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10 things I’ve learnt during my 10 years in business.

Whilst I was away last week Beck and Call PR turned 10 years old. I’ve been in public relations for more than 20 years but went self-employed when I returned from honeymoon 10 years ago. While I wouldn’t call myself a business expert, I thought I would share with you 10 things I have learnt during 10 years of business.

1. Know your worth.

When you start out in business it can be hard to charge what you’re worth as the desire to bag clients can take over. I know when I first became self-employed, I didn’t charge what I was worth because I just wanted the work. Luckily has time has gone on that has changed and I charge what I charge with no shame. Another thing I found when I wasn’t charging enough was the less the client pays the more work they seem to expect, and I know I’m not the only self-employed person who has found that.

2. Stick to your values.

It took me a long time to realise that values are really important when it comes to work and deciding who to work with. I’d sometimes find that I’d work with somebody, and something would just feel off, I wouldn’t be able to connect with them and I couldn’t understand why. I’d consider myself a people person who finds it easy to connect. It was only when I was doing some values work for a course, I am taking that I recognised the issue. If people’s values aren’t in line with our own, it can cause a feeling of disconnect. It’s not that either person is right or wrong, it’s just that they are different. For the record my values are health, friendship, authenticity, variety, pleasure, and freedom/independence.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Whether it be getting a VA, telling your partner you’re struggling, finding an accountant, talking to a friend about some of the pressures and stresses of self-employed life it’s important that you ask for help when it is needed. Needing help and support whether it is in your actual work or emotionally isn’t a sign of weakness or failure and you’ll probably be surprised at how many people are happy to help and how much easier things are when they do.

4. Relationships are paramount.

How you deal with your clients and employees is extremely important, probably as important if not more important than the job you actually do. If you have good relationships with clear communications most obstacles can be overcome.

5. Remember why you started.

Don’t lose sight of why you started. When things get tough it can be easy to start thinking “what am I doing?” These thoughts happen to us all. In those moments remind yourself why you started, maybe it’s because you love the work, perhaps it gives you a freedom you craved, possibly it makes you more money or let’s you have more time with your family. Whatever it is when things get tough keep your why in mind.

6. Set boundaries.

I wish I had known this when I started so I didn’t feel obliged to answer calls and emails at 9pm at night and at weekends, but we live and learn. Boundaries will be different for everyone and may be around clients or even family. It may be that you need to make it clear to family that although you’re working from home it’s not Ok to pop in for a cuppa whenever they fancy or maybe you need to let clients know not to contact you on WhatsApp or that you don’t respond to emails over the weekend. The boundaries will be different for everyone but take my advice and set them from the start.

7. Trust your gut

If something doesn’t feel right, then sometimes just trust your gut. It might be something about the client or the project that doesn’t sit right with you. In my experience it pays to trust your instinct and maybe give whatever it is the swerve.

8. It’s ok to stop working with people.

Not everything is going to work out and that’s ok. I know that for me it goes against all my natural instincts to say no to work or to terminate a relationship with a client but over time I’ve realised it is ok. Sometimes it goes back to those disconnected values or maybe you have a client whose calls and emails you dread. I’ve had to accept that the work isn’t worth the feeling of dread I’ve had when knowing I’ve got to speak to certain people.

9. Accept that there will be peaks and troughs.

I can guarantee that at some point in your self-employed journey things will be quiet and you’ll start scouring the job sites and think about having to return to an office job. If you can ride the storm as in my experience these quiet times pass as quickly as they came. I use the time to focus on working on my business and looking for new clients.

10. Keep learning.

Never stop learning. No matter how many years you’ve been doing what you’re doing there is always more to learn. It might be about your industry or business in general. Whilst personal development is great not all learning comes from courses and books, I learn all the time from other people in the industry, clients, networking and just life in general. As they say ‘every day is a school day’

Finally enjoy it and make the most of the flexibility that self-employment gives you.

Rebecca Slater is a PR Consultant with more than 20 years public relations experience. She is based in Staffordshire and provides support to businesses all over the country.

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