‘I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.’ Gilda Radner
A year ago this week I was made redundant. A year ago this week I also started my own business. The 12 months that followed that Monday afternoon in late September have been nothing short of extraordinary.
Let me start at the beginning.
In hindsight the redundancy shouldn’t have been as shocking to me as it was, but I had a sense of security in my position that caused me to be oblivious to the financial challenges the organisation was going through. My tunnel vision meant that I was completely blindsided when I was sat down and told that there was no longer a position for me at the company.
Redundancy isn’t easy. I had known colleagues and friends who had gone through it; my partner had too. I’d even come close myself once or twice. But I had never actually experienced it until that September day. If anyone had asked me before that what I would do if I found myself suddenly out of a job, I would have said that I’d go home, make a huge jug of margaritas and sit around watching Netflix for a week before even beginning to think about my next move. But when it actually happened, my reaction surprised me as much as – if not more than – it did everyone around me. I guess maybe I didn’t know myself as well as I thought because what I actually did was:
Monday afternoon – get made redundant
Wednesday – register my new business
Friday – sign my first client.
While doing all of this I also updated my resume and started applying for both full-time and part-time roles. For weeks I oscillated between the exhilarating but terrifying dream of working for myself and the less exciting but far more secure option of working for someone else. I interviewed, I turned down and got turned down for roles, I networked, I attracted a few more clients.
And then six weeks after I was made redundant I sat down and had a hard talk with myself. I had to decide one way or the other – I couldn’t keep jumping between the two very different career pathways. Surprisingly, everyone important in my life was sure that I should work for myself, though no-one shared this until after I had come to the realisation myself. Even my partner turned around and said, ‘I knew this weeks ago. Glad you’re finally on board too!’ So after six weeks of running my own business, I finally made the decision – I was going to run my own business.
I had never really thought about working for myself before. I was firmly – if unreflectively – attached to the idea that my career path would always be tied to someone else’s organisation. (Although a good friend has since reminded me that a few weeks before I was made redundant, I had jokingly suggested that she and I start our own content marketing business. Six months later she would be working with me at The Long and the Short of It.)
So, that was that! Once I committed to the idea of working for myself, I was all in. The first year has been a rollercoaster ride as I have tried to build up the business and our team while refining what we do and working out exactly who our target clients are.
Though, like every business owner, there are times I feel I’m not making as much progress as I’d like, a discussion of my occasional sense of imposter syndrome can be saved for another blog. In fact, I have to acknowledge that we’ve accomplished a lot in a very short space of time. In our first year we’ve:
grown our team from me to three
officially launched the company and relaunched our website
built a base of more than 30 clients that is a wonderful mix of small, medium and large companies across a diverse range of industries and endeavours
refined our service offering to focus on creating stories that reflect individual brands and organisations
written and edited hundreds of thousands of words for blogs, articles, profiles, and website and marketing copy
created hundreds of social media posts and accompanying images.
I have learned so much over the last 12 months, about business, about leadership and about myself. I am learning to ride the highs and lows of running your own business and of being answerable only to yourself. Of managing every aspect of a company, from finances to marketing to project management. Of building relationships with clients, and with trusted contractors. Of the risks and the extra-sweet rewards of taking a chance and striking out on your own.
A year ago this week I was made redundant and it turned out to be quite fortuitous. In January my partner took a year’s secondment in Manila and I’ve been able to be based over there seventy per cent of the time and back in Melbourne the rest of the time. I’ve worked on planes, by poolsides, in cafes and at all hours of the day and night. And I’ve met so many wonderful people – clients, employees, collaborators and loyal supporters – without whom the company’s successes so far would not have been possible.
A year ago this week I started my own business and it has turned out to be the best decision I never really made.
– Cara xx