Since leaving employement to start my own businesses, I’ve had to come to terms with a constant worry which I wanted to share in case the way I’ve changed my outlook can help someone else.
Basically, I’m working on busineses in three areas. There’s freelance marketing, web design and development, and lastly a small media network as a side project/spare time project. Although it might seem like I’m juggling too many disparate ideas, there’s actually a lot of overlap between all three, so it seems to be working pretty well.
But keeping on top of industry trends and changes in technology means monitoring various sources, and along with the useful information came a source of constant worry. Every day comes with proclamations that social media as a specialism is dead (It’s one of my main strengths in marketing), or the news a large firm has launched a specialist division purely for social media. Or claims that freelancers and small digital agencies are destined to die out soon. Or that a firm in the same market has received lots of funding. Or that there’s yet another media company starting a site in the same area as one of mine.
I could keep piling up the worries, but essentially it felt like as a one, two, or three man operation that the forces of the world were aligning against everything I was working towards.
But eventually I came to a startingly realisation that has stopped my worries in their tracks and allowed me to focus on what’s important.
I don’t actually give a f**k.
(Pardon the language, but few other words can convey the appropriate force needed for the strength of my conviction here).
There are a few reasons this makes sense for me, and allows me to still read the same information, but focus on whether there’s anything actually useful I can learn or utilise, rather than focusing on the threats.
1. I need to concentrate on what I’m doing above all else. Most of my business comes from referrals and that will continue as long as I do a good job. I’d guess that very few existing or prospective clients will be reading everything that appears in the social network echo chamber, or value that more than a solid example and explanation from their contacts of why they may wish to hire me. If I’m paralysed with worry and screwing up anything regarding their account – that’s the absolute biggest threat and mistake I’ll ever make.
2. I’m not competing with the largest agencies on a global scale – yet. And I may never get there, but that’s OK. Starting a business comes with the mythic expectation that success resembles a Branson or Zuckerberg level of achievement. But actually, success can look a lot different, and in my case, my first 9 months has been a huge success for a couple of reasons:
- I’m earning at least as much as I was when employed, which means bills are covered, the family is provided for, and this is sustainable for the foreseeable future.
- I’m working as hard as ever, but I’m able to be more flexible with my time, which means I have more opportunities to be with my family, or grab time for personal projects. No unnecessary commuting, meetings, browsing places for lunch etc. Counting up my output, I’ve produced more measurable stuff in the last few weeks than I probably ever achieved, yet I’ve had more time to relax, recharge and invest in myself and my family.
- There’s a huge untapped market out there: Sure, there are a lot of companies already doing a good job of digital marketing, and a lot of competitors looking for new business. But that still leaves a hell of a lot more people to speak to, and it’s a market big enough to last a fair while.
- And finally, if it does turn out that digital marketing is completely doomed in 3 months, or noone is bothering to read my websites, then that’s OK, because as a tiny company, I/We can change in an instant. There are plenty of new and interesting opportunities out there which I’ve thought about but decided not to pursue at the moment. And there will be more coming. Regardless of how flexible larger companies will try and be, it’s always going to be easier for a small group to change practically overnight. And that’s fun!
There’s probably a load of stuff I’ve missed, but the essential lesson that I’m constantly relearning at the moment is not to worry about the things we cannot change, and focus on the ones we can. There’s more than enough to worry about in running any freelance or small business, and when I get big enough for them to be a legitimate problem, I’ll have more than enough resource to be able to tackle them head on.
The final thing that has also helped has been revisiting my immediate, 3 and 5 year plans. I don’t believe in having a 3 or 5 year strategy, as that always becomes too rigid, so I’ve taken a leaf from 37 Signals and created a 3 or 5 year idea, which is always subject to evolution. And when planning goes into years, one or two lines in more than enough to convey the gist of what I’m aiming for. It’s the weekly, monthly, and 3-6 month plan that has the detail and the importance attached – anything beyond that is approaching fortune telling.
So did anyone else feel the same about their freelancing or small businesses? How did/do you cope? And have I helped you at all?