What have I learned in my first six months of self-employment? And how can you get started?
I’m guessing you are reading this because you want know if you can make the leap.
You have an idea. You have done some market research – there is a ‘niche’ for your service or product.
Great, but what about making it happen?
I’m going to share some of the essential preparation, budgeting, planning, skills & kit that got my business up an running – on a shoestring budget.
If I can do this myself, I am sure you can.
Learning Curve 1: be prepared & have a budget
Before I thought about web-design, or branding, or marketing, I began with the absolute basics.
If you are thinking about a move to self-employed in the UK – go to the HRMC website and register as a sole trader (if that applies). Read all of the information. Call them. I found them pretty helpful.
I also had a small – tiny – buffer fund – to cover basic household bills and initial (shoestring!) startup costs.
This will tell you how long you have until you need to make an income. There are some good sources of advice on the financial side of setting up. I really found ‘The Freelance Mum’ by Annie Ridout useful – there is a comprehensive section in here outlining how to calculate your basic – minimum – costs.
I also sold a lot of books and clothes and things I didn’t need in order to bring in extra cash for small items when starting up e.g. a microphone for podcasting, an online business course. (A post on the benefits of a good clear out coming in the posts in this series on mindset).
Learning Curve 2: set a fairly tight timeline
I gave myself the ambitious target of setting up my own website and content within 1 month of leaving my old job. Why? Finances for one, but also because you have to just DO it. Try it. Be prepared for some things to work, others not.
I see my business as a long-term investment – it is a work in progress. However, your business has to exist before it can grow and become your new job!
I managed it. I left my job on 03 May and launched my website on 31st May.
This is no mean feat – I literally went from zero to a functional website that hosted a blog, a podcast, an email newsletter, and then a shop with e-products.
Learning Curve 3: you will need to learn new skills
As much as my new business build on my existing expertise and skillset, I spent a LOT of time learning new skills.
I had no prior web design skills.
I had never completed any marketing or business courses prior to going self-employed.
Sounds scary… it was, but it was also exciting and I found a wealth of support, often generously shared for free.
Get on Google, Youtube, Pinterest and Instagram – and get busy searching for information. Get used to asking questions about how to do new things!
I would also recommend considering investing in some business training. I completed the 6 week online Red/Falmouth University Small Business Bootcamp course – it was really helpful on the business plan side of things.
My essential start-up kit
You will have to do your own research to assess what skills and kit you need to invest in depending on what you want to do; but, say you do want to offer online content – a blog, a podcast? Perhaps you are thinking about an e-course or e-book?
You will need ways to produce and promote that content.
Below is a list of my essentials that got me up and running:
- WordPress package for my website – straightforward and has online support. (free version available – or Blogger is free if you just want a blog to start with)
- Canva – templates for making professional logos, branding, and images. Essential for marketing and promotion. You can also make workbooks and e-books on here. (Free version available)
- Unsplash – free stock photos for blog posts etc. Great if you don’t have your own high-quality images to use.
- Pinterest – another under-utilised resource. I have found so many ‘how to’ pieces of content here. Great for both the technical aspects and the marketing and branding aspects.
- Instagram – gets a bad press, but the place to go if you want to connect with other freelancers and writers. A huge amount of generosity to be found there as well as communities to join.
- A Snowball Mic, Libsyn hosting and Garageband on my Mac for podcasting on a very tight budget! (Free podcasting hosting options are available)
- Planoly – for scheduling Instagram. I’ve a separate post on scheduling for social media coming up in this series – a game-changer! (free version available)