Working in an organisation to running your own business 2

I have over the course of the past 15 years or so had the pleasure of working for both large businesses, being self-employed, working for a small web design company helping it grow to be a large(ish) web design business and back to being self-employed again, running a small web design business alongside my partner (in life and business) from our home in Kendal. Each of these experiences come with their highs and lows but without wanting to or willing to write ‘war and peace’ I’ll start by taking a step back to Autumn 2014 when we first discussed working together.

Sowing the seed (well it was Autumn after all):

Having both undergone life altering changes our outlook on life, particularly work had altered massively. Of course I can only speak for myself and Eilidh has already, and wisely written about her take on this. I had become as they say an autobot, not of the transformer type but that of someone turning up for work, long forgotten were the days of excitement and creativity but now it was all about the numbers and filing and pen pushing. It didn’t strike me as something someone like me should be doing, I have never been a people pleaser nor a pen pusher, a ‘who can we blame for this’ or a ‘please refer to our terms and conditions’ type of guy. With that in mind after nearly 7 years I handed in my notice. Some may say I was crazy given that I had a steady job and a good wage with benefits, but to me happiness is much more than that. I wanted to get rewards from working with and helping people and businesses with their problems, to be able to look them in the eye and speak to them on the phone, not to be restricted based on their contract or their perceived value to the business.

Watching it grow (yes, pun intended):

One thing I did enjoy immensely was being part of something in the early stages and helping it grow. This time however, there’ll be two of us (for now at least) working on the plan of where we want our business to be in a year’s time and beyond – I think it’s what people in the know call a business plan. What’s interesting and exciting is speaking to other businesses, many of which are run by couples who are genuinely interested to hear what we’ve got to say. When we were in the early planning stages of course we were confident that we’d win work, however the reality is when you pick up the phone that confidence suddenly disappears, there’s a whole load of thoughts and emotions running through your head that say “Why would they want to work with us”. But then before you know it, you’re putting the phone down and jumping around in excitement because you’ve arranged a first meeting with a potential new client. Again this is something I have experienced before, Eilidh has written on her experiences on Sales (or business development as we rightly call it. We are not suited and booted sales people after all…). I will say this; it’s as exciting and invigorating, as it was the first time round, more so when it’s your own business.

Who we work with:

Of course as we’re running a business, the bottom line is we need to earn money to succeed (I’m sure that nugget of wisdom has shocked no one). However as our overheads are minimal, we work from home where the most costly thing to run is a close call between our collective coffee addiction and Bryn (the office / house Labrador, depending on the time of day), we can be selective about whom we choose to work with. We’re based in Kendal and of course a number of our clients are based here too but our net has already been cast wider and we currently work with people from London to the Scottish Borders. Sales pitch over… No, in all seriousness we’ve enjoyed the new relationships we’ve developed with clients. Some are with familiar faces, clients who chose to come over to Freshspace because they, dare I say it, like the ‘fresh’ approach we offer, or that we are a voice on the end of a phone or an email if that suits them. In terms of my own self esteem self-esteem it’s been nice hearing people say they’re happy to come over to Freshspace because it’s me they previously liked working with in my past employment. On a personal level I’ve enjoyed seeing those relationships grow and flourish as they’ve got to know Eilidh. We are after all a partnership, we’re not a one man (or woman) band and we share things equally. In fact in terms of new clients it’s Eilidh who’s made the first contact that has led to that first meeting, it’s a wonderful feeling being part of a partnership in its infancy and I enjoy seeing that smile and Scottish jig – well you didn’t think with a name like Eilidh that she would be English did you?

What next for Freshspace?

As the leaves settle and we move into Winter, we’re taking stock of how far we’ve come in a small space of time, we’re on target to meet our anticipated turnover, we’ve got around 20 clients and expect that to increase before the years out with a few projects already in the planning for the New Year. As I sit and reflect on the changes to our working lives over the past year I can confidently say I wouldn’t change anything. It has been without a doubt one of the biggest life changing decisions, one that had I not done I would have looked and wondered what if; that’s not something I have to do now. It’s full steam ahead and we’re both looking forward to the seeds starting to show in spring as the business goes from strength to strength.

Article by Eilidh Nicholls