Two years ago I was employed by Cornwall Council, and starting to wonder whether my team would make it through the next round of job cuts. Funnily enough, it turned out the answer was ‘no’.
Six months later, I was receiving official notification of redundancy, and winning my first tender as HD Words. The Garrack Hotel in St Ives made a lovely client, showing me round, putting together a tasting platter from the restaurant, and being generally very friendly!
A year ago, officially set free from the Council, I was starting to discover that life as a self-employed person was a little less stable than as an employee, but a lot less political. Having to go and look for my customers was taking more time than I had anticipated, but the actual writing was just as I had hoped – varied, interesting, and good fun.
Snap forward to now, where I have clients who greet me with a hug (Trenance chocolates,* and others), people who recognise me from previous events and with whom I can pick up conversations, a client who allowed me into the Royal Cornwall Show on his spare exhibitor ticket, in return for baby-sitting his stand at lunchtime (Jeremy at Handmade in Cornwall), and many other lovely people.
I am thankful
* my work for Trenance hasn’t gone online yet, not wishing to claim what’s not mine!
There are a few things I’ve learned in the last two years:
Which is silly. Getting my spelling right is my job, not yours. You getting your spelling wrong means there’s a job for me to do – I truly don’t mind! Also, your expertise is in some other area. I’m not an artist, or an expert chef, or able to make things with wood, like you can, so why should I expect you to be great with words. That’s my skill.
Small businesses are affected by all sorts of unexpected things around them
I’ve had potential clients waiting for the end of Christmas, or the lull before Christmas, before they get in touch. I’ve had them waiting for good weather (fencing), or bad weather (tourist industry). I’ve waited for illnesses to pass, their own or other people’s, court proceedings, the end of term, the beginning of term, Crufts… You name it!
If that’s you, then I’m still here, and I’m happy to wait till you’re ready.
I’ve learned to dread that ‘so how much do you charge?’ question. My standard answer has become more vague as time has gone on. Some flinch, some sigh with relief, depending on what they were expecting me to say, so I’m playing a very tough game of poker with some people.
Some people pay up almost before I’ve sent them the invoice. Some people have had their computers swallow the invoice and then paid up late with huge apologies. And every stop on the line in between.
A client doesn’t always look like what I think a client looks like
I visited the Royal Cornwall Show last weekend, for the second time under the HD Words hat, looking for clients. This means talking to stallholders, and asking them if my services might be relevant to their business. Last year I talked to an awful lot of people who were polite but said ‘no thanks’. This year I went in with a more strategic approach, and a better idea of which businesses might have a need for my services. Hence I walked past a lot more stands this year.
I was pleasantly surprised by the positive response I got from the people I had stereotyped as potential customers, which I shouldn’t have been, really. I know my way around a bit more this year, so I ought to be able to recognise them.
I was also delighted to find that there were stallholders who were interested who hadn’t appeared on my radar at all, prior to the show. Which is good, as it means I have a wider appeal than the market I’ve been cultivating recently.
Not to be disheartened
A quiet patch isn’t the end of the world. The nice people at the bank might be a little concerned, but it’s truly not the end of the world. It’s just a quiet patch.
It’s time to do some training, do lots of marketing, blog some, get the finances in order (cue noises like a cat with a furball…) and go to the gym more.
The busy patch will come, if you’ve done the marketing, the training, the blogging…
I am still thankful.