If you told me over five years ago that I’d be running my own business, I would have laughed at you. Yet in 2016, I decided to freelance in an attempt to earn some more experience out of university while I looked for a new position.
Five years later, what started at my dining room table with nothing but a laptop and notebook (and probably a few cups of coffee) has snowballed into an award-winning social media business.
In that time, I have had so many great opportunities, spoke at a variety of events, met amazing people, worked with fantastic businesses and so much more. But also, this time has been a major learning opportunity as I navigated through the ups and downs and self-employment.
Ahead of Digital Flamingo’s fifth birthday on 1st October, I wanted to share just some of those top things I learned about being in business for yourself.
1 – It’s Important to Find Your Tribe
Being self-employed can be a lonely place, but it doesn’t have to be (There are about 4.3 million self-employed people in the UK!). Connecting with others can make a huge difference. Your “tribe” so to speak supports you during those down days, is there to listen and share ideas, to tell you about their own experiences and generally help you realise that you really aren’t alone.
I’m lucky enough to have other amazing local businesses in Tameside and Greater Manchester for support!
2 - Networking is Everything
Networking can be a scary thing for some people, but it can have such great power, and I cannot recommend it enough.
The thought of being in a room full of people you don’t know can be daunting for some, but it does get easier!
I feel that when I started going to networking events, that’s when things really took off. I met amazing people from all sorts of industries and backgrounds. It’s just good to get out there, show your face and make that personal connection. From networking, I have gained business, opportunities for collaboration and met other businesses that are just now part of my “tribe”. It’s been rewarding.
3 - Setting Boundaries is Essential and Part of Self-Care
It’s terribly easy to get carried away with working when you’re self-employed, especially if you’re working from home.
You may feel like you need answer that email at 10pm, or to spend weekends finishing projects. That is one quick way to feel burned out!
Setting boundaries from the very beginning with your clients, setting your own schedule (and sticking to it) and knowing when to say “no” is so important. It means having a healthy work-life balance and is really a part of self-care.
I was that person who worked whenever I felt like I had to and said yes to everything. Thing is, I didn’t actually have to. It was just me feeling like I should do everything to please clients, as if I had something to prove, and nobody put that pressure on me but myself. My clients only worked certain hours, so when I set my own schedule and working hours, they completely respected that!
Sure, sometimes I find myself working a bit later one day or checking on post that went out over the weekend, but overall, my work-life balance is definitely much healthier now, and I am enjoying self-employed life!
4 - There Will Be Bad Days, and That’s Okay
Working for yourself can be so incredibly rewarding, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t encounter “bad” days. Whether it’s a slow day, one full of worry, a day where motivation is just nowhere to be found, payments are late, you lose a client, whatever…it happens to us all and know that that’s okay.
The bad days don’t last as long as you keep going. This is where your tribe can come in handy too to remind you that you’re not alone in how you feel.
Self-employment is a rollercoaster. I have had times in the early days where I wasn’t sure how I would continue, but I did. I just kept going, probably with a little help from my fellow small business network, family and friends, and the perseverance has always paid off.
Each day is truly a fresh start and brand-new opportunity!
5 - Imposter Syndrome Is Real, But You Can Overcome It
Pretty much all of us will experience imposter syndrome at some point. It’s hard to stop comparing or worrying about not being good enough. Maybe you downplay your achievements or feel like a fraud – all classic signs of imposter syndrome.
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but you are good enough! What you have to offer might be exactly what someone needs. Know that in business, you’re learning and growing all the time, so stop comparing yourself to others who are on their own different journey. It’s pointless!
These are all things I had to learn too. I still have to put into practice changing my thoughts when doubt creeps up, but I’ve come a long way.
What a Journey!
Overall, these last five years have come with ups and downs as I found myself on an adventure I never thought before I would be on, but I’ve learned a lot along the way, including the fact that those ups and downs are natural!
I’ve found my tribe through networking and connecting with local businesses. I have taken myself out of my comfort zone and put myself out there whether on video through social media or even speaking at events. I’ve been able to give back to the community and help other businesses on their own journey, especially through hard times (looking at you especially, Covid!). Finally, I have been able to reap the rewards that does come with my self-employment journey, like greater flexibility.
So, to all my fabulous clients, colleagues, friends and family - here’s a big THANK YOU from me and Digital Flamingo! Here’s to the next five years!