughly enjoyed the work because it was a new location with tailor-made menus each time.
Build up your network
It’s important to have a stable and reliable network of people who can vouch for your work, connect you to other leads, and act as a solid support system for other services or products that you may need. Without other internal business partners, you rely more on your external network. Networking events, online groups and even co-working spaces can provide initial support as your business grows. Most of my new clients come from word-of-mouth recommendations, having established my network through friends, family and business contacts at previous places of work.
Adapt and continue learning
I’ve always been a big believer in lifelong learning. Whether grabbing a new book from a bookstand, watching video tutorials or enrolling in an online course, arming yourself with fresh knowledge and skills will always prove beneficial in keeping up with – and staying ahead of – the competition. Back when I was completing my bachelor’s degree in 1998, we were discussing the future expansion of the European Union and a possible single currency, and email providers such as Hotmail had only just been launched! So, I decided to enrol on the online MBA with the University of Liverpool in 2014 because I wanted to formalise my education and experience, as well as enhance my skills and knowledge. I also wanted the convenience of online study that I could fit around my existing work commitments.
Be an effective communicator
One of the biggest takeaways of my online MBA was the importance of clear and courteous communication. Through discussion forums with international students, I became more mindful of cultural and linguistic differences when expressing viewpoints and offering suggestions. This has helped me enormously when it comes to dealing with clients worldwide – especially because you’re not always able to meet face-to-face. People want to deal with people, so it’s important that communication is personalised and friendly, rather than scripted responses.
Have a backup plan
If you’re already self-employed, you know that your business goes through natural ups and downs, and this is true for businesses of all sizes. Technology and external forces can change, and affect how you continue to do business. By keeping up to date on industry news, local (and national) legislation, and expanding your skillset, you are better prepared for such changes. Although not all change is good, remember that even the setbacks are opportunities for learning – so make sure you’re prepared to shift your business approach should the need arise.
Be confident that your knowledge and skills will be able to take you wherever your business needs to go. Remember: passion and proper research open the road, while a support system and continued learning pave the way, and effective communication and a backup plan seal the deal for lasting success.