Why setting up your own business is exactly like being single
As some of you may already know, I have had the somewhat misfortune of becoming both single (for the first time in six years) and unemployed within the last twelve months. Don’t worry, this is not a tragic ‘woe-is-me’ tale of misery. A lot of GREAT things have happened in this time too, I moved to Brixton and therefore needed to up my edginess game by about 3000% (I went with buying dungarees rather than buying a hoverboard and getting a face tattoo). Plus I have started the epic Mac&Moore journey that you will have all been reading about on this blog!
So for your delight, entertainment and general lols I have decided to draw a direct comparison between some of the new things we’ve encountered whilst setting up Mac&Moore with being a #singlelady.
1) It’s pretty terrifying
Tinder. Bothering to shave your legs. Going on first dates. Going on second dates. When you’ve never had to deal with any of this caper before, the entire looming prospect of it all is enough to make you want to go into hibernation and emerge as a sweet old lady with a full beard and be done with the lot of it. And setting up a business when all you’ve ever known is safe, lovely, fulltime permanent contracts is enough to make you want to retire immediately (as if). With both the fear is well and truly in the unknown: how do you even set up a business? How on earth do you pay your own tax? What does an invoice look like? Turns out the answers lay in the people around me. I had no idea until I properly thought about it how many people close to me were freelancers or owned small businesses. And as they had all been in my quivering shoes before they were more than happy to share their wisdom. Once I'd broken everything down into handy bite-sized chunks, the fear factor was dramatically reduced.
2) ‘Putting yourself out there’
I was told very early on about the importance of this. You can’t peep out from behind the curtains and expect to find a date OR any new business. It was scary though, Jess and I didn’t know what the reaction would be, would people laugh in our faces? What would happen when we first stated our day rate? We are not salespeople, and yet we've had to very quickly learn how to promote both ourselves and our services. Turns out the best way to deal with these internal questions is to just ignore them and do it anyway. The result has been many great meetings with wicked people who we’re now working with (or working on it!).
3) The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
I was given some excellent advice upon my first venture into the dating world:
‘You’ll go on some great dates. Some that you’ll want to leave within the first five minutes. Some that you WILL leave within the first five minutes’.
Some people you click with instantly and four hours (and four cocktails) goes by quicker than you can say swipe right, and some will be so horrifying that not even an £18 bowl of Spaghetti Carbonara can salvage. The same is true of meetings. Jess and I have been fortunate enough to have a lot of meetings over the last six weeks of setting up. It’s been amazing and absolutely inspirational to hear people sharing their honest tales of #goingsolo (many of which you’ll see on this very blog), but the main thing to remember is that not every bit of advice you get is going to be helpful. In fact, many will directly contradict each other. We had an experience recently in which someone tried to (quite forcefully) tell us what we should do with the direction of our business. Both Jess and I knew straight away that it wasn't what we wanted but we gritted our teeth and said thank you. We left feeling none the wiser but plenty reassured that we may not have everything figured out yet but we know what we DON’T want to be … and that’s just as important as knowing what you do.
4) Be picky
In the same way a few people I know have taken on Tinder as an additional full-time job, when you get the outbound communications bit right and (hopefully) some work comes your way it’s important not to say yes to everything. The same is true of dating. Just because someone asks you out doesn't mean you say yes if you have absolutely nothing in common. You should only accept/do work that is a good fit with what you do, how you work and what your skill-set is. Unless you are absolutely skint. Then you can take any and all work. Similarly, if you are absolutely skint you can accept a date purely to have someone pay £18 for a bowl of Spaghetti Carbonara for you. Girl gotta eat.
5) And finally … Boundaries
When you eventually do meet someone you feel like giving it a go with it’s very important to make sure you’re on the same page with as many things as possible. The same is true of a business partner. Jess and I are fortunate enough to be both friends and having already worked together in the past before setting up Mac&Moore so we do enjoy spending time together outside work (I really hope she’d agree with me here) having cocktails, sleepovers and her basically criticising my odd socks and every single one of my dates! We even took the big step of her meeting my parents this weekend. It does raise the importance of setting out what you want from the partnership as well as the business before you get going. If you don’t, those little niggles about who’s doing what will soon stack up and lead to a bust-up … or worse.
Luckily, so far, we’ve only had one ‘disagreement’ which was soon resolved when Jess helpfully pointed out that I was being so forceful with my ideas that my hands looked like a crab’s pincers.
…She might just be The One.