I loved starting my business and I still love running it. But I won’t lie – it took a lot of time and a lot of effort to set it all up. It’s what gives me insight that allows me to be a small business mentor. If you want to find out more about me head to my about page.
What’s worse was that as I learned I discovered easier ways, less time consuming ways to do a lot of the work and often I wished I had invested in a coach or mentor sooner.
Coaches and Mentors aren’t all created equal and that means you should investigate them thoroughly before parting with your hard earned cash.
Why get a Small Business Mentor
I’m a great believer in free at point of entry services. Finding extra money when you’re in start-up phase can be particularly difficult. And because of that, getting a mentor at such an early stage can seem like a luxury you just can’t afford.
Even though you might have a great idea, setting up a business can be really hard.
You’re in good company if you’ve never run your own business. Most people haven’t and in all other areas of life we would seek help when we don’t know something. Why not this?
The good news is you can be a brilliant business owner as well as successful. You don’t even need the help but, like with anything, support from someone who has done it before can reduce the time it takes for you.
When you are starting out, having a plan is key to progress. It’s not enough just to have an idea you need to find a way to give it context. I still love to plan on paper, writing everything out under different categories and using sticky notes as and when other ideas strike!
Mentors can support you to create a viable business plan. There are a lot of factors they can help you get clear on from income, competitor analysis, processes and start up costs. All of these will help you structure your time and energy to get the most out of the actions you will be taking.
Small Business Identity
Helping you find your own business identity/brand is key to success. This can relate to your ideal client, methods of marketing and everything in between. One of the most common issues when starting out is to focus too much on what competitors are doing. This can mean it’s hard to differentiate your brand and business from everyone elses. A small business mentor support and guides you. Not only on the planning and practical steps you need to take in your business. But also, to make sure that the identity of your business is true to your vision.
The time and knowledge your mentor learned in their own business will benefit you greatly. It will reduce the time you spend back filling things that support your business. It’s like having a guide to getting the basics right, first time. Of course there is no guarantee of success, there are a lot of outside factors. But, a mentor will help guide you and keep you accountable when you need it the most.
What do I offer?
My mentoring package is just £65 per month. Providing guidance, support and practical advice. If you want to find out more, fill in your details below.
I love that there is so much less stigma than there was around this subject than even just 10 years ago.
Of course there’s a long way to go but we are getting better and there are so many more resources out there.
One of the reasons I became self employed was because I genuinely believed it would be mentally healthier for me than my high pressure job. I wasn’t wrong, it has been one of the single best decisions I have ever made but it’s not without it’s own pitfalls.
Starting your own business, going freelance or simply branching out can come with a plethora of triggers that you *could* feel blindsided by.
The great news is that these are all things you can overcome. The bad news is that you should be prepared to do the work. These examples are my own and the improvements have been based on my own experience. I’m not a medical professional – I just know what works for me and wanted to share that with you.
This one is a right bastard. It creeps up on you when everything is going swimmingly and often I find it’s at it’s worst when I spend too much time coveting other peoples business success or lifestyles.
So first things first. Remember who you are. You are an expert in your own experience, in your own point of view and your own business dreams – ONLY YOU are an expert in this area!
It’s this self awareness of your own skill-set, knowledge and experience that has people coming to you. If you walk into a room with someone who is doing something different or someone who is much more experienced in your chosen arena that does not negate your own individual experience, you’re the right fit for people too, this is when you should consider it an incredible opportunity for you to learn, not for you to shrink.
I know, easier said than done. There are a few things I do to make this less of a thing (and we all get it from time to time)
Reduce my mindless scrolling – yep I uninstall IG or take a couple days away from the socials. I always take little breaks during the day or week anyway – I don’t have notifications on because it pulls me in and whilst I’m working or with the family/friends I don’t even pick up my phone. It really does help.
I keep a file with all of the positive feedback I get and look through it from time to time. Reminding myself of the good I’ve done really makes a difference (I actually have a thank you card on my desk from a client who sent me the most beautiful flowers. It really helps)
Dedicate a bit of extra time to do the thing I’m really good at in my business – it always makes me feel good when I have been productive and creative.
Even in my old school reports my teachers would say ‘Amy is her own worst enemy’. I have been known to put things off or cancel things because they aren’t exactly how I think I should have made them. My standards of myself are higher than any anyone else has ever placed on me and less than I would ever place on someone else. It’s a crippling belief and behaviour pattern that can really negatively affect my mental health.
I believe it’s linked to low self esteem and I think that the key to overcoming this is accepting that you wish to be perfect but that there really is no such thing.
Things I do to help:
I give myself realistic deadlines and commit to them
I have a phrase I live by when I am in this mental space and that is ‘done is better than none’
I ask myself outloud in the mirror whether this is just my perfectionism talking. This makes me feel a bit silly and in effect creates a diversion
I wasn’t actually sure what to call this stage. It relates to other peoples opinions and how they affect us. I still remember to this day the boy that told me my teeth were orange and even now I hate smiling and showing teeth. For him it was a throwaway comment (I had just eaten a bag of wotsits) to me it was the gospel truth because it was someone elses belief and I therefore have orange teeth.
When I went self employed I was thrilled and then people started saying things like ‘I must be mad’ or ‘That’s a brave step since you’re probably not going to earn much for a while at least’ and I felt my fear kick in and motivation dwindle. This is so so hard. With the advent of social media and the onslaught of opening ourselves up to other peoples critisism it is really tough not to be brought down by it.
There was a client (a small tech start up) who I had been so excited to work with but ended up having to ‘fire’. As we progressed they wouldn’t share relevant information and made it clear that they thought I should be selling their business to my family (who are very successful in their own fields in silicon valley) when I said no – any pitches would have to go through the normal channels – they told me I wasn’t committed to their business. It hurt because I 100% was committed in the Virtual Assistant role I had but they were asking me to cross my own ethical and moral boundaries by leveraging a familial relationship for their business (they also consistently paid 60 days late!)
I ended our working relationship but I felt bad because they said I wasn’t committed enough. This plays on my mind even now at times because it’s how I’m built.
I certainly don’t have any real tricks to make this easier and I definitely still struggle with wearing the weight of other peoples opinions but I think the best way to overcome is to try to work on your self confidence everyday. That will partly mean taking action and being more decisive, staying authentic and living a life of integrity and to strive to continually grow and build our qualities and strengths. Here are a few things I try to remember when it feels too heavy a burden.
In the words of the great Rachel Hollis, ‘Other peoples opinions of me are none of my business’
The way people talk to or about you is a reflection of them not you.
As long as I am doing right by myself, my son and my family then I am ok regardless of what they think.
This leads on nicely from the last one because self doubt is part of all of us however can be easily combatted if you work on it. My top advice for working on yourself doubt are:
Take action and be decisive (it doesn’t give you the time to slip into the ‘what if’, train of thought)
Accept compliments and actually respond. When someone tells you you did something well say ‘thank you for noticing, I’m glad it was a positive experience for you’ or something along those lines reflective of their compliment WITHOUT justifying what you did or being self deprecating (it’s harder than you think if you’re like me!)
Help other people. This is my go to, firstly it takes me out of my own head but mainly because helping other people is bloody awesome and that makes everyone feel great.
This is going to happen whether you live in meditation on the beach in fiji or whether you’re starting a business from scratch, have screaming triplets and need to milk your own cow.
It is a part of life.
Stress is our body and brains response to an external influencing factor for example, I have to get 50 orders packed tonight and I’m running out of time and the kids need me.
This one sees me ask myself some questions – if the answers don’t help I will call a friend and talk it through.
Am I being honest with myself?
What can I get away with not doing to better support what I MUST do?
Is there anyone I can ask for help
This is much like stress however, it is generally triggered by internal feelings and doesn’t need an outside stresser to trigger it. This one I find hardest to manage of the two because it creeps up on me. But here are a few things I find help reduce my anxiety
Changing my space. If I’m on the sofa watching TV or at my desk writing content and I begin to feel anxious I stop what I’m doing and go to make myself a cup of tea or walk the dog or hang the laundry. Sometimes that is enough of a disruption.
Accept that I am feeling anxious and ask myself why this may be. Sometimes it’s trigger is a real thing and that may need addressing. Sometimes the trigger is just in my head and that may mean I need to change my internal talk and work extra hard on positive affirmations and my internal talk for a little while.
Ask myself – Have I slept enough? Have I drank enough water? Have I spoken with my best friends lately? Normally if I make sure I do one or all of those things I can reduce the level of anxiety dramatically.
Don’t forget I am just at the end of an email firstname.lastname@example.org and if you need more support then you can click NHS MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORTand you’ll find a list of all sorts of UK based support services that can help.
I have shared a little about this before but I wanted to talk to you about what it meant to me as a teenager (14 going on 15) to leave school and how that has affected my life so far.
When I was 14 we relocated, moved 150 miles away to a whole other county. My baby sister wasn’t quite 1 and my brother was in his first year of UNI. Everything was pretty great, new home, new school new friends. Only it really wasn’t.
Unfortunately, there was an issue with matching where I currently sat in the curriculum with the place they were currently teaching from. They didn’t match and I would have to pick up a year of work I was never going to get the opportunity to do in a guided classroom environment. On top of this my chosen subjects from my previous school weren’t even available in my new county so again, I had a whole year to catch up on in new subjects.
It was hard but doable though, in all honesty I didn’t think this at the time.
Unfortunately, I think when you added that pressure to my emotional wellbeing through several huge life changes all happening at once I just stopped. My anxiety went through the roof I could barely leave the house without a panic attack.
I had insomnia and was diagnosed with clinical depression at which point they put me on Prozac. I still had no idea how I was going to get the grades I needed to be able to do the next stage of my journey which I had planned would lead me to university to study English and become a journalist.
After many discussions between the school, local authority and my parents it was felt that it would be best if they deregistered me with a view to doing the ‘resits’ course at our local 6th form college, this never transpired and just months later my parents decided to move back to the town we had originally left.
I was devastated.
Oh don’t get me wrong, I was perfectly happy not having to go to school anymore considering I wasn’t learning anything that I needed to progress. But I still had my heart set on those plans and I was, believe it or not, thrilled to be living in the new town which I loved.
As I had started to get better mentally, I had also gotten myself a job at TK Maxx and I loved that too. Yet another upheaval
It was a pivotal moment in my life.
I discovered that sometimes, the world around you spins differently to your expectation and knocks you off your intended course. It’s had some real effects both positive and negative and I believe that it has been instrumental in where I find myself today.
The discoveries I talk about here can be applied to your freelance business, small business or pivot in your career. Here is what I learned.
Don’t limit yourself to just 1 type of education
It’s not necessary to follow the path traditionally laid out and well trodden by others all the time. You don’t have to stick to only knowing what you know or only learning what you’re innately talented at. Particularly now, the digital world has opened up a plethora of learning opportunities that mean you can diversify your knowledge and expand your joy at the click of a mouse. Learning is available for everyone in everything, you can and should explore different things.
It’s good practice to self reflect
Sometimes, like in my situation, there are circumstances beyond your control. It’s absolutely normal to get caught up in the frustrations of this whether it me a ‘big deal’ like my situation or lots of small day to day ones like most of us experience. It’s important to set some time aside and really think about who you are and who you want to be and when you do reflect, you’ll find you know exactly what you need to let go of in order to do so. It’s a way to recharge AND recalibrate.
Figure out what and who inspires you
When things are up and down like a wild wave it can be hard to see the safety of dry land. It’s this time when you most need to feel engaged and inspired. I hope that you all find things within yourself that inspire and motivate you and ignite your spark but undoubtedly there will be times when that’s too difficult. It’s important to have a medicine bag of things, places, people and activities that inspire you so that when you need it you have easy access to it.
Be open to unusual opportunities
When you have been pivoted of course in the way I was you really learn to open up to possibilities. It has been allowing myself to be open to doing something different that ultimately has led to some of the most amazing experiences of my life. So stay open, you never know what’s around the corner.
When in doubt, action it out
I’ve written about having a bias for action before but this is key. When you are pivoted for reasons beyond your control it can feed into your self esteem and raise the ugly head of self doubt. I find that always, this is lessened by simply doing something. The act of doing is the medication for self doubt.
I needed more help than I got when I was trying to find my way, and now in a much more digital world than even 24 years ago, there is so much white noise around everything you might have an inkling to do. I created this FREE epic guide to freelancing and small business. Sign up for your copy below.
I try to share all the good, bad and ugly of building a business in this online world as a woman, mother and self confessed introvert. When it is going well I cannot find the words to share how amazing it is.
You wake up ready to take everything on, you’re productive, fun and full of that kind of charisma you see on Oprah from incredible business women. YOU HAVE GOT THIS.
But, it would be remiss of me not to discuss with you some of the oitfalls too. Like the fact that I realised I hadn’t left the house for over a week except to walk the dog recently. Or the lack of understanding over your schedule with the ones you love (Yes, often I have to remind people that I am actually doing my job at 11am in the morning – even though I’m wearing leggings and share the desk with my Jack Russell)
Lets kick straight into the money talk because lets face it, it’s normally the thing that either holds you back from or entices you to start working for yourself. There are a few key points to remember about money.
Nobody and I mean nobody is an overnight success. Anyone selling you a get rich quick idea needs to step off so that you can build a get rich well business.
Taxes, these aren’t as scary as you think BUT there are ways to make that process better. Leaving them till the last possible second and then realising you can’t login and have to request access and are then past the time limit is not one of them (guilty!). No, preparation and organisation may not be sexy but both of those things are sanity savers and will prevent you from getting unnecessary fines. Look with love at your simple system and let that bad boy look after you the way he should.
You wont be able to draw the exact same money every month as a salary for a while. It will be up and down and will only really start becoming regular when you’re better established. That’s not to say you can’t be established in 3 months it’s just a reminder that you don’t have a boss therefore it’s not someone elses job to pay you.
You should always know 2 things a) your survival budget – you know that base amount you need to cover each month to live and b) that you may need to do other things at the start to help you support your business dream (for example side hustles.) and that’s ok.
You will have to put yourself out there
My first 3 clients were all people I had previously worked with, after that I realised that clients were not going to fall into my lap. I am naturally quite shy and whilst I mask this very well, the process of putting myself out there is still something I find really bloody hard. If you want to establish yourself quickly this will be one of the biggest keysto your success.
In person networking
You Tube videos
Telling everyone you meet what you do and leaving them with a way to connect with you
None of these come naturally to me and yet I still have to do them. If you really can’t face them then I think your only way around building an authentic presence is to throw money at ads and even then it’s not guaranteed.
This is something that is essential to your success but is also one of the hardest things to sort out. I cross out every Wednesday and make sure I have that off. I also make sure that I do the same if we are going away BUT often in the early stages of business it feels impossible. For one you are constantly thinking about the business and just don’t switch off and two if you’re not working you may not be earning.
This might mean that at the start you have to front load time off (do an extra piece of paid work leading up to the time off in order to cover the lost income whilst you’re off) or you may have to still work whilst you’re away if so you’ll need to set yourself strict guidelines around this.
Either way, time off can be challenging but it is essential!
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