Taking a considered leap of faith: thinking of becoming self-employed?
A guest blog by career coach Kirti Patel, Career Inspiration
Have you ever felt that you’re in a role where you don’t belong? Or that you’re now in a position to craft your own role, where you can follow your passions and control your decisions?
This was how I felt before taking a leap and starting my own career coaching business in May 2019 and I have to say that it was the best career decision I’ve ever made.
I’ve had many lightbulb moments and faced a number of challenges as a business owner, five of which I’d like to share with you, to help you learn from what I’ve experienced.
1) You don’t need to leave your job to be taken seriously
Many business owners think that in order to be seen as a business owner and be taken seriously, they need to leave their current job.
However, you need to think about this realistically; it may take a while before you get your first client, even longer before you can actually start paying yourself and you still need to think about business and living expenses.
If you’re not financially secure and need a stable income, it would be wise to stay in your current role to ensure that you have the funds to maintain your lifestyle and invest in your business.
2) Identify and communicate your why
Identifying your why and ensuring this is realistic is incredibly important – being in business may not give you more time or more money, but it may give you flexibility and control.
I started my business because I wanted to ensure that the way I delivered my career coaching aligned to my own values and what was important to me. It was important that I delivered my services in an open, transparent and client-centred way, which always had my client’s best interest at heart.
This helped me to be accountable for my actions and inspired me to move forward, which has been particularly significant, when experiencing challenging periods as a business owner.
Communicating your why is what will motivate others to share your vision and help you to achieve it.
3) Networking is about building relationships not selling to your audience
Networking in a self-employed capacity is different to networking when job-searching.
I still remember my first networking meeting as a business owner, not really knowing who to speak to, what to expect or what to say in my 45 second pitch. One of the subtle differences which I found when doing my 45 second pitch as a business owner relative to networking when job-searching is that it needs to invite conversation from people who are either looking for your services or know lots of people who would be interested. There is one cardinal rule that shouldn’t be broken – do not sell to your audience.
Prepare and practice your 45 second pitch beforehand and ensure that you’re clear about who you would like to speak to. This is particularly important for those who may consider themselves as ‘not natural networkers’ as this will give you the confidence to deliver during the formal meeting.
Networking does not and should not stop at the end of a formal meeting. To really get the most of networking, arrange one to ones with people that you would like to speak to (this is why it’s important in your 45 seconds to invite conversation).
In these one to ones, build a two-way relationship, ask insightful questions about their business and ensure that they give you an opportunity to talk about yours. It’s imperative that even at this stage, you do not go into selling mode - it will be a major turn-off! The purpose of these one to ones are to build a team of people who are either looking for your services or know lots of people who would be interested.
4) Don’t be afraid to ask for advice
In an employed capacity, you may have had colleagues or seniors to speak to, to ask for advice.
In a self-employed capacity, you may feel that you have to figure things out on your own as you don’t have a physical team around you – you don’t. Your team will be the business community around you. We’ve been where you are now so we’ll be more than happy to help with any dilemmas or overwhelming priorities that you might have as a business owner or put you in touch with someone who we think might be able to help. All you need to do is ask.
5) Don’t be afraid to invest but know the difference between must-haves and nice to haves
Not having a regular income is a scary prospect for many business owners, myself included.
Whilst it’s important that you are financially prudent, there will some financial investment that you will need to make.
Investing in the right specialists (website, logo, business cards, social media) can help you to prepare the foundations for your business to present your business image in the best possible way. This comes with a caveat; think about what you need for your business and how much you need to spend to receive a return. You don’t need to spend £5,000 on a website if a website which costs £2,000 will give you the same or an increased return. You may also find that you can fund this through a start-up grant – this research should be done first! Ensure that you give careful consideration to where these funds are allocated in your business.
Investing in the right training will ensure that you have the know-how to run your business in the most effective and efficient way.
I realised very quickly how important this was for my business as it helped me to avoid costly mistakes and ensured that I was preparing my business for survival and growth.
Also, it helped me to identify what were the must-haves and nice to haves for my business. Consequently, I was able to prioritise and allocate funds to areas of my business which were needed whilst being financially prudent about not investing in areas which were nice to haves but not vital.
Kirti Patel is the Director of Career Inspiration Ltd and is a Registered Career Guidance Professional, qualified to Level 6 in Career Guidance with 10 years career coaching and recruiting experience. She specialises in 1:1 and group career coaching and outplacement/redundancy support, helping individuals who want to stand-out and be in a role where they feel they belong. She works with individuals with professional backgrounds (junior employees to directors in different industries) to explore their own opportunities, coaching them to make realistic and practical career decisions.
Get in touch with Kirti if you need any guidance with your career path: careerinspiration.co.uk