Celebrating two years of business

Tomorrow it will be two years to the day since TheWayoftheWeb became a business as well as a blog. It’s slightly surreal to think how fast that time has gone. Despite the fact I seem to have a habit of projects coinciding with family events which should help me remember anniversaries, it was only in a conversation on Monday that I realised 24 months has passed.

In that time I’ve gone from sole trader to Limited Company, worked on a large number of diverse client projects, partnered with some other great small businesses and freelancers to grow the available resource, survived some big changes in my personal life, and learned an amazing amount about how to work, how to run a business, and most importantly, about myself.

It’s a reminder to thank a huge number of people for their continued support – whether that’s my parents for always being there, the former employer who gave me the first piece of freelance work that kicked things off, all the clients who have invested in my services, and the friends and contacts who have offered invaluable support, encouragement and advice. Naming every single one of them would probably turn this into the longest article ever written, but I really and truly value the input of everyone.

That also includes a large number of people who I have never met in the flesh, but have supported, advised or helped with a huge variety of things via Twitter, Facebook, email, Skype etc.

 

How did I get here? What did I learn?

When I initially became self-employed, I’d always thought about running my own business. I’d dabbled with my own websites in some spare time and dreamed about doing it for real, but also had a family and home to support from what had been a regular wage for large media companies.

Initially, I told myself I was doing it in the short term to pay the bills, and that I’d probably go back to working for someone else fairly soon. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid having to sign on for unemployment benefits even when I went through a long period of applying for entry level media jobs (Instead I enjoyed myself delivering washing machines, packing fruit, cleaning supermarkets etc), and so preferred to keep my skills sharp by taking the first few projects I was able to get.

And for the first few months it was very tight. Any savings vanished, some bills had to wait a while, and my earnings were negligible, but with the support of some very key people I was able to scrape by and slowly work started to come in at a higher pace.

But that didn’t mean it became easy. Every new client and new piece of work provided a new challenge, whether it was getting things done and achieving success, or just managing a growing client list. But after being interviewed and even offered some amazing full-time roles, I realised that I was turning them down for valid reasons, but also because I was becoming more and more in love with running my own business.

Since then TheWayoftheWeb has gone from bloke at dining room table on an aging laptop, to a virtual agency with a core group of regular freelance staff. The dining room table has become an office, and the aging laptop has been replaced and supplemented with monitors, printers, etc. I’ve learned which tools and software to invest in to make life more manageable, and I’ve become more fired up and determined than ever to continue to grow things in the right way in the future.

At some point I’ll delve into more detail, but seven of the main things I’ve learned:

  1. Plan and invest in the right support at the start in terms of Accounts, Legal and Project Management. The longer you leave it, the more work and expense you’ll face to fix it. Especially at tax time.
  2. Do the hardest stuff first each day and don’t put it off. It’s easy to convince yourself you’ll get around to something you hate, but running your own business means ‘the boss’ has the opportunity to ignore it indefinitely. See the first advice on the time and expense that’ll involve eventually.
  3. Use the right tools. For me, that includes Freshbooks for invoicing, and Trello, Basecamp and LiquidPlanner for project management. I also use a range of tools for SEO analysis, social media monitoring, web hosting etc. It’s worth investing the money for the right tool, and the time to learn how to use them properly.
  4. Plan a large amount of your time for managing and communicating with clients, paying bills, general business admin and working with anyone you sub-contract. You’ll never get to spend all your time just on the work itself.
  5. Also plan on investing in your office, whether remotely or at home. The 4 Hour Work Week is a nice idea, but doesn’t happen for most of us, especially early on. Things like a decent chair, desk, second monitor, etc are all worthwhile investments. As is making your office more enjoyable with pictures and plants. Don’t overlook things like Spotify for music etc when you’re at home, and decent headphones for the coffee shop/client office.
  6. Get focused – it’s easy to get caught up in social networks and email. In my case, it’s often part of my work, and so I can’t even turn it off to avoid distraction. That means becoming more and more disciplined about what you’re doing and why. It doesn’t mean you can’t tweet during the day, or comment on a picture, but invest in a timer or time management programme and let yourself have fun for 5-10 minutes as a break between work. Not a replacement for it.
  7. And finally, when you run your own business it can completely dominate your life and every waking thought. Make a conscious decision and effort to dedicate time to non-work activity, particularly if you have a family. Working for yourself doesn’t have to mean financial insecurity for ever, or for you to miss out on the rest of your life, but it will expand like a gas to fill every available minute if you let it.

Who knows what the next two years will bring. I’m still learning, facing new challenges and enjoying myself on the whole more than ever before. I’ve become used to the rollercoaster each day between elation and despair which I think everyone experiences, even when things are going smoothly!

Hopefully I’ll be running a bigger business, which enables more people to build their own careers in the location and way they want, whilst working with me to provide solutions in the way clients need. But even if I decide that I need a change, or I fall in love with a particular company and become employed again, I’ll always be proud to know I made it this far.

Due to work, any proper celebrations involving beer will have to wait till the weekend. But that’s fine, because I really do enjoy what I do, even the achievement of completing the bits I hate like tax returns. And to paraphrase Seth Godin, why do a job that you hate so much you spend all your time looking to escape it?

P.S. I know that I said I wouldn’t name people, I really do have to thank Tim for his amazing help during some difficult times, and Oscar for always being the ultimate in inspiration.

Comments

  1. Good sir – its been a while since we spoke. But I’ve been reading your posts/updates – and am so glad it is going well ๐Ÿ™‚ Speak soon.

    • Cheers Mr Davies – It’s been much too long, but I’m chuffed you’re able to find time to keep up with my posts given the amount of work and events in your own life in the last couple of years.
      Glad it’s going well for you too – and enjoying the occasional picture of your family picnics on Facebook etc!

  2. Sandra Morrison says:

    Many thanks for your commitment and invaluable contribution to our business(es) for almost all of those 2 years. Congratulations.

    • Cheers Sandra. Here’s to hoping I can continue and improve on that level of contribution in the future, as it’s a great team to work with and two business (es) which deserve success!

  3. Good luck Dan, you deserve it all! BTW, I suggest you 2 following tools,
    in case you’ll need them – very powerful and free version works just
    fine ๐Ÿ™‚
    – Vyew (https://vyew.com)
    – Paymo (https://app.paymo.biz).

    Best regards, Ivica

  4. Good luck Dan, you deserve it all! BTW, I suggest you 2 following tools,
    in case you’ll need them – very powerful and free version works just
    fine: Vyew (https://vyew.com) and Paymo (https://app.paymo.biz).

    Best regards, Ivica

  5. Good luck Dan, you deserve it all! BTW, I
    suggest you 2 following tools, in case you’ll need them – very powerful
    and free version works just fine ๐Ÿ™‚
    Vyew (https://vyew.com) and Paymo (https://app.paymo.biz).

    Best regards, Ivica

  6. Hey Dan! Congrats on your success! 2 years is a long time and I’m sure that they’ll be many more to come!