I quit my day job back in 2011 (woah, almost 4 years!), and even though I’d run a small business alongside a day job for a few years before then, there’s still a load of stuff I wish I’d known before going properly into ‘business’ with no day job buffer.
It Gets Easier
The first year is really tough. It’s an insane learning curve, with so many new things to tackle. Cash flow generally isn’t great during the first 18 months, and being the only one who calls the shots is stressful. Everything feels really awkward, and imposter syndrome is at an all time high. About 4 months in you start to question whether going into business was a good idea. Don’t worry, it gets easier. Everything starts to even out. Those tough new things become second nature. If you’re running your business right, cash flow is no longer a problem. Imposter syndrome? yeah, you’ll still feel that.
If you want to succeed, you will succeed
This isn’t about luck. And it’s not about some bullshit magical-unicorn-poop ritual of thanking the Universe. If you want to succeed, you will succeed. But you’ll need to put in the hours. You’ll need work your ass off, knuckle down, and really mean business. You’ll get back what you put in, you cannot coast through this and expect great things to happen.
You don’t have to do it all
Delegation is the key to business growth. I’m still working on this one, and for me it’s more about figuring out exactly what I can delegate. However, as I’ve said numerous times before, one of the greatest things I ever did was get an accountant to handle my tax return. I wish I’d invested sooner!
You will fuck up, but that’s okay
Things go wrong. It’s inevitable. It’s all in how you handle it. Between sending out wrong items of jewellery, and not managing to meet an important deadline, I’ve fucked up. Just stay calm, figure out how to fix it, and admit what went wrong.
Don’t burn out
There have been times during my business where I’ve worked all weekend, and late into the night, tiring myself out and killing any kind of creativity and productivity I have. I don’t condone this behaviour. It’s shitty. Get better at time management, take time off, don’t burn out.
[standfirst]Jealousy & envy, alongside regret, are the most pointless emotions that your stupid brain can conjure. But, conjure them it will. Stupid brain. [/standfirst]
The green-eyed monster – or envy, FOMO, jealousy, whatever – is hard to keep at bay, especially when you’re ambitious, type A, and a hard worker. It sneaks up when you least expect it (“Ugh. I can’t believe they have XYZ more followers than me”), and it can seriously fuck up your day. Like, seriously.
So what can we do? Do we just sit on our arses, carving frown lines into our youthful faces, obsessing over someone else’s career? No. Do we fuck. We channel that shit into something productive. We use it to ignite our fires, we use it to push ourselves further, and we use it to make friends.
God, do I get envious of people.
With their beautiful products, their tight, tight copy, and their ridiculously sick hair. I still can’t braid my own hair, it’s one of the great disappointments of my adult life.
It took me quite a while to get a handle on the best way to process these emotions. I think it’s something that comes with age and experience, and I don’t want to tell you how to suck eggs or assume that you’re just a huge ball of jealous rage. Nah. I just want to give you some tips into handling those jealous & envious moments in your career, a few tools to make working alongside your “competition” a joyful experience.
Before I go any further I have an important public service announcement. There is no such thing as competition.
Whhhaaatttt?! Mind. Blown.
It’s true. All those people who you think are your competition? Nah. They’re your co-workers. They’re your support team. They’re the Ed Sheeran to your T-Swizzle.
I’ll talk more about the “no competition” theory in another post. But seriously, life is too short to think that everyone’s trying to compete with you. Unless you’re a professional tennis player or something, then they’re definitely trying to compete with you. Sorry.
So, back to the program. Envy.
What should you do if…
You see a peer featured in a magazine
Dude, you need to celebrate their win. They work hard, too. They work as hard as you. Suck it up, be graceful, and give them a well deserved pat on the back. And then get back to work and hit up the editors of that magazine on twitter, it’s your spot next month.
Everyone on instagram is in London going to a super awesome event It sometimes feels like I live on the other side of the planet up here in Yorkshire, so far from the bright lights of London. Luckily, we live in an age where you’re never that far away from the event thanks to twitter & instagram. So, you missed out on getting stuck in the rain, a free glass of cheap champagne and a vol-au-vent or two (although if you promise me a vol-au-vent, I’m there!), catch up with the buzz on the internet. Follow the hashtag. Ask how everyone enjoyed the event. Start conversations. Make friends.
That Person never seems to fucking fail, and you just metaphorically fell flat on your face
Everyone is fighting their own battles, not everything makes its way to Twitter. Not everyone is a chronic over sharer like you, love. They might seem constantly faultless, but I bet they once had chronic diarrhoea and felt like the world was going to end. Revel in that a little. Not too much, because then you’re a bitch.
That other brand just got stocked in a gallery that rejected your work Last year I got rejected from a nice little gallery, a couple of weeks later one of my peers promoted their work being stocked there. Shittyfuckingwankingshit.
Then the National Gallery placed an order for my work. Swings and roundabouts. Just keep at it. Use it as a learning experience. Question why their work was accepted and yours wasn’t, there must be a reason (even if it’s just them being friends with someone who works at the gallery!).
You didn’t get a spot at that super cool craft market I heard it was shit anyway. Go out and have fun that day, that’s way better than sitting behind a stall for 8 hours while kids put your wares in their mouths (true story).
That work you pitched for went to someone else That’s business, baby. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It’s not about you or the person the work went to. It’s about the client, and who they feel a connection with. Don’t resent the other person because of the client’s choice (resent the client a bit, if you have to!).
Full disclosure: I’ve been using the PayPal Here for a couple of years now, and purchased the card reader at full price. This review is all first-hand knowledge, and PayPal hasn’t sponsored this post or provided the card reader.
A couple of people have asked me how it is to use, so I thought I’d just do a brief-ish blog post about my experiences with the PayPal Here.
So, what is the PayPal Here card reader?
The PayPal Here card reader lets you take payments from credit or debit cards by connecting, via bluetooth, to an app on your phone. So long as you have an internet connection (3G, 4G or WiFi), a PayPal account, and a supported phone, then you’re good to go!
The funds are deposited into your PayPal account, and you pay the relevant PayPal fees. A more in depth description can be found on this page over on the PayPal Here website.
How I use the PayPal Here card reader
My only use for the PayPal Here is at craft/design markets here in the UK. I take payments of between £8 – £80, and have always used the chip + pin method. I average around 10 sales a day at markets using the PayPal Here. More and more people are asking if they can pay by card, and I think a lot of people are expecting everyone to have a card reader of some kind.
The Great Things
The card reader is nice and compact, doesn’t take up that much more space in your already-stuffed craft fair luggage.
Customers are aware of the PayPal brand, so don’t have any qualms about using it.
You can text or email your customer a receipt right there in front of them.
Customers don’t need a PayPal account to pay.
The app (iPhone) got updated recently, and the new app comes with loads of great features that make selling a breeze. It lets you create a menu of items, so instead of entering the amount you can click on the particular item instead.
There are no monthly or on-going fees with the PayPal Here, just the one-off payment for the reader, and the PayPal fees for each sale.
The Not-so-good Things
The card reader currently costs £69, it was £99 when I bought it. It’s not a huuggeee amount, but it’s still an investment.
The battery life can be a little iffy, and you can only see the life left in the battery by connecting it to the phone.
The bluetooth connection can sometimes be a little dodgy, and have trouble connecting the first time. This has only happened a few times, but it’s annoying when it does.
Unless the customer has a PayPal account, and their card is connected to it, you don’t get a name on your PayPal records. This is a major buzzkill for my type-A book keeping.
Would I recommend the PayPal Here card reader? Yes. It’s a good solution for a small investment, it really makes a difference at craft fairs and markets, and stops you missing out on “I’ll just run to the cash machine… AND NEVER BE SEEN AGAIN” sales.
The fees are a bummer, but with any payment system like this, and anything you use to take card payments, you’re going to encounter fees of some kind. The PayPal Here fees are pretty decent compared to some of the alternatives.
I’m pretty sure you’ve heard it before. “If you’re not happy, just change it!”. In fact, I’ve probably told people that in the past, too. It’s a massively knee jerk, all assumptive statement, isn’t it?
I mean, think about it. You might not be happy with something in your life right now (your job, your home, your relationship, your health), and you’ve probably racked your brains trying to come up with a solution. So when you start confiding in someone about it, and they just come back with a throw away “If you’re not happy, change it!”, then you’re gonna be pretty damn pissed.
It just isn’t that easy.
There are dependents, bills, family, and a whole host of other grown-up shit to think about when you’re wanting to make a huge (or even minor!) change.
Things need sorting out, pigeon holing, lists needs writing, gears need setting in motion. It’s downright ridiculous to just assume that you can “change something” on a whim and that everything will then turn into peaches & cream. Stupid!
Here’s a better piece of advice.
If you’re not happy…
Ask yourself why you’re not happy (or, ask your friend). It’s usually not just “I hate my entire life”, or “My job sucks”. It’s specifics. “I have no direction, I feel like I’m letting everyone down” … “I have no free time, my job takes up so much of my evenings and weekends”.
What can you do right now to make it just a little bit easier? Take a look at evening classes? Spend an hour on a recruitment website? Organise a meeting with your boss? This is the start of the change. I wasn’t fulfilled in my last 9-5 job, the first thing I did? Cancel magazine subscriptions so I could start saving up for my self-employment buffer. Somehow, by doing that, it made it all feel real.
What’s your end goal? Do you want a new job? A new skill? Do you want to travel? What do you think would make you happy. I say think because happiness is really subjective, the grass is greener and all that. Sometimes just small shifts in your current situation can make the world of difference.
Plan it out. You have an end goal, you’ve thought about how that would make you feel, now it’s time to make small steps towards it. These steps should be measurable, succinct, and easy. Things like “Have 1 meal a week sat at the table with my family, phones off”, “get to the gym twice a week”, “make a list of city breaks I could take this year”. Working backwards form your end goal sometimes helps.
Here’s the most important piece of advice. Count your god damn blessings. Don’t dwell on how you would be happy when _____, think about what makes you happy right now. Appreciate everything that you have in this instance, wouldn’t it be better to head towards your end goal with a happy heart and joyous everyday? Just like that douchey text-over-photo quote that goes around Pinterest and Facebook…
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
– Vivian Greene
I often get emails from people who know they want a website redesign (or to start a brand new one), sort-of have an idea in their mind, but really don’t know where to start. Well, here’s a list of 10 questions you should ask yourself while you’re in the early planning stages.
The outcome? Clarity, y’all! You’ll be able to approach the early stages of your website redesign with a good understanding of what you actually want.
#1 What’s the aim of your website? Who are you serving? What should your website do?
Are you selling something? Who’s your customer? Are you a blogger? Who’s reading your blog? Do you want to promote something? Use your website as a portfolio? Get clear on this.
#2 What’s not working about your website at the moment?
What makes you audibly groan whenever you hit your home page?
#3 In an ideal world, with no monetary constraints, what super awesome features would your website have?
Do you love how pinterest works? Would you fall down at the knees of any developer who said they could “totally build you one of those kick-ass content sliders that your favourite website has!”? Go on, go crazy. I’m not saying all these things could be done within your time and budget constraints, but don’t put a line through anything without asking first!
#4 How much money can you invest in this project?
Websites are costly. Either in monetary terms if you’re bringing in the big girls, or in time if you’re DIYing. What can you currently invest in this project? What’s your current maximum budget?
Many designers are happy to let you pay in installments, but it’s always a good idea to start saving up for a new design well in advance. If you can’t afford the quote for the work you want, ask the designer what they could do within your budget without completely throwing out your brief, and if it’s possible to ‘bolt on’ other aspects further down the line.
#5 How flexible are you?
When do you want the work to start and end? Can you work in phases? Or do you definitely need it by a certain date?
#6 Should you DIY or bring in some professional help?
I’ve made websites since I was 13, I learnt on the job because I had to. I know DIY is perfectly fine for some folk, hell, my first websites were geocities monstrosities. They still did their job. Maybe you’re at a stage where a simple wordpress theme would be totally satisfactory (check out Themeforest), or maybe you’re ready to supercharge your online presence with a professional’s help. Either way, figure it out.
#7 Future proofing
Do you have grand plans for the future of your website? Maybe you want to start selling products in a year or so? Or create an iPhone app based on the content? Get all those things you have in the back of your head written down NOW, because there could be some things that your developer could put in place during this phase to make everything go smoothly down the line.
#8 Which websites do you love? Which do you hate?
Figuring out what you love and hate about websites is a huge consideration when you’re thinking of re-doing your own. It’ll help you and your designer/developer get to grips with what you want.
#9 Is it really just a website that you need, or are you looking for a full brand redesign?
If I had a quid for every one that comes to me looking for a web design when actually they’re looking for a full on brand redesign, I’d have at least an extra tenner in the bank. Uh. Seriously, though, do you need a new logo? A new logo isn’t a new ‘web banner’, it’s a logo. Do you have colours for your brand? Fonts? Anything visual? Do you need business cards? Letterheads? The whole kit and caboodle?
#10 Are you ready?
“I want a new website, and I want it today!” shouldn’t be a Eureka moment. It needs consideration, planning and organisation. Don’t rush the process, think it through, and do it right the first time.
There are so many other considerations you can take in to account during the early planning stages of your website, and I’ll shortly be working on a comprehensive worksheet for you to get crystal clear on what you want from your website. Interested? Get signed up for my newsletter to be the first to hear about it!
Today I’m going to talk about a very important aspect of keeping yourself sane & happy in your work life. Client Boundaries. We all need ’em, and we all need to enforce ’em.
During my first year as a freelancer I was very lax with client boundaries. I’d be the one firing off emails after 6pm, letting my clients push me into burning the midnight oil because of their new deadlines, and lulling myself into the false idea that this was “just how it is when you work for yourself”.
One particular client of mine who was in the USA at the time (and was well aware of the time differences), pressured me into working well into the night. I felt deflated, unproductive, and down right pushed around. My work suffered, my home life suffered, and I got sick. Yeha.. that client relationship didn’t last very long.
It shouldn’t be like this, and here is where client boundaries come into play.
Setting your client boundaries
When you start working with a new client it’s important to communicate your boundaries, or at least have them set in your own mind so you can act upon them during the course of the project. You might even want to add your boundaries into your contract.
Here’re my current client boundaries:
No communication or enforced work after 6pm and before 8.30am.
No communication or enforced work on weekends.
No Facebook communication regarding projects.
If a client comes to me with a tight deadline, I’ll tell them my schedule and when I could realistically (within work hours of 8.30am-6pm) have the project completed.
Client boundaries do not mean that you can’t occasionally play catch up on weekends and evenings, but keep that to yourself else it’ll become expected.
Enforcing your client boundaries
So, you’ve got your boundaries set-up, how do you enforce them? Here are some lines, and responses, you can expect to get from clients in order to get you to flaunt your boundaries.
“This is an exceptional circumstance”“I appreciate that, but please see it from my point of view – if I pushed myself with each of my clients’ exceptional circumstances, I wouldn’t have any personal time!” I’d then go on to organise an acceptable schedule for the work.
“Just this one time…”“Sorry, I have family and personal commitments that just won’t accommodate working out of hours… let’s get this scheduled within my working hours.”
“This is an important deadline for me” (if this was a deadline you knew about then unfortunately you’re gonna have to pull out all the stops to get the work delivered on time, otherwise…) “I totally understand! However, had I/we known about it in advance we could have scheduled the work to meet the deadline. Right now all we can do is get this delivered ASAP without compromising on quality.”
Without setting and enforcing your boundaries, you’ll become a slave to your clients and your work will suffer. Don’t let that happen. You need to live a happy, stress-free life in order to create awesome work. Be consistent, be brave, and be honest.
Boomerang is an effective tool for Gmail that lets you send email hour after you’ve actually hit send.
What? Here I am, self professed “quit your day job, do what you love!” advocate, telling your not to quit your day job? Well, yeah.
The thing is, it’s not easy to quit your day job.
It’s really not easy.
And most of the time it’s not sensible, either. Quitting my day job with very few freelance clients, a mortgage, grown-up bills, and an already steady income was probably the most cavalier thing I’ve ever done (but your early-mid 20s are totally made for stuff like that). I was lucky, everything worked out.
But.. everyone’s on a different path & has a different set of circumstances, I’ve seen a lot of people touting the ‘quit your day job! live your dream! make loads of money!’ lifestyle and guys, it’s not always possible. You need to get to a sweet spot that’ll let you ditch your steady income. If I was going to do it again this is what I’d do…
Get your ducks in a row
If you’re dead set on quitting your day job then you really need to get your shit together. I mean really.
Savings, you need them. Aim for around 6 months living expenses to start with (I had 3 months, I wish I’d had more). Think about your incidentals, your dependants, and any emergency funds you might need.
Clients, line ’em up. Start being serious about this freelance/new business game well before you actually hand in your notice. Start making connections, putting out feelers, and getting some work lined up.
A website, collateral, business cards, it all needs to be ready before you quit. On the first day of your new ‘working for yourself’ position you need to be working on some actual cash making stuff, not faffing around with how your business looks.
Support, start telling your friends and family about your plans. Most of them will say something about you having to get a job within three months, take it onboard and prove them wrong. I did.
Basic kit, got your laptop? camera? Get them before you quit (and remember they’re a business expense for your new venture, so keep all the invoices).
Tax shiz, it’s a good idea to talk to an accountant before you quit and get set-up as a sole trader, or a limited company. I was already set-up as a sole trader as I ran my jewellery business, and I’m so glad I didn’t have to do all that in the first week! As I’ve mentioned MANY times before, an accountant was one of the best investments I’ve made for my business.
Financialimplications, if you’re looking to purchase a house or go on expensive holidays within the first couple of years of your self employment then you probably shouldn’t quit your day job. Most mortgages require 3 years worth of books to prove your income. And holidays? You’re gonna be working WAY too hard for that ;)
Start changing your lifestyle, sure, we all love meals out & trips to the cinema, but it’s a good idea to start thinking of how your lifestyle would change if you quit your day job and didn’t get the big-ticket clients you were hoping for. Having a steady income is incredibly comfortable, something that doesn’t always exist in your first few months/years of working for yourself.
Day One of working for yourself should not be about getting your business ready, it should be about diving in head first with your new projects.
What’s your back up plan?
What would happen if you made no money within the first month? first 3 months? Would you starve? Have to move in with your parents?
I gave myself 6 months to turn a decent salary, I can’t remember the exact figure I aimed at but it was my plan to look for part time work if I hadn’t met the aim. There is nothing wrong with supporting yourself financially with a bunch of jobs on the side. It’s not failure, it’s being downright sensible and setting a good foundation for your business and life. Your new venture would absolutely fail if you didn’t have the means to support yourself.
Stay on good terms with your previous place of employment, chances are they’d snap you right back up again if needs be!
Remember, it’s really difficult for small businesses to make any decent money within the first year or two, so don’t feel deflated if you’re not making much money to start, just keep swimmin’.
Think about multiple income streams – man, I love them so much! How else could you make money? Having multiple income streams means that you’re not completely tied to one branch of your business, so if work dries up a little, you’re still making money from other things. I do this by being both a web designer AND jewellery designer (and, soon, other things).
Always have a back-up plan, and keep changing that back-up plan as your business grows.
Now you can think about it…
Now that you’ve been thoroughly scared shitless about quitting your day job… you can start thinking about quitting your day job. It’s not for the faint-hearted, and you need to be really sensible about it if you want to succeed.
[standfirst]I hope you enjoyed my post last week where I talked about How to Stay Organised. I mentioned several desktop based apps that I use to keep on top of my life and business. A few of the ones I mentioned also come with mobile applications & cloud syncing, which is what I’m gonna talk about today![/standfirst]
I’m an iPhone and iPad user so everything I talk about here will be in relation to that set-up. However, I’ll be talking about various tips that should cross over to other mobile devices, too.
Teux Deux, Evernote, Google Drive
I mentioned these three wonders last time, and they’re three of my most used ‘On the Go’ organisation tools. I won’t go into much on these as I talked more about them last time, but here’s a brief outline of how I use them when I’m out and about.
Teux Deux lets me simply add or remove to dos from the lists, and syncs straight back. This means I can keep errand lists on Teux Deux for when I’m running around town going to the post office, bank and opticians. Much handier than a piece of paper!
Evernote lets me take notes on the fly, meaning I can quickly jot down ideas without losing them in one of my many paper notebooks. Another great feature of Evernote on the iPhone is the ability to add photos, voice memos, tags and geolocations to notes.
Google Drive has come on leaps and bounds with its iPhone and iPad app in the past few months, it means I can actually use it quite efficiently on my iPad now. On my iPhone I mainly use it for reference only, it’s a bit too small to do anything efficient on there.
Your camera is your best friend
I can’t even begin to tell you how liberating it was to figure out that I can use my iPhone camera as a quick reference tool. I use it to take photos of lightbulbs (so I pick up the right one when I’m out), things in shops (granted this is usually for ‘look at this weird sexy ginger man packaging‘ reasons), menus, packaging ideas, magazine articles – you name it! If I was even more organised I’d add them to Evernote and tag ’em, but I usually just leave them in my photostream for easy reference at a later date.
I’m going to dedicate a whole post on how I organise my inbox, but I really love to Gmail iOS app. Another one that’s come on loads over the past year, I can now do most things that I do on my desktop from this app. I ditched the mail app because it didn’t support how I use multiple email addresses in gmail, and there didn’t seem to be a good way of syncing labels. I tried Mailbox but just got a bit freaked out. The Gmail app is perfect for me!
This new-to-me app has soon become one of my favourites. I currently use it to scan all of my business receipts and sync them back to dropbox. It’s MUCH faster than using my actual scanner, and the quality is just fine for how I use it. I can zip through the scanning of ~30 receipts in little under 15 minutes now!
Pretty obviously I use this to sync back to my Google Cal, handy for at a glance checks when I’m at the dentist and booking a new appointment. I don’t think there’s a specific app for Google Cal yet, apart from third party ones (someone correct me if I’m wrong here, and suggest a good third party one!), so I’ve just created a home screen bookmark for their mobile version.
This harkens back to my comment about photos above. To take a screen grab on your iPhone and iPad, you just need to hold down the power/hold and home button together. The screen will flash, and your screen grab will be saved to your photos. Here’s how I’ve been screen grabbing…
I subscribe to magazines on my iPad, lots of them have recipes in them that I’d love to use in the future but, without a doubt, I’ll forget which issue they’re in. I’ve taken to screen grabbing the recipe and adding it to a note in Evernote!
^^ Same goes for adverts/articles, and anything else I might want to reference later on.
I make websites for a living so I’m always looking at innovative ways people make responsive sites. And I’ll screen grab ’em. And add them to my inspiration notebook in Evernote.
Phew! Don’tcha just love technology?!
There are a few other ‘on the go’ things that I should probably start using, like a news/article ‘read later’ aggregator (flipboard or instapaper), and perhaps a money tracking app for personal finance. Right now, though, I’m pretty happy with things. Until something better comes along, that is.
What’re your favourite On the Go organisation tips? Anything that doesn’t rely on a mobile device? I’d love to here ’em!
[standfirst]I’ve been trying hard to figure out the best way of articulating this topic without coming across as a douche bag, telling you what should be oh-so-obvious already. But… I think it needs to be said, if only for my own cathartic therapy.[/standfirst]
These past few weeks I’ve been working. Just working.
Coming into my office in the morning, and setting about the day’s work. I haven’t learnt anything new. I haven’t experienced ‘awesome personal/business growth’. I’ve just worked. Nose to the grind stone, bringing home the bacon (or earning the cash to buy the bacon… and coffee), working.
And then I started feeling guilty. For working hard. What the fuck is up with that?!
There seems to be a worrying trend right now that if you’re not growing or learning, or expanding your blahblahblah mind desires dreams, then you’re not doing good stuff.
There is nothing wrong with just working hard. In fact, it’s really fucking admirable.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge advocate of pushing your boundaries, learning new stuff, and generally being curious. But damn, not doing those things all the live long day should not be a cause of guilt.
I feel like we’re constantly being bombarded with new ways of learning, new information to take in, and a sick marketing ploy of ‘If you don’t do this you will suck forever & fail at life’. Nope. Nope nope nope.
Growth is optional. Coasting is fine. Learning is a bonus.