My solo business has just celebrated its 13th birthday and is now a proud, feisty teenager. It’s taught me an enormous number of lessons about both business and myself, writes Jayne Tancred.
Here are three things that I wish I’d known when I was starting my business
Your vision is your north star
It’s easy to dismiss the idea of having a vision for your business as corporate gobbledygook that isn’t relevant to a soloist enterprise – especially if you’re new to the game and are primarily focused on short-term progress or survival.
But almost every time I’ve found it hard to make a decision about something over the last 13 years, it’s been a lack of vision that’s kept me stuck.
And taking the time to visualise where I want my business to take me and my clients has almost always been the thing that gets me unstuck too.
These days I no longer treat my business vision as a set-and-forget phrase that’s stuck on my wall and glanced at occasionally.
It’s now a compass that I rely on to help me make confident decisions, prioritise effectively, and know which client projects to accept and which to gracefully decline.
Systems pay off in surprising ways
I’m one of those creative types who believes in their heart that consistency, predictability and systems are the most boring things on earth. One of the reasons I was drawn to life as a soloist in the first place is that it freed me up from turning up to the same cubicle at the same time, day after day.
As a result, I spent more years than I care to admit being haphazard in my approach to running my business and had to be dragged kicking and screaming into adopting systems and processes to help me keep things running smoothly.
These days I’m a complete convert. I can honestly say that my systems have not only saved me over and over again, but have helped me generate the kind of compounding benefits that only come from consistency.
In hindsight I can see that without them I was making everything from sending out invoices to working with clients much more difficult and painful than it needed to be, and ironically, was dampening my creativity in the process.
Sprints take businesses to a new level
Where I once allowed clients’ needs to dictate much of how I spent my work time, I’m now disciplined about carving out several blocks of time each week that I call my ‘Bubble’.
This is when I dive into my writing and marketing strategy work and get it done in a state of flow.
Whether it’s for my own business or for a client, my writing and strategising shines brightest when it’s uninterrupted by meetings, phone calls or emails.
I treat these sessions as sprints in which my intention is to focus hard and move fast, and knowing that I’ve only got a limited period of time available before I have to leave my Bubble and return to the outside world is often all the motivation I need to get into the zone.
Carving out these sacred sprints for my Bubble has been a game changer for me and my clients, so it’s something I protect fiercely. If you’re finding it hard to get the important things done, I encourage you to create your own version of it and see whether it works for you too.
I love the way that milestones like the 13th birthday of my business remind me to pause, look back and see how it and I have evolved over time. If you’re keen to see some of that evolution in action, check out my reflections on celebrating four years and 10 years in business too.
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