Starting a Business – 6 months in.
Define Media is 6 months old today, and this is the update I promised I’d write 6 months in on starting a business. It feels a bit like the start of a relationship, 6 months is the honeymoon period, I can almost hear the old hands out there saying, yes, but wait until you’ve been in business for 10 years. It’s interesting to share experiences, and I would love to hear from any other new businesses out there with anecdotes to tell. Its been a big change, I’m very much still on a learning curve, but it’s suiting me well … and working for myself has proved far less ‘lonely’ than I imagined.
Getting out there …
I spent a lot of my first 3 months, putting together a website, getting to grips with some new technology and out networking. By far my preferred way of meeting new business associates and clients, has been face to face. I used to feel quite intimidated walking into a room full of strangers, but have surprised myself at how much I enjoy it now. I have consolidated, a few new relationships with social media, via Linked in and Twitter, and connected with some really interesting people too. While I am on the topic I would like to mention of course OxonDigital, as a great place to meet industry people and hear whats going on in the digital world around Oxfordshire. For business networking in general Athena have been good, but I decided the regular lunchtime commitment wasn’t quite right for me. The Late Breakfast has been excellent for a casual meet up, a good variety of venues in different places. £10 for a coffee, croissant and some very useful talks on everything from business advice to the psychology of communication. It has really been an inspiration talking to other business owners, and I have received great support from people over the past 6 months.
Weekends and weekdays, they seem to have blurred somewhat, is it Saturday today? Both good and bad, I like the flexibility to choose to work on weekends, then take a day off in the week, its a matter of doing what needs to be done when it’s needed and as it’s my own business, I don’t begrudge it. I have to be careful to make time for a break, and not just keep going, I can see already that is a slippery slope. A big benefit for me is being able to manage my own time, step outside if I need to take a break, then come back in refreshed. I am working longer hours, but with more flexibility.
Revisiting my business plan
I am surprised how accurate my business plan is turning out to be, the biggest shock for me starting up is the obvious one of not having a wage coming in, and now 6 months in I have setup my first salary payment – to myself, that’s a big moment. So there’s the risk, potentially 6 months without a great deal of income has been my reality. Pretty nerve racking at the start, but starting to feel more comfortable now. I have to say my business plan has also given me reassurance that things are on track, and helps me focus into the future.
It seems a large amount of time has gone into a kind of black hole of ‘setting the business up’. Just working out how I would manage my estimates, invoices, proposals, setting up templates etc. I have run with Harvest for my estimates and invoices, I like it as a method of tracking estimates and expenses, and tracking time. Also the desktop application is a handy little time tracking device to use on projects. When I have completed a project I know I can quickly turn my original estimate into an invoice. Anything that saves time is becoming really important, and I am sure things will streamline more as time progresses.
My nemesis, ungraded in accounts at school and it still haunts me. But have looked the devil in the eye and … hired an accountant. Phew, that’s a relief, money well spent. I shopped around, and eventually went with a recommendation from someone else who runs a small business. Looked at numerous accounting systems to see doing it myself was a good idea. I investigated Kashflow, and it may be that I use it in the future, it does look like a good system. As a first year business keeping costs down its good old spreadsheets for me, and getting to use them efficiently is becoming really beneficial.
I am finding it a completely rewarding experience, and that first invoice that went out under my business name was a good feeling. For me, having a financial buffer for the first 6 months has been critical, I have no holidays booked for this year, am working weekends and into the evenings, but have flexibility, am meeting great clients, enjoy having the control over projects and the feeling that I can take things in any direction that I want it to go in … Its a very creative process, starting something and watching it grow. My next blog on the business will be in another 6 months, after having completed one year of trading – that will be another perspective again, and I look forward to sharing it with you.
Have you started your own business, what thoughts do you have to share? Do you have any tips, or recommendations for useful business tools?