Happy birthday to Bulldog Accounting, we're a year old!
This time last year I took a massive leap of faith and quit my full time job to start up something of my own. It has been in equal parts terrifying and exhilarating, emotional and affirming. The switch of moving from being an employee to working for myself has absolutely changed my life and I'm so proud of making it to my first anniversary relatively unscathed.
Some thoughts on what I've learned so far:
1. Twitter is surprisingly useful.
Before setting up my business twitter account - @bulldog_ac - I had only tweeted to make the rail company refund me my unused season ticket (which worked). I really only started the business account out of curiosity, and because for a month or so I didn't have a huge amount to do. What a great decision! I have made friends, acquired clients and found out all sorts of things I would never have known otherwise. I feel so much more connected, even if most of what I post is pictures of Esme, or notes on what I've been up to.
The best bits have been tweet chats (I'll usually be found on #HertsHour on a Monday, and #SuccessHour on a Tuesday) which have given me access to a whole range of lovely local businesses whose support, advice and general conversation has been superbly helpful.
2. Find your own path.
People LOVE to share their expertise with you, especially when you're just starting out. This is wonderful, up to a point. I've had so many people tell me what I should and shouldn't be doing from a sales perspective that if I tried to follow all the advice I'd spend pretty much my whole day running around like a headless chicken. Being naturally a bit belligerent, I have ignored all but the very best tips, and gone instead with my gut. It seems to be working so far, and I feel authentically invested in how I am engaging with people. Yes I could probably have grown faster, yes I could probably make more money, but its important to me to be genuine and to take things at my own pace. It seems to be working so far.
3. The buck stops with you.
This is kind of obvious, but as a small business owner - and at the moment, a sole practitioner, you have the freedom and the terror of being ultimately culpable for all your decisions. There are a lot of decisions. Just as when you first move into a house you have the freedom to decorate, its amazing how many things you need to be thinking about. Which website provider? What software? Which head-shot is the best representation of what I'm trying to do? Is it ok to just plaster pictures of my bulldog all over the internet and hope someone wants me to do their accounts? I am still navigating this one but my main thought is just don't rush it. Ask questions, look around, speak to your friends and other businesses. You don't have to have everything perfect straight away. If its really important, it should become obvious and so long as you keep learning you will be fine.
4. Be nice to yourself.
It is easy to get wound up about getting everything done, and very difficult to switch off. Balance is the elusive goal we're all searching for. I've worked a lot of evenings and weekends, but I've also had a lot of mid-afternoon dog walks and couple of personal days. I get the guilts quite badly when I feel I haven't done enough, but on the other hand, none of my clients have complained about the service they're getting which is good! A lot of my downtime is actually spent thinking about the business so I probably "work" a lot more hours than I think I do, even if I'm not being outwardly productive.
5. Don't get hung up on goals.
Goals are great but I've shied away from them somewhat in my first year. Partly because I wanted to see what worked and then decide what to do next, and partly because I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself. I have a few things I'd like to achieve over the next year, but they are loose and subject to change. I've really enjoyed the lack of structure and its been so much fun just following my nose as things come up (which they really do!) Broadly speaking, now I've got a year of financials under my belt I'll do some more strategic thinking but its worked fine for me so far without much of a plan. This may be because accountancy is quite a rigid profession and the boundaries of what I am able to offer are clear - I'm not sure how this would go over in a more creative profession!
So. Thank you to everyone who has engaged, chatted, posted, referred and used my services this year its been incredible and I'm SUPER excited about the future.