From building circles of support, to embracing your business’s story. Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from going it alone.
It’s been 1 month since I left my regular job and I’m a little behind schedule. I have a rough idea of what I need to do and when, but perhaps I need a more detailed plan? Actually, I have a one-page document with lots of bullet points which my self employed colleagues assure me is good enough so as far as I’m concerned, I’m good to go.
Why create a business?
- I want freedom to work remotely
- I want freedom to be the master of my destiny
- I love creating stories with data that I believe in and am passionate about
- I want the opportunity to help people simplify their understanding of their data
- I want the ability to have some control over my taxes
Incorporating my business
My business is called Datachronicle Ltd, and we are a data visualisation and business intelligence consultancy. We help clients better understand and tell stories with their data. This takes many forms including, analysing it by peeling back the data layers, cleaning and reformatting it to improve quality and usability and finally, using it to tell stories to support and increase impact. Data visualisations can also be used to support a whole host of entities including research, articles, business reports, analytics, marketing and monitoring dashboards.
I’ve always been a passionate chartist. By that I mean I’ve always loved working with and looking at charts. For a time, I practiced currency trading online with my own capital. This was both exciting & stressful but through it I learned how to read charts as well as query them intensely for information. I also had to construct and test hypotheses for validity. I love to visually discern the hidden gems of information buried within large amounts of data. I believe that data is always trying to tell us something, we just need to be patient, attentive and meticulous, to find and highlight what it is.
Vision for my business
Firstly, I want to help clients (e.g. researchers/academics/journalists etc) tell better stories with their data to support their research or articles. I also want to help businesses better understand their data through analysing it as well as make better sense of it by creating reports and/or visual dashboards to help them grasp a lot of information quickly and visually.
Where am I with my business?
I knew that running my own business was going to be different to what I’d expected, but no matter how much you prepare yourself, it’s always a surprise when you begin. Actually setting up my limited liability company (Ltd) wasn’t that difficult. It was a little tedious (1 hr of online form filling on the Companies House website) and relatively cheap, £15. One of the more difficult parts of setting up a company that I’ve found has been creating ‘content’ to describe what my company does. This content is being used for my ‘elevator pitch’ whilst meeting and talking to people at networking events as well as being a collective well of ideas for my companies strapline and website content.
Don’t underestimate how difficult and valuable this process is. Concepts and phrases that seem obvious to you, won’t necessarily seem obvious to others. I attended a ‘start-up writing’ workshop run by Stranger Collective to help me with this. Not only did I get help with my words and content but I also met like-minded entrepreneurs in the same boat.
Networking and marketing
When you attend a networking event and you‘re excited and ready to meet some new people, you get into a conversation, beer or glass of wine in hand and they say,
“So what does your business do?”
If you’ve prepared, ie. you’ve gone through the process of documenting how to talk about your business, this is an exciting conversation, filled with information flowing back and forth between you and your new found acquaintance. However if you haven’t, this can be a slightly awkward and deflating conversation to have.
I knew there would be marketing and networking involved, however I underestimated the sheer amount that needs to happen on a daily basis. This lesson I’ve learned very quickly. However ‘learning’ and then ‘executing’ are two separate skills and I’m constantly working to develop and improve. I’m beginning to engage more on social media though I’m not naturally inclined to shout about my achievements or capabilities. Self-promotion/brand promotion is extremely important when starting you own business so I’m stepping up my efforts. I’m sure I’ll make mistakes, may even get a little egg on my face at times but it’s all part of the growing process.
Creating an online portfolio of work is proving more difficult than I thought as much of the work I’ve done in the past can’t be shared online due to client data privacy reasons. An obvious solution to this problem would have been for me to create and display my own separate work online prior to starting my own business. Alas, hindsight is a great thing, however it seldom helps solve your immediate problems. As a result, I’m having to create my online portfolio while simultaneously creating my company website. Not ideal and could have been avoided but lesson learned! I will also focus on writing a few case studies to help communicate projects I’ve worked on as well as what I can do to help clients.
“We are social creatures, so go out there and meet people, start conversations, listen, learn, explore and experiment. We only get one life so live it to the full!”
When you first start out on your own, It can be a bit isolating. Which is why it’s a good idea to have some circles of support. People who share your beliefs or who you have something in common with. Before I left regular employment, I attended a few networking events that were aimed at bringing people together who all believed in happiness in the workplace and designing your life by doing what you want to do the way you want to do it. This has helped me out enormously. They’re called the Happy startup school. It’s there I’ve found some great people, founders such as myself who are either running their own start-up businesses or just starting them. I’ve also made some great friends and contacts. We all help each other through an online community as well as meet as workshops, training or just for drinks after the day’s work is done.
In fairness I’m only slightly behind schedule with my plans. Probably about 2 weeks. As I’m currently working on my own, I’ve also realised it’s important to occasionally work in the library or in collaborative workspaces such as the Impact hub where you can meet other like-minded entrepreneurs. Being able to bounce ideas of people as well as engage in the occasional watercooler chatter is great. We are social creatures, well most of us are so go out there and meet people, start conversations, listen, learn, explore and experiment. We only get one life so live it to the full!
Soti Coker is the founder and editor of smartMoneytree. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter.