Seven things I learned in the first 12 months of starting my own business

By Kirsty Nelms, director of Peacock Digital Marketing Ltd.

It was June 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic had changed life as we knew it. The BBC was reporting that the world was facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It was at this time I chose to quit my job at an agency and set up as an independent marketing consultant.

Was I crazy? Some of the most interesting people usually are. I’m looking back on the past 12 months as I prepare to transition from a sole trader to a limited company director and I couldn’t be more proud of what I’ve achieved.

Over the past year the working world has been turned upside down. People have had time to re-assess their careers and work/life balance and many have had enough of the grind. We’re taking charge and mapping out our own destinies.

For anyone making a shift right now and considering taking that crazy step into self-employment, here are some nuggets of advice…

1 If you want to know more about setting up a business, ask the Chambers of Commerce

I’m going to take a wild guess here and say that most people who start their own business are not experts in running a business. Why would they be? Usually, you start a business because you have a very special set of skills (calm down Liam Neeson) and you see the value in using those skills to benefit others.

I was extremely lucky to have a head start when it came to branding my business, building a website and marketing my services – it’s what I do 😎. But I don’t know all the ins and outs of what goes into setting up a business. Join your local Chambers of Commerce.

2 Get accounting software set up right away and find an accountant

I use FreeAgent (not an official endorsement, I just really like it). You get this free with a NatWest business bank account. You can also get it free with a Mettle account, which is part of NatWest. I’d recommend finding a local accountant who is happy to have you as a sole trader/small business customer.

3 When you choose your company name, check that the domain name is free and register with Companies House

This is just what I did, and I think it was worth doing. If you know it’s going to be a while until you can get a website sorted and perhaps you’re just relying on social media at first, it can’t hurt to ensure your domain name is protected by buying it. You can also protect your brand by registering as a limited company with Companies House for around £12. You can submit dormant accounts for the company until you’re ready to make the switch from a sole trader.

4 Contact your local Growth Hub

This friendly team of business advisors will point you in the right direction and they can even let you know about any funding opportunities which may be available for your business.

5 Let people get to know you

People buy from people. Networking is so important for letting the local business community see who you are and what you do. It’s also important to be honest and know your ideal customers. Your business won’t be the best fit for everyone – that’s why it’s special. Online networking will be here to stay, but it sure is nice to see people in real life.

6 Never…stop…learning

I’m about to do a 120-hour Masters-level Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Marketing. Why? Because I want to stay at the top of my game and know that I’m offering my clients the best possible service to the highest standard. Never assume you know everything, there is always more to learn. Continued professional development will be vital moving forward.

7 Remember to take breaks

All new business owners will be guilty of feeling ‘the guilt’. This comes from the outdated 9-5 Monday to Friday mindset we’ve all be conditioned to accept as normal. Some days you might work really long hours, so try to balance it out by working less hours another time. Want to finish a few hours early in the week? Just work a few hours at the weekend – or don’t! It’s your business. As long as the work gets done, there’s no sense in forcing it. If you have a creative business, some days the creativity just might not be flowing; so do something else or take a break!

Remember that looking after your mental health is work and it’s healthy to allocate sufficient time to do that.

Photo by Alejandro Barba on Unsplash

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