Mistakes I have made
‘Failure’ is a word that can elicit a bunch of feelings. Anxiety. Dread. Shame.
But when you step out on your own for the first time, failure becomes a friend. Oh my god, you fail A HEAP in the first few months. These failures can be simple errors of judgement – like picking a really ugly font for your business card, and then being stuck with 1000 of the little suckers -to taking on a client that you really don’t see eye to eye with and being stuck with THAT sucker for a lot longer!
All your failures in those early days will teach you something. For me (so far), the learnings have been these.
Step away from the laptop. Being in business for yourself means being hunched over a small, bright rectangle a lot of the time. If I spend too long in this place, I begin to screw up. I make really dumb, avoidable errors – like firing off invoices to the wrong company. That kind of thing. Really professional.
Keep learning. Look for opportunities to upskill. Get out of town for a few days for a conference or course. Be relevant. Someone probably used to pay you to do this – now it’s time to invest in yourself.
Get good tech. I have an email issue – one that probably won’t go away unless I dump my provider and move elsewhere. It’s not career-ending, but it’s frustrating, and I wish I’d done more research before committing. Also, I’m no good at numbers, so Xero has become my lifeline. In short, tech is EVERYTHING. Make sure it works.
Market yourself. If you’re in the PR, comms or marketing space, it’s a great idea to keep your website updated, content fresh and social platforms nicely topped up. Because why would anyone choose a marketing specialist that doesn’t showcase their own skills? Blogging (oh hey – see what I did there?) is one way to turn your web content over every month or so, and keep people reading and engaging with you. Good for SEO too (that stands for Search Engine Optimisation, in case you’re reading, Mum)
Say no, and mean it. If you’re good at what you do, you’ll probably get a few calls asking for your help. The temptation, when you’re a small or solo operator, is to grab these opportunities – always! – because you’re (understandably) fearful that you’ll be missing out on something great, or something well paid. An overloaded business is not a healthy business and when you’ve got far too much on your plate, you’re likely to screw up. You’ll be spending vast amounts of time hunched over the rectangles. Please refer to point number 1.
Outsource. When it comes to rote tasks, I’m an ace procrastinator. So when I was interviewing for a big story or content piece, transcribing my chats would take HOURS. DAYS sometimes. Fortunately, I’ve met someone recently who is excited to learn interviewing skills and writing techniques – listening to me rabbit on is somehow interesting to her, and now those interviews are returned to me as clean copy, for an affordable rate, and we’re both happy about it.
Know your worth – and don’t discount. This is a hard one. Nobody wants to be a dick about money – but offering lower rates to some, and not others, sets up a system no-one is ever going to be happy with. And you won’t survive. You’re always going to cost more than some and less than others, so settle on what you’re comfortable with and stick to your guns. And if you’ve painted yourself into a corner – a cold, dark, rather humourless corner that’s leaving you a bit broke – it’s worth have an honest chat with your client.
Oh, and failing can also be really fun. I’ve figured out that my kitchen table is NOT the optimal place to work – so now, this dude is building me an office. I’m getting excited about paint colours and air conditioning units! Thanks, Mr Contentment. xx