In 2009 I stood on a precipice. Below me were risk, self doubt, financial instability and financial dependence. Above me was my dream, my own business, flexible working hours, job fulfillment and creativity. I steeled myself and made the climb. It's now three years later and I am just as excited about how my business will develop as I was then, but this time I've dropped the self doubt, my heaviest burden and taken on board experience which is my greatest asset.
I started writing this blog on Day One of my journey and came across it this morning and realised it's high time I updated on how it's going. In a nutshell: Worth it.
Once I got my first couple of successful projects under my belt - obtained principally by luck, discounting services to offset the lack of experience and delivering over and above client expectations (these are not the jobs that will make you money but set the ball rolling) - I got them photographed professionally and looking gorgeous. I tweeted, I facebooked, I blogged. But key to this I found out where my market were - I couldn't afford wastage (I discovered this the hard way after wasting money on 3 print ads in a local magazine which gave, me zero leads) I could only afford to know that my business was in front of the right people, with the right profile, in the right area all of the time.
I honed in on one local Mums network website, placed an ad for a pittance (due to them being so small) in the Homes and Garden section and posted in the forums regularly. Links back to my website, fantastic client testimonials I had gathered, advice and answers to posts on electricians, plasterers - just to be helpful and become part of the fabric of the community. My ad to the left, my content in the forums each backing the other up. A slow drip-feed approach where I was always there but not always trying to flog myself. And the calls started to slowly come.
I realised this community wanted help but didn't want to spend masses of money. I had to ask myself what did they really want and whether I would be prepared to have a higher volume lower yield type of business. Not the usual way Interior Designers work but at the early stages of the business the more people you come in to contact with the wider your potential network as they spread the love on your behalf. Spending six months holed up on one project although finiancially more rewarding was not going to stimulate word-of-mouth as much.
I created easy-to-digest set packages with memorable names. An entry level service called 'Cheap and Chic' was an attractive prospect to the commitment phobe, a set price and some invaluable design advice. Benefit to me was the minimal hassle factor as I wasn't project managing and benefit to them was they knew what they were getting and how much it would cost. The elusive win-win.
Just as the projects started to take off and I was beginning to make some money I could live off, I fell pregnant. I was elated but knew Emma Victoria ID was going to have to be shut down whilst I went on maternity. I didn't trust my business to anyone else although I had offers - my reputation was and is everything to me and I must be in control of that.
I have recently started back after 7 months off - I worked up until two weeks before I had my baby, winding down my projects. The pot of money I had amassed was all gone by the time I returned - phone bills, insurance premiums, accountants fees, all put pay to that. My bank, Natwest, decided to remove my overdraft facility from my business account due to inactivity despite the fact I had never used it before now. Apparently maternity is not a suitable reason for business inactivty and I had been charged for going in to a non-existent overdraft as I had not been informed it had been removed either. Way to support working mothers and entrepreneurs. Epic fail.
I work two days a week at my home office, my partner pays my Mum to nanny for us, when I start earning enough again I will take over that payment. I have access to my little boy whenever I want but I still get work done. I re-designed and re-decorated my office whilst I was pregnant ready for when I would be going back. The set-up is everything I'd hoped it would be when I dreamed of having my own business and working it with my children. I had been worried it would take me another two years to get things rolling but after re-populating my website with new images and re-posting on the Mums website and asking my previous clients from the site to post in support, The inbox started dinging. I've just taken on my first job four weeks after returning.
My bank account is as bare as Mother Hubbard's cupboard but at least this time I know it won't be for long.