Running my own training business was the pipeline dream that plagued me every Christmas/New Year holiday break for at least seven years and probably more. Usually I would design logos and search the Internet madly to build the dream.
But the holiday break would end, and I’d return to my job. By the end of that first day back, I was completely immersed and feeling slightly indispensable. (By the way, no one is indispensable!)
Fear of failure held me back. What if I did my absolute best and it didn’t work? But I had also read somewhere that people on their deathbeds more often regretted the things they did not do, rather than the things we did. And I also thought about my history and past achievements. I owed it to myself to give this a chance.
Three years ago, I took the leap and quit my job. I had a mortgage, two children and was the main financial provider when I quit. My old job had just offered me a pay rise and a car allowance, but I knew I needed to act now. I couldn’t let another year go by. And for those of you considering the same thing, here are the ten things I learned when I started my creative workplace training business three years ago.
1. If you think you will live to regret not doing it…you MUST do it. Life is too short for regrets.
There will be a moment that tells you it’s now…don’t overlook it. This is the moment you decide you REALLY WANT to do it despite all the reasons why you shouldn’t! On my fortieth birthday I had an eclectic mix of people celebrating with me, so I decided to invite a palm reader for fun. I had my palm read, and her main reading was about me running my own business to great success. Now, I’m not endorsing palm reading, but what this episode made me realize is just how much I wanted to run my own business.
2. Really think about what in your job brings you personal fulfilment. Listen to your heart about why you do what you do. Hold on to this during the rough patches.
My passion was in creating training curricula, whether as mini-trainings for my managers or for larger state-wide events. I found myself working into the wee hours on ways to challenge them, inspire them and keep them thinking. I was delighted when new ideas or concepts would stick and add something special to the meetings. This work drew on my creative strength and love of learning and I felt like it made a real difference.
This was my true buzz, my unique stamp – CREATIVE workplace training! Training that was positive, fun, different, personally insightful, visually exciting, interactive, at times quirky and highly contemporary.
My fulfilment came from researching, creating the workshops, then delivering it with gusto. The best bit was the positive impact on the organisation and the people at an individual level. I was motivated to give 110 percent because small shifts make a big difference. I loved it! Organisations grew with me and we got more courageous together! This was the true value of my work – creating a positive culture for teams and individuals to thrive.
3. You need two years’ worth of perseverance and a hearty work ethic to establishing yourself.
When I was starting out, I sought the advice of an established career coach/psychologist and recognised professional speaker. He asked, “could you persevere for two years?” Two years, I thought. Yes, I could do that. I made the decision I would commit to giving it everything for two years. This helped me push though some early shaky patches.
4. You can start on a shoestring budget, but cash flow is the biggest challenge.
Other entrepreneurs going out solo are great for talent at an affordable price and also support. They get it! Just because you provide an invoice -doesn’t mean it will be paid by the due date.
My three-month service leave was my financial buffer…I found a fabulous website designer on Gumtree at an incredible price and my logo design was by a talented friend. Xero is a great accounting program. I invested in a bookkeeper to ensure I was doing the things I needed to do.
5. Your first clients will come via referrals through people you know. Word of mouth referrals from your nearest and dearest are GOLD.
I ran a pilot program to check my timing and material. I invited 12 family and friends to a workshop in a Girl Guide hall I rented for just $40. I received my first three bookings via my sister, a parent at my daughter’s school and a friend. From these first three bookings, I have since had 20 bookings as a direct link from the first workshop.
6. You will get lonely. Some people will enjoy sharing your journey and others won’t. Don’t fatigue your friends if they are not always interested – you need them for time out!
I really missed a team. My other half has no interest in my business. This frustrated me in the early days, when he saw WunderTraining seemed to be a 24-hour a day job with little return. I now see his lack of interest as a bonus. He helps me take time out and turn off for a little bit.
7. All industries have lull periods – it does not mean the show is over when you hit one. If you have a one/two day a week regular job this would really help in the early days with the financial hurdles of quiet spells.
I didn’t know that the end of financial year would impact bookings. After a good start – it all went quiet. I thought I was done and had bills to pay. But then the bookings came again.
8. Set up a fitness routine and commit to it.
You will spend a lot of time at your computer and sitting on your backside. So weight gain may be a bonus of living the dream unless you embed some good habits early.
9. There is no competition on the creative plain and always a way if you look for it.
Don’t let the inevitable obstacles stop you. Stay open to risk and don’t be afraid to try something to see if it works.
10. DO IT!
My company, WunderTraining, has been running since 2012. We have moved into the National arena and by 2020, we will be a key provider of innovative, creatively delivered and energising training and conference keynotes nationally.