The transition from the corporate world to business owner is a tricky one. Here are nine things I’d do differently if I had my time again.
1. Establish a dedicated work space
In the early days of my new business I would spend precious time each day going round my house and gathering up the various things I needed to start work. Then, at the end of the day, I had to pack everything up again to clear the dining room table. It took a while to cotton on but clearing out a room at home to use as a dedicated office increased my daily productivity no end. Even if you don’t have a whole room you can use as an office, setting aside a corner of a room permanently for work can be really beneficial.
2. Develop a routine
This is important. When I had a job, commuting to work set a structure to my work life. Once I started working for myself I quickly figured out that if I let myself start work whenever it suited me on any given day, I’d lose too many productive hours. I soon created a strict routine that involves being in my office at 8.30 am. I have tried to do the same each working day since. That doesn’t mean that I can’t do other non-work-related things during the day, but it does mean that I keep on top of tasks and don’t feel guilty about those breaks.
3. Maintain networks/socialise
Not having people around was one of the things I missed most about leaving my job. I now make up for this with regular (at least weekly) catch-ups with colleagues and former workmates. These meetings are part social and part business (I’m never sure of the precise ratio!).
4. A contact per day
In those early days it was so easy to get consumed with the minutiae of running my business, doing client work … and forget all about building my business. So I’ve now written the number ‘1’ on top of my office whiteboard. This is a reminder to reach out and contact at least one person each day. It might be a phone call. It might simply be an email forwarding interesting information. It’s good for business, good for networking and good for the soul.
“I have always been more productive when I work with others. Including others in project pitches increases the chances of success. I quickly found this reciprocated.”
5. Attend events
It’s easy to get forgotten. If you aren’t front of mind, you are likely to miss out on opportunities. Being remembered and keeping up with advances in my field are important. I regularly attend workshops and conferences. I know they can be expensive, but given I picked up two major jobs at a national conference I attended a couple of months into my new professional life, I know they’re also worth it.
I’ve always been more productive when I work with others. It’s more fun as well. Once I started including others in project pitches I found this increased my chances of success markedly … and was also quickly reciprocated.
7. Join and participate in professional groups
Communities like Flying Solo are a great resource for small businesses. They allow you to connect with, learn from and bounce ideas around with like-minded people. I wish I’d gotten on board sooner. The advice in forums like Flying Solo’s would have been invaluable in my early days.
8. Get a good accountant and lawyer
Initially I scrimped and saved money in this regard. Once I got things set up properly however, I kicked myself. Having a great accountant and lawyer on hand, while expensive, has saved me money since bringing them on board.
9. Invest in accounting software.
I started by tracking all my income and expenditure in a spreadsheet. Good lord this wasted hours of my time. Professional software like Xero is far neater, more flexible and faster to use. And they save on a lot of double handling too.