Let there be light.
Sometimes, just sometimes, the screamingly obvious in self-employment comes along and flicks on a light switch. But this ain’t no common or garden 60W tungsten, this is one which really illuminates the shadowy corners of your business brain.
And sometimes you really, really wish that the switch had been flicked just a bit sooner. Because let’s face it, we all need those moments of dazzling clarity when we’re stumbling around in the dark of start-up. And the sad truth is that when you’re running a small biz, the answer to a thorny problem is often something that’s been staring you right in the fizzog all along.
However, finding the right lightbulb, let alone enjoying the eureka moment when the bloody thing actually comes on, is surprisingly difficult amongst a veritable Blackpool illumination of ideas and advice.
It’s not all twilight zone, of course, the enterprise agencies do provide a wide range of advice and information. But the sheer amount of it is dazzling – and not necessarily in a good way. Think rabbit. Think headlights.
At the beginning of business you need all the help you can get. Or at least, that’s what you think you need. But actually the amount of information available is not just overwhelming, it can be confusingly contradictory. Remember? Rabbit. Headlines. Etc. Trying to work out what you actually need to know and what can be directed straight to the cerebral shredder sure can turn your business brain power down to the faintest glimmer.
I’m a few months into the sole-trading system now, but I still feel like a blithering entrepreneurial eejit a lot of the time. It’s not that I’m doing things wrong exactly, in fact, there’s plenty going right with Word Up (my undying thanks go to those who have shown faith, support and real, live work thus far). It’s just that there’s still so much brightness still needed to illuminate the darker, shadowy areas where lack of knowledge and know-how knock about.
But help is at hand. It’s no real surprise that the most useful sources of entrepreneurial support and guidance are those who have been there, seen that and done the spreadsheet. The guiding lights, in other words.
These are the business big sisters and brothers who help you have the confidence to take those first faltering steps. It is they who pick you up, give you a business brush down, and send you back out into the world of commerce, without stabilisers. And, even better, they’re usually not far behind if you have a wobble, or fall off.
Sometimes the self-employed siblings just give you a gentle steer or a virtual pat on the head. Sometimes they point out that you’re being a bit of a tit. But most often it’s they who help you most when you’re blundering around in the gloom.
So, after a challenging round of dead ends recently, when I was fretting and freaking out about finding new clients, one splendid and supportive soul in sole-trading flicked my light switch well and truly on.
She told me that in the early months of her business, she just got on the phone. On the phone to every single person she ever knew in her long, pre self-employment career. People who know, like and respect her. People she’s built relationships and trust with over a long time.
She simply calls them and asks if they can give her some work. She doesn’t sound desperate, she isn’t grasping and greedy, she isn’t cold-calling or corporate, slimy or sleazy. She just asks, and she asks nicely.
It couldn’t be more obvious, really.
It’s not that I wasn’t doing it, I just wasn’t doing it very well. But now that the light has well and truly come on, it’s back to basics for this particular part of the business plan for me, old chums.
I look forward to speaking to you soon.