One year in…what have I learnt
This April, we celebrated Limeslade turning two and a year since I joined the team. In some ways I look back and think joining Limeslade was a moment of madness. In others, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
The year has flown by, and it’s been a fantastic experience. But it’s not been all smooth sailing. There were some aspects of working for myself that I wasn’t prepared for.
I originally wrote this blog to share on our birthday, but I thought it was a little negative and shelved it. Since then, I spoke at a Built by Us event at Build Studios (our office) for budding entrepreneurs. Joining me on the panel were Juliet Heap and Claire Truman who recently set up their own businesses. Though our experiences were different, there were some common themes. That made me rethink sharing this blog with you. With a little luck what follows will be helpful. And for those of you a little further along than us, does it ring true?
This was undoubtably the biggest shock to my system. It was one of the few things that has made me consider whether this path was for me. I’m definitely a people person. I was always in trouble for talking too much at school. No matter where I’ve worked I’ve always developed a reputation for being chatty. It’s this aspect of my personality that led me down this career path in the first place.
My previous role was in a large company, working with over 50 colleagues on a daily basis. When I joined Limeslade, we didn’t even have an office. I began spending much of my days working from home, sometimes not speaking to a single person for 8 hours of the day.
After a few months it began to take its toll. I discovered Build Studios. A social enterprise, co-working space for start-up companies working in the built environment sector, it’s been a real life-line.
We decided to take a flexible approach to office working, and this seems to work really well. We tend to be in the office a couple of days a week and face to face working time helps us focus better on our clients’ needs. It’s also nice to be able to have a chat around the coffee machine with some of the other residents.
Eat Sleep Work Repeat
It’ll come as no surprise that starting a new business takes a lot of work. Be prepared for late nights and early mornings. Balancing client work, your business and winning more work is a big challenge. In the last year it has felt like I’m never off duty.
The dreams of flexible working and taking down-time on your terms never seem materialise. Yes, we can take a Friday afternoon off. As a result, I’ll spend it feeling guilty about the work piling up and working on Sunday evening to make up for it.
Even when you are ‘off duty’, you’re never really able to switch off. You’re constantly thinking about the things you need to get done. Waking up in the middle of the night to text a new idea to one another and wondering where you’ll find the time to fit it all in.
The amount of admin involved in running a business is enormous. We often underestimate how much time we spend working for our business. We’re hoping to rectify some of that in the coming month with our new assistant Rachel who some of our clients might hear from (mostly if you don’t pay your bills!).
When you work for an established company, many things are taken care of for you. Need to pay an invoice – there’s a team for that. Chase an outstanding payment – finance department is on it. Book a train and a hotel for a client meeting – someone will arrange that for you.
Now all these things and more need to be done ourselves. We’ve had to become IT technicians when we have issues with our laptops. We’re the finance director when we need to figure out profit or loss. We have to sort our own catering (and of course, our own parties!).
One of the most time-consuming tasks is setting up the infrastructure you often take for granted. When you start a new job, you’re often given training on all the systems. Like them or loathe them, you soon figure out how to use them to do your job.
When you start a business, none of these exist. Deciding which CRM or invoicing software to use may not sound too difficult. But it takes more time than you think. You’re also limited by your budget and size. Finding a software that does what you need and is easy to work with is a challenge. It’s often a matter of trial and error. You’ll find as your business evolves these things no longer do the trick and it’s back to the drawing board.
It sounds strange but starting your own business really knocks your confidence. We started Limeslade because we knew we were good at what we do. We have the experience, references and success stories to back that up. But you often find yourself questioning your abilities.
If you’ve bumped into one of us lately and asked how things are going, you’ve probably heard us say “we’re surviving”. This little phrase, so often used, really does us no justice. Yes it’s been hard work. Yes we’ve had sleepless nights and wondered if we should give it all up and get a proper job. But we’re actually doing much better than we give ourselves credit for. Hopefully, as time goes on this will stop feeling like an experiment. I look forward to the day when we become comfortable celebrating our achievements.
(Written by Annie, Posted by Stuart)