A while ago I asked you guys what you would like me to blog about, one of the popular answers was my business! Although I’ve shared a lot about what’s going on with Uniquely Healthy, I haven’t talked about how I got to be running my own business and what it’s like now that I approach being able to do it full time. Quick warning – this is a wordy one!
First of all, I don’t come from a business background, not one bit. My Mam and Dad have worked extremely hard in their normal jobs (my Dad in a factory environment and then moving on to a rental firm and my Mam working for the Child Benefit Agency). I can remember when I was younger and I’d read magazine interviews with entrepreneurs, they all seemed to come from more privileged backgrounds or formerly high powdered jobs. At that point in time the idea of me being able to run a business seemed laughable.
Fast forward a few years and I had been to University, got my art and design degree, spilt up with my then long term boyfriend, moved home to the North East and got a job working with a local authority in a community building. I actually loved this work, even being in some of the ‘roughest’ areas of Newcastle was awesome. I eventually ended up at a different local authority feeling fat, sick and fed up because the job was office based and boring as hell. I started doing an MA in Community and Youth Work with the hope that could lead to an escape into more traditional youth work. It was then that a project manager job came up with a charity and I jumped at the chance for a move, even though some of my family and friends thought I was crazy leaving my ’safe’ job at the council for a temporary contract in the voluntary sector.
Of course, that move was the best thing I ever did. I learned a lot about myself in that job, completed my MA and started my weight loss journey. I think that being in a job I enjoyed meant I could devote the mental energy needed to lose weight. I also got a lot of support to develop my confidence, skills and spirituality in that job, because I had the most amazing manager – Gillian. She is one in a million!
At this time I had started blogging with absolutely no idea where it was going, all I knew was that I loved writing about healthy living, it made me feel fulfilled in ways I never had before. I am a naturally creative person and blogging was the perfect outlet for that too. I started to contemplate the idea of changing careers, but without a serious amount of money behind me it seemed like an impossible dream. After a few years my temporary contract was almost up and due to some big changes in the voluntary sector in County Durham, things were looking pretty unstable with my charity job. The idea of going to work for the local authority again filled me with dread, and I couldn’t imagine working for another organisation.
My manager Gillian was starting her own business on the side, and that was when I started to think that perhaps this is something I could think about more seriously. Why not? The worst thing that can happen is that you fail, and I’d rather live a life of trying. I knew I already had a lot of skills in areas such as project management, design, community work, NLP, events management, setting up and registering not for profit companies, financial management etc. I also loved the idea of melding my community work skills with my experiences and knowledge of nutrition and healthy living, I could also see a huge gap in the market for this within the community. The blog was also growing really well too which added to my confidence. I decided to do a Diet and Nutrition Advisors qualification then I came across the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. It seemed to be the perfect answer to what I was looking for, and it was. Doing the IIN Health Coach training gave me the confidence to go for it. I did have to put myself into some debt to do those courses, but I felt that it would be worth it in the long run.
I spent a long time thinking of names for my business but I’m happy I settled on Uniquely Healthy as I think it really encapsulates my ethos and what I’m all about. The day before my 30th Birthday I registered Uniquely Healthy as a limited company with Companies House and I was all set! A few months later Gillian and I decided to join forces – she has skills and expertise around the mental wellbeing side of things so what we do complements each other perfectly. We set up the Feel Good Factory North East as a Community Interest Company so we could work more directly with communities and community organisations.
I went part time in my charity job and some time soon I’ll be leaving that behind. I’ll still be working with them, but on a more flexible basis. I also rent office space from them for storage for Uniquely Healthy as well.
Setting up and developing Uniquely Healthy has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I’ve learned so much in the process and sometimes I need to pinch myself to make sure this isn’t all a dream. It has been challenging at times, especially the financial vulnerability aspect of it, and as much as I know that sitting behind a computer writing, working with clients or delivering a community workshop sounds easy, it can be challenging. I have worked my arse off, but because I love what I do so much, it has never really felt like work, apart from the times I was pushing myself outside my comfort zone. Now that I have pushed myself outside that comfort zone, I’m so much more confident and happy, it was well worth it!
Here are a few of my tips for anyone setting up in business based on what I’ve learned…
Have a financial cushion
I have a very supportive husband, but he is not a rich solicitor or doctor, and could not support me financially. I couldn’t just pack in work and dedicate all my time to study and developing things. I did have the benefit of working full time, and then part time while I found my feet, and that was very valuable because it enabled me to save up a financial cushion which gives me peace of mind and reduces my stress, although it was very hard work doing two jobs at once! I have managed to save up 6 months of what I need to live on, and that has really helped.
Feel the fear and do it anyway
There have often been times in the past two years where I’ve thought to myself ‘what the actual fuck are you doing’. I had to learn to push past the fear of doing something wrong and just do it. If you worry about everything being perfect, you will never get anywhere. For example, I knew that when I launched the Uniquely Healthy website the copy could be better, but I just needed to get it launched and put out there. I also know I’ve probably made mistakes in some of the paid for content I’ve posted here on the blog, but it’s all been part of a process of me figuring out what the hell I’m doing. This is also similar with pushing outside your comfort zone. It might be scary and stressful to start with, but it’s the only way you will grow, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you start to feel confident.
Be prepared to ditch any idea of work / life balance
Work / life balance just doesn’t exist when you run a business – or at least when you are running a business right in my opinion! When what you are doing is your passion it is part of your life, and not ‘work’. I read a great article in The Simple Things Magazine about this and it made so much sense. Instead of striving for work / life balance strive to be doing work that you don’t feel the need to escape from. Of course you need time for family, friends and other pleasures, but running a business you love should fit in well with your life, something I’ll be testing out when peanut arrives!
Hone your organisation skills
I know some people who have zero organisation skills that run great businesses but they are few and far between. I try and be organised to the highest level I possibly can be. I have lots of lists – including a to do list of things that need to be done every week and every month. I do my accounts every single month without fail. I schedule ahead in my calendar as much as possible. I use Evernote like a crazy person. I’ve learned when my most productive hours of the day are and I work to that advantage.
You always need to have a bit of hussle in business – theres a saying up here in the North East – ‘shy bairns get nowt’ which basically means if you don’t ask you don’t get.
Don’t give up
If you have a dream, don’t give up on it. You might need to tweak it a little bit, but where there’s a will there’s a way. Don’t let the naysayers put you off either!
Be you, please don’t try and be someone else. There’s no point in being a second rate version of another person, develop your own voice, brand and creative expression. Think about the things that make you ‘you’ and play to your strengths. We are all unique – I can tell you now that there will be no other health coaches out there like me. No one else has the same range of skills and experience that I do, and yes I’m going to blow my own trumpet here, I know I’m damn good at what I do because of that. You can’t just do a course and come out the end of it good at that job, it takes a lot more than that, and often more training and development. Plus there is no replacement for life lived experience.
In setting up and running my business I have discovered some great people on line. Ash from The Middle Finger Project is awesome, Marie Forleo is fabulous and I love the Green Room posts from Rock n Roll Bride.
Right now my income into the business comes from three main areas: health coaching and products (like the Super Conscious Living Programme and 12 Weeks to Feeling Fabulous Course), community projects, and blog and writing related income. I’m currently studying Clinical Nutrition and next week I’m off to a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) course. I’ll be finishing up the amazing project I’ve been doing with girls around body image and well being at the end of the month and then starting on several new projects including one with young people leaving care and going into independent living, a healthy living club for parents at a school and a project working with people with disabilities and their carers. Awesome right? The downside to all of this is that we are trying to get a mortgage and that whole thing is looking a bit dodgy because of my soon to be self employed status. I still feel the pro’s outweigh the con’s though. I’m making a reasonable living doing something I love, and I’m the only person in charge of me. With a little one on the way, it’s the perfect scenario too.
If you run your own business what have you learned? Would you ever consider starting your own business?