Recently I celebrated my second anniversary of self-employment.
I decided to hold back posting about it until I had gathered my thoughts on this — I actually felt emotional on the day (1st Oct) — it’s been a wild ride — of course I’m proud but also reflective — and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the past couple of years — and what I’ve learned along the way.
So — after reflection — here are my Top 10 insights on my self-employment journey — which hopefully will resonate with those who are also ‘flying their own flag’ — or indeed give some ‘brutally honest’ peeks behind the curtain for those who are thinking of setting out.
1 — The Big Red Eject Button!
There isn’t a month that goes by without me thinking of jacking it all in and heading back to the shores of employment! After spending a whole career with the mentality and conditioning of being the best second in command I can be — this has been hard to break! However, this does pass — but important to say that it’s a natural reaction. Sensitivity played a huge part in this — I’ve also got more resilient! Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable — also to engage with people on YOUR terms including YOUR brand (hence the cap & jeans combo!) — if not — you may as well be employed…but…
DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP IF YOU DOUBT ANYTHING OR INDEED EVERYTHING AT TIMES — YOU ARE ‘ONLY’ HUMAN!
2 — I love what I do — BUT…
I think following point 1 — this is also a crucial message to pass on to people looking at ‘doing their own thing’ — I LOVE what I do — I LOVE what my business (Forging People) does — but I DISLIKE the actual business of it — chasing business, chasing payments etc. It must be said though that I’ve used these things to evolve though — I now don’t need to chase business — it comes to me — through hard work, high visibility & word of mouth. I have strict payment terms — on my terms — which eliminates that element too.
USE YOUR DISLIKES TO SHAPE YOUR BUSINESS THE WAY YOU WANT IT TO BE.
3 — Do what you need to do…
…to keep the dream alive. If you are working a plan b, c or even d — to fulfil your plan a — more power to your elbow — I’m with you! I’ve worked hard to get to the stage where I now only work my plan a — but when I first set out — I was doing 36 hours a week with Tesco delivering groceries — as well as doing my own thing & launching my business.
MORTGAGES DON’T GET PAID IN DREAMS — KEEP IT REAL — KEEP IT SAFE.
4 — Attitude is everything!
I could’ve very easily — when working for Tesco — said ‘I’m not a delivery driver’ or ‘this isn’t me’ etc before slamming the customers groceries down in a huff & stomping off to my next drop. I could’ve. But I didn’t. What I did is take the RIGHT attitude into EVERY conversation — I got Bookings for Speaking gigs off of the back of telling people what I did when I wasn’t dressed in hi-viz! I was having lunch in the canteen one day & saw the staff magazine was looking for content on Mental Health — I wrote in — they did a piece on me. It went so well they put it in their public magazine.
OPPORTUNITIES ARE EVERYWHERE — IF YOU AREN’T WHERE YOU WANT TO BE — CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE.
5 — Keep your eyes on the prize.
All of the above being said — for a year I was going 30 hours + on my business, 36 hours on my Tesco job — and I lost sight of why I started out in the first place — why I was doing all of this for. To provide a better life for me and my family. A family I was never home for! I made a call — sometimes we need to shake off the stabilisers — and I left to go fully full time on my own business.
CONSTANTLY CHECK IN ON WHERE YOU ARE GOING & WHY YOU ARE DOING IT.
6 — Recovery!
Initially — my only ‘business’ was as a Speaker — and as you guys probably know — I share my Lived Experience of Mental Health to businesses, organisations, education establishments and stages all over the world. However, when I deliver my ‘emotionally charged’ talks — to deliver the emotion to my audiences — I need to reconnect to the emotions & adversities that I’ve experienced to achieve the desired impact I aim for. Plus as I am raising conversations with people where they start to gain awareness of their own stuff — they began to share — and I’m naturally empathetic! Now I was doing this every day — I very quickly because absolutely wiped — I wondered why my energy would disappear. I even came close to slipping back into my old challenges. But — as always — I learned from this — discovered I was an introvert (I recharge in my own company), ring fenced my own time to recover — do the things I love — built in my own recovery system — so every day I can go BIG — recharge — and go again BIG tomorrow! I also learned the power of active signposting — that people are not speaking to me to be fixed — they are just looking to be heard and understood.
SELF CARE IS NOT SELFISH. SELF AWARENESS IS KEY.
7 — Launch — Review — Evolve!
Procrastination is a massive Anxiety trigger — we wait for the perfect moment to start things — which never arrives! When I first launched the Speaking Academy events — I had worried so much — fear of competing with people that I knew, not knowing my exact offering, how to find the right venue, the doubts and negative self narrative — in the end I bit the bullet, booked a venue, picked a date 3 months in the future and launched! 9 Speaking Academies later — I’ve nailed my content, my culture, it consistently sells out — every MONTH! My ‘Talking Anxiety’ Keynote Talk I deliver globally — is essentially the same as the first time I delivered it 5 years ago — but it evolves as I learn — it’s a constant work in progress — and I love that!
NEVER ASSUME AN OUTCOME — GOOD OR BAD — JUST GO ON YOUR IDEAS!
8 — Believe in yourself. Believe in your business.
This is the one I really struggled with. I would look at others doing similar to what I do (because no one is truly the same!) & compare myself negatively. I’d listen to the doubters and people that said it’s not going to work. Even when things were going well I’d self-sabotage and allow myself to enter a negative mindset. This changed when my belief changed. My belief changed purely because I was consistently doing it, achieving massive success & getting the feedback that I was having a hugely positive impact on people, organisations and businesses.
LET’S TAKE REINCARNATION OFF THE TABLE HERE — IF THIS IS YOUR ONE GO ROUND — IN LIFE, IN BUSINESS — MAKE IT YOUR GO ROUND!
9 — Get comfortable with Change
Change is the single most consistent Anxiety trigger that gets fed back to me when I work with new clients — whether they be corporate, education, business — even personal clients that I work 121 with. But change is one of the few certainties in life — more so when we are self employed — so learn to get uncomfortable. Recognise you will be living your life outside of your comfort zone — which will push you to greater things — but you also need to schedule extra recovery time to recharge more frequently. Know that your mentors will change, your customers may change — even your personal relationships may change. Keep asking yourself — this mentor, this person, this group, this client — are they good for me right now? Do they inspire me? Do they want the best for me? Maybe it’s time to shift to a new gear. As a reformed people pleaser this was tough for me — but as much as I love them, love him, love her — I let them go with my genuinely best wishes & look for new inspiration to help move me on to the next level.
PEOPLE & SITUATIONS ARE LIKE VEHICLES — SOME ARE HERE PURELY TO GET YOU FROM A TO B — NOT NECESSARILY TO C!
10 — Build a business which isn’t you
What I’ve learned is that unlike most Speakers — who have built a business before becoming a Professional Speaker — I didn’t have that so I had to commercialise my Speaking very early — but the pay off is I got very good at it very quickly! The challenge that presented itself — as my profile, success & bookings grew — was that I WAS the business. I was working on billable hours — which by definition are limited — and I had one offering. That’s the reason why Forging People was born — I needed to build something that wasn’t me. Especially as my Speaking initially was my therapy — then a cause/passion — but when I went self-employed I soon worked out that the mortgage doesn’t get paid on crusades — no matter how great the intention! The shift in dynamic of having to charge for what I used to do just to raise awareness had a big impact on me. I had lost my ‘karma kick’ of helping others. So when I started to work with people and businesses through the Speaking Academies & Coaching, Training & Workshops & Mentoring — empowering others to be more — that’s when I got my ‘karma kick’ back.
BUILD A LEGACY — LEAVE A POSITIVE MARK ON THIS WORLD.
I hope my ramblings have helped people that are thinking of self employment, going through similar challenges or just enjoyed reading an honest take on my journey so far.
I’m sure there are a lot more things I’ve learned along the way — both emotionally and commercially — money, sales, marketing — but that’s for next time — so here’s to the next 2 years!
A BIG thank you to all of my family, friends, mentors — past & present, influencers, clients, suppliers & partners for their support and encouragement — PLUS the biggest thanks to my wife — Claire — who has given me THE best backing — I’m so happy (and relieved!) that I’m repaying her faith in me.
Above all I now feel confident enough to say that I am proud of what I have achieved — but also grateful — and excited for what’s to come!
But from me — as an ‘Unnatural Entrepreneur’ — just know — it’s REALLY hard work but SO rewarding when you see your efforts flourish and have the desired positive impact & I now wouldn’t have it any other way — most days! :)