Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a relatively straightforward person if tinged with a slightly complicated soul. Which is why, over the years I have read many a blog by people who started their own business and just hang my head in bewilderment. Because, unless they live in an alternate reality (unlikely), there is no possible way that their experience was so vastly different from my own that it is virtually unrecognisable as the same process. No ruddy way. Instead, they are packaging it nice and neatly so their reader (you) will like/respect/fear them. Luckily for you, I have no such pretence – so to celebrate my second anniversary I have decided to pen an entirely un-PC article on what it really means to start a business.
In my opinion you can plan until the cows come home, writing out detailed financial spreadsheets with complex profit and loss calculations. And, without question, you should have a vague notion as to your expenses. However, until you get started you just can’t get a proper picture. In fact, I reckon there are only two things you can rely on when starting a business:
- It will cost more than you originally thought
- You will need an alternative source of income
Businesses do not make money in their first year and you are not the exception. Be prepared to make close to nothing or if you start some wizarding tech start-up, a hefty loss. Without question, you will need an alternate source of income, whether that’s savings (given that I was 23 when I started that word was pretty redundant) or the bank of mum and dad (no I’m not too proud to admit it) or a part-time job, assume that your fledgling business will probably bring in enough revenue for a weekly Starbucks (maybe).
Most start-up stories go like this……it was really hard, we worked harder and after a few years we were a rip roaring success and got our own musical. Sadly, businesses do not work on a consistent upward trajectory – you could have a few fantastic months, followed by a really bleak period even once you are well-established. And come Summer and Christmas time the world essentially shuts down – so your business will face a significant hit during these periods. Not only that, but as you grow you may well have to invest in a brand spanking new website or some fancy didgeridoo that puts you right back where you started. Having your own business is a lot of swings and roundabouts, which can be a mightily unsettling experience.
This is something, in my opinion, you never really get over, even for an only child like myself. As a solopreneur, no one will ever care about your business the way you do. They might listen, make sympathetic nods and even the occasional grunt, but they’re never going to engage, because quite frankly everyone has their own shit to deal with it. This can make decision-making and working an awfully lonely process, and come Christmas party season you are guaranteed to get a certain level of FOMO. If you are someone who cannot spend time alone, this is a pretty big consideration to consider.
- Thick skin
I’m not sure how to put this nicely, but people can be really challenging (insert expletive of your choice here). Which is true in an office job as well, but then generally there is a whole team to deal with the sheer ludicrousness that one person can cause. As a solopreneur it’s all on you and you have to learn pretty quickly that most people aren’t actually criticising you, they just want to criticise and you are an easy target. I’ve genuinely found that this experience has made me a more patient, considerate person, but it can be rather tiresome at times.
- It’s ruddy awesome
If you have made it to the end of my exhaustive list, then congratulations – you are ready to start your own business. No, seriously for all the ups and downs…having your own business offers autonomy, the opportunity to meet some incredible people and the advantage of never working a 9-5 job. And when it finally does work (if only for a moment) the sense of euphoria is quite simply the most fantastic natural high.
Started a business? I would love to hear from you – feel free to call me on 0208 629 6465 or drop me a line on Helena@helenabaker.com