OK, I know, I know. It’s really not that big an achievement. If I hadn’t lasted three months, I’d have probably been the biggest failure in the history of business failures.
But do you know what? It’s still a milestone of sorts, isn’t it? Isn’t it? Screw you. It is to me, anyway.
So my first quarter in business, eh? How have things gone? And what have I learned?
In the past, I’ve worked for external agencies and internal marketing teams. Public sector and private sector. And regardless of where I’ve worked or who I’ve worked for, there’s always been someone on hand to share my ideas with.
‘Is this as amazing as it sounds in my head, Sandra?’ ‘I’m going to win an award for this, aren’t I Jimmy?’ Full disclaimer: I’ve never actually worked with anyone called Jimmy or Sandra. Not that I know of, anyway.
Invariably, of course, the answer is no. But still. At least there’s someone there to break the bad news.
When you go out on your own, you no longer have that someone to lean on. But do you know what? That might not actually be such a bad thing.
You learn to trust your gut. And you realise, finally, after all this time, that you’re actually pretty damn good at this writing palaver.
While I may technically work on my own, I soon realised I actually have a whole host of people on hand to support, advise and inspire me.
Mike McGrail, the actual, real-life inventor of trees, has set up an excellent Slack channel for Scottish marketing professionals. Vikki Ross’ excellent #CopywritersUnite hashtag on Twitter is a wonderful hub to throw around ideas and gain inspiration. And Dave Sawyer of Zude PR is a constant source of help, inspiration and advice.
Then there’s my wife. My proofreader. My secretary (literally). My biggest supporter. And my biggest critic.
‘Are you sure about that?’ ‘Why not try this instead?’ ‘You’re supposed to be a copywriter, what are you playing at?’
In all seriousness, she’s always there for me when I need her. And she’s not the only one.
So forget what I said earlier. When you’re on your own, you’re not actually on your own at all.
For a number of years, I’ve wanted to go out on my own. Run my own business. Be my own man. There was only one problem. Well, two actually. I never had the finances – or bravery – to do it.
Getting offered a contract with Clydesdale changed all that. It gave me the opportunity I needed. It meant I could go out on my own and have a stable income (well, a relatively stable income).
Now I know contracting isn’t for everyone. Some people will – quite rightly – say it’s not secure. But then, what job is secure these days?
Over the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some super talented people that have built a successful career contracting.
And if it’s something you’ve been thinking about, there’s no time like the present. There are some excellent contract opportunities out there in Scotland, especially for the likes of designers, developers, business analysts and project managers.
So what are you waiting for? Give up your job. Go out on your own. It might just be the best decision you’ll ever make.
Since I launched my business back in October, I’ve worked with some amazing clients. And because I’m currently contracting full-time, I’ve written all their copy in the evenings and at weekends.
Now despite what I like to tell myself – and my body – that can be draining. After a hard day’s work writing copy, finding that extra energy can be difficult.
But somehow, somewhere, I find it. And when I don’t? I don’t.
I turn my laptop off and I spend time with my wife. And I get right back to it the next night. Then the next. Then the next.
Because as I said when I first launched my business, I’m under no illusions how hard it’s going to be a success. And I’ll work every day and night to make this work.
Well, almost every night.
When I first launched my own business, I said I’d blog more regularly.
I said I’d write about copywriting and content marketing. I’d share my business highlights. I’d discuss the latest productivity hacks.
I failed. Miserably.
But hey, these things happen. We live and we learn and all that.
I’m not going to set goals. I’m not going to commit to writing one blog post a week – or even a month. But I am going to blog more. No really, I am.
This is one key piece of advice I was given when I first thought about going out on my own. And do you know what? It’s so true.
Right now, there are changes to the VAT Flat Rate Scheme that I need to consider. There have also been changes to dividend tax rules in the past year or so. Then there’s the public sector IR35 changes.
God, even setting up my own business in the first place would have been a nightmare without the help and advice of my accountant.
So do yourself a favour. Before you even think about launching your own business, get yourself a good accountant.
In my first quarter in business, I’ve knocked back more work than I’ve taken on. Now that might not sound like the wisest business decision in the world for a start-up business. But for me, it’s the right decision.
And that’s not just because I’m in a relatively fortunate position where I can combine contracting with freelancing. Regardless of how you work or what you do for a living, you need to know your worth.
In the past few months, I’ve had people asking me to write 500-word blog posts for £10. Now, no offence to anyone that charges £10 for a 500-word blog post, but as the old adage goes: ‘If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys’.
As the aforementioned Vikki Ross put it earlier this month: ‘Respect yourselves. Your words (and your time) are worth far more.’
I’ve learned a lot in my first quarter in business. But there’s a lot more to learn.