what I have learnt from running my web design business…
I’m Jo Dickie (or many locally will know me as Jo Sutton) I live in Chalfont St Giles with husband, daughter and labrador. Just over a year ago I decided to take the leap and set Jo Dickie Website Associates, offering a branding and web design service to small business owners. I had done freelance marketing for publishers for years but wanted to build a business that is more connected, more creative and would be a lot more fun.
A year on I have taken some time to reflect on my first year of setting up and running my web design business. Here are ten things I have learnt, discovered or have gradually dawned on me.
People are a lot nicer than you think
My clients have been lovely without exception. I have had the privilege to work with some fabulous, inspiring and go-getting mainly women. It restores my faith in the world that people are reasonable when things don’t go quite to plan and delighted when they do. It makes me very happy when they are pleased with the results. Good feedback makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Keep Learning – all the time
There’s so much to learn and constantly improve on and a world of resources out there to find out about. Ask questions, be interested in how things work and how people tick. This is not just professionally but personally too. At the risk of descending into cliché, life has become much richer by learning about myself and who I am.
It’s ok not to know the answer
Just look it up, research, ask your network but don’t panic – see point 1. Took me quite a while to realise that I wasn’t failing if I didn’t know the answer, it’s just a new thing that I can learn. This was a very liberating realisation.
Develop a powerful network
Almost by accident I have developed a powerful network both online and face to face. Working on your own can be lonely and daunting and it’s invaluable to knowing I have a great bunch of people to call on for everything from technical support to a shoulder to cry on. Plus, I have discovered that I have a lot I can give back to this amazing group of people and this is the best feeling ever.
I often need to give myself a kick up the backside
I’m a past master at procrastination usually because I’m scared of failing or it feels too difficult or it’s not perfect yet. I now know that good action is preferable to a perfect idea. Trying it out is better than thinking about it for ages. Just getting on with it is something I really find this challenging but at least I now recognise this trait in myself.
Things usually take longer than I think
I find this in life (I perpetually run 5-10 mins late, a trait I deplore in myself but find it difficult to change) and I have found this in website projects. I do love to tinker with a design, thinking I will always make it just a bit better but this really does affect my profitability.
Measuring activity every month
Getting a proper grip on how many hours I spend on a piece of work, how my social media posts are performing, how many enquiries I am getting and how much money I am making has set my business on track. I can make decisions based on facts, see a clear way forward and know what to spend my time on. All achieved by just setting up a simple set of monthly KPIs.
Planning takes away the overwhelm
I love a good plan and for every client I am meticulous about planning the project, keeping them informed at every stage and delivering on time and budget. Less meticulous planning efforts for my own business meant I was lurching from one month to the next, not sure of where to focus my efforts reacting instead of driving forward. I have got better at this but working within a good plan is one of key goals for next year.
It will be scary but that’s ok
This has been a major step outside of my comfort zone, I’ve had to learn to speak in public again, how to make the case that I am the best person for the job and believe in myself and accept that it’s ok to not know the answer.
Self-care is essential
Working a gazillion hours, looking after the family and domestics and a lot of dog walking has taken a toll on the time I have left for myself. As I reflect now, I can see this is not desirable or good for me. I will achieve more if I look after myself a bit better.
So, what next?
I am less fit and far more knackered than I was last year, but I have a level of fulfilment and gratitude and feel alive in a way that I haven’t done for years. I love working with my clients and building websites that really work for their businesses. I am very pleased with what I have achieved in the past year and have had some great feedback. There’s still got a long way to go and loads more to do. I know I can do it better in year two. Bring it on!