Working in recruitment for half a decade allowed me to witness, first-hand, the changing face of a fast-paced industry. I built Gatehouse Legal Recruitment from the ground up together with my business partner John. I’m pleased to say we’re now the leading recruitment agency in Victoria, and we’ve learnt a lot along the way.
Over time, we noticed an increasing number of our corporate and law firm clients were requesting subject matter experts on a short-term or project basis, rather than looking for full-time legal professionals.
Conversely, we had legal experts and legal consultants coming to us daily and seeking a better work-life balance. They wanted to improve their lifestyle, choose the projects that suited them best, reduce their working hours and free up precious time to spend with loved ones, travel the world etc.
The seed of an idea began to form. Perhaps I could solve a problem and help people? Could I build an online platform to connect experts with businesses? I decided to put the concept into action, and Alifery Freelance Legal Experts was born.
As anyone who has started their own business knows, its often a leap of faith. You need all-consuming passion and endless drive to succeed. This didn’t put me off, after all I had plenty of experience under my belt.
As co-owner and manager of a successful legal recruitment firm I felt I had the business acumen and confidence required to make Alifery work. I’m well aware that managing a start-up is never plain sailing and as it turned out the waters were a little choppy. I had a lot to navigate in those early days.
Step one involved the creation of an online space – a place where experts could connect with opportunities. This required the use of sophisticated algorithms and as I’m no specialist in software development I had to seek help from an offshore developer.
I am picky by nature (a useful trait when you’re starting a new business), but despite conducting thorough background checks, unfortunately our chosen software developer didn’t really come through for us.
However, I do appreciate that things can go wrong in the world of business start-ups. You can mope and fret, or you can stop, reflect and find a solution. I chose the latter, with the aim of learning from my mistakes, preventing a repeat performance and enhancing my business.
I was fortunate to make the acquaintance of an experienced and intelligent Chief Technology Officer and with his support I managed to get the project back on track. I’m pleased to say (and very thankful!) that he still acts as a sounding board today and I count on him and my other advisors, should I encounter any further problems with software developers and building this business. I’ve discovered that it pays to surround yourself with knowledgeable people – a 30-minute coffee chat every few weeks could save you thousands and after all, you can’t know everything about everything!
What I do know is that I thrive when I head into the unknown. I definitely feel I am an entrepreneur at heart, and that my accounting background has furnished me with valuable skills to run an effective organisation. I enjoy challenging environments and the chance to get my creative juices flowing. I also have a passion for marketing and building strong brands to grab the attention of an audience.
It’s hard for me to believe that it’s now been a year since we launched the first version of Alifery. A whole twelve months since I began creating marketing and public relations campaigns designed to build a buzzing community.
We sourced expert legal freelancers and located clients who were seeking help with short term projects through our established business Gatehouse Legal Recruitment and within mere weeks of launch we managed to get over 700 legal professionals signed up.
I’m proud of what we’ve become. Alifery gives freelance legal experts the ability to be free and work flexibly on projects. We provide companies with access to the right expertise at the right time – on terms that produce excellent commercial outcomes.
Despite our success we never rest on our laurels. I’m aware of my competitors, but I never allow myself to be distracted by them. I never think “my competitors are doing this or that, so we need to do it too.” Instead, I focus on what WE can offer as a business. I focus on the value WE can provide to those we serve. I stay in my lane, I stay with my plan, and I make sure I execute it.
The best advice I can give to fellow start-up founders is to believe in yourself and your fledgling business. Steer clear of negative social media platforms and unfollow those who make you feel insecure. Remember you are good enough and you can do it – as long as you’re prepared to put in the hard work and effort.
Yes, that means long hours and a few sleepless nights. For years my day has started at 4am, and many a time I was tempted to throw my alarm clock out of the window. Instead I got up and got on, and I got used to making sacrifices along the way. Despite what anyone tells you, starting your own business isn’t glamourous and it certainly isn’t easy. But it is immensely rewarding, it can be lots fun and it puts you firmly in the driving seat.