This month marks 4 years since I left full time employment to begin a new chapter of my life. It was a big decision leaving my position as Managing Director of a successful children’s day camp operation for a group of companies I’d worked with for almost 21 years and a team that I loved working with. It was, however, something that I felt I had to do in order to challenge myself further and achieve a better work/life balance for me and my family.
The journey started well and I was lucky enough to get my first piece of work as a result of a friend’s recommendation. In fact I met with the client for an hour long consultation, which I offer free to all prospective clients and they were so impressed with the ideas I gave them in that meeting that not only did they tell me I’d got the job but they also instructed me to invoice them for the hours’ consultation. I was absolutely delighted and rushed home to design an invoice template! That first client will always be very special to me and I’m pleased to say that I still work with them now.
I found, as I’d hoped, the process of setting up the business and putting the systems that I needed in place easy given my previous experience. What I didn’t expect however was how difficult it would be working alone at my dining table and how long it would take to build up my client list. In fact 12-18 months after starting out I had re-framed all of the many ‘you’re very brave’ comments that I had received when I made the decision to leave to 'what they really meant was how mad/stupid I was'. Having left a secure, well paid job and great team, I found it very lonely working at home without a team to turn to for advice or the security of earning enough money to cover even a £30 monthly phone bill.
In hindsight I can see how and why this major life change and the loss of a very special friend at the same time would have had significant cause to affect me, but at the time I felt completely lost, like I had failed and at best I felt very unhappy and at worst I was in a thick fog of depression, not able to see things being as good as they were ever again. This will be news to many of you as I only shared this with a couple of family members and friends. What followed was some extremely tough months but with the unfaltering support of my husband and some help from the doctor, I set about making some changes to get myself better.
During this time I didn’t have an obvious route to getting more clients. Although I had taken lots of transferable skills and experience from my previous role with me when I left, there was no client list or work lined up. I therefore did whatever I could think of in that first year or two to get out and meet people and try to win business. I spent weeks trying lots of different networking groups and created Excel spreadsheets with names of local businesses I gathered from the newspapers to write to. I drove to every town and village within a 10-mile radius and walked up and down the high street introducing myself face to face to local business owners. I joined online business groups, mastermind groups, sites like People Per Hour and I hosted Twitter chats. I kept myself busy but it often felt like I had no plan and was just winging it!
Then slowly I started to reap the rewards of my efforts and determination. I picked up clients from my website, from mailshots, from face to face introductions with business owners, from my Twitter chat, from networking groups and from conversations in the school playground. I was no longer working alone at the dining table all the time because I began to work on site at different clients’ offices and once again, I enjoyed feeling like part of a team. In the last 18 months I’ve been consistently busy and have worked on some amazing projects. I’ve had no time, and luckily no need, to advertise my services and have picked up many clients from recommendations and word of mouth.
I’ve met so many new people through my client work and continued networking and I’m pleased to call many of them friends and some are also partners on various projects. I enjoy being able to recommend contacts to others and I’ve enjoyed a variety of client team away days, annual dinners, leaving meals and Christmas parties in the same way I used to when employed.
At the beginning I heard many people say that it takes a good 2-3 years to get a new business off the ground and I was praying, particularly during the difficult days, this would be true for me too and it has been. This, combined with wanting to thank those that have helped me along the way and part of a personal cathartic process, has prompted me to share my story. I hope to show others who might be at the beginning of their journey or whom are faced with having to start again due to the devastating effects of COVID-19 on many businesses that anything is possible with persistence, patience and hard work.
I’ve worked with 28 clients to-date in more than 20 different industries and I learn something new daily. I work as hard for all of my clients’ businesses as if they’re my own and there’s something very special about being solely responsible for the money you bring in each month.
And so I look to the future, even in these uncertain times, with much positivity. Although I lost some clients as soon as COVID-19 hit, I have continued to work hard for others and even won 2 new contracts this month. I will continue to help CEO’s, MD’s, Business Owners and teams develop and grow their businesses and in turn I know I will continue to flourish and prosper too.
Thank you to all of my clients that have believed in me and given me work and to everybody that has played their part in my journey above – you know who you are!