I’m still standing: A year on in business!

Date: October 3, 2020

What a year it has been since I launched my social media consultancy business in October 2019! Who would have thought COVID-19 would spread the world just five months after and businesses had to adapt, react and try to survive. Twelve months have now passed since going solo and so much has happened and been learnt.

Really? Is it really one year already? That's bonkers!

I still feel like a newbie at this being my own boss thing. Well, I couldn't have predicted the year I've just had when writing my business plan. But here I am still standing! It feels like I'm coming out of the newborn period and it's exciting.

When I started Copper I wanted to work with clients as passionate about social media as I am, use systems I want to work with, have a more flexible way of working, earn more money and be a happier me basically. Going into the unknown was daunting but it felt right so therefore quite natural. I could have easily stayed in my permanent part-time digital marketing job but something wasn't right and it needing fixing.

I needed to release myself to allow me to really explore and be the person I could be. It can be too easy to get lazy and rely on someone else or start to not care and that is not right for anyone or anything. I needed to feel daunted, scared, excited and nervous. Basically, I needed to feel again.

You see at the start of 2019 something happened to me that completely shocked me which had a massive impact on my life and the direction it was going in. I hadn't planned on setting up a business, it just happened really. I guess if I look back now the big catalyst was when my husband told me he didn't want any more children. It broke my heart and changed my whole outlook on life. I am still coming to terms with it now but what the news did to me was make me think about whether I was happy and to stop and look after myself.

The next few months I did a lot of soul searching and met with many different people to work out what it was I wanted to do with my own personal development and career aspirations. Listening to their thoughts, advice and personal experiences, whilst exploring my own feelings, gave me the confidence boost I needed to really stop and take note of what made me feel good and not on edge or discouraged. The words that kept whirling around my head were that life is too short to not really enjoy it.

I remember when I started Copper talking to my accountant about how I had no buffer and that what I made each month would be used to pay my part of the bills and mortgage. It sounded scary and risky but it felt right. I was fortunate to get a small business loan to start out but that soon got spent so gaining new regular paying clients was imperative.

As soon as I was allowed to tell people and share on social media what I was doing I was surprised with how many business acquaintances and friends approached me for my help. It soon became apparent that some people were really struggling with social media and I had just gone and stuck my hand up and said "hey I'm here".

I was fortunate to have such a good start and I worked tirelessly to keep up and get on top of all these things I was doing for the first time, but it felt great. My family were so supportive and understood this initial period would be one of the most important. I wanted to get it right from the start.

That's partly why I didn't launch the Copper website until three months in. It wasn't the plan but it always ended up being the last item on the list to do. I actually think it was a blessing as it gave me time to really discover what people needed and wanted from me, what I felt comfortable charging them and how my website should work for me.

For the relationship to work collaboratively and at its best between a business and a social media manager, there has to be mutual trust and respect. It can be tempting when starting out to say yes to all work but I soon learnt I had a backbone and the confidence to say no or speak up if something didn't feel right. I wanted clients who wanted my help and who I could help. Early on in a working relationship with one social media management client, I could feel something wasn't working so we decided to part ways. It could have really knocked my confidence but I knew it was right for both of us.

So I guess what I am saying is that I learnt to say no, and obviously also yes. I am a big believer in going with your gut and what makes you excited and curious.

Early in 2020 before COVID-19, I had a fairly informal chat with a breakfast networking club owner commenting on how their work partner was leaving the island and how they were going to cope. I casually offered to help out if they needed any as I liked their event format and felt it would be nice to get involved. I wasn't expecting to be offered a speaking slot but I decided this would be one of those "yes I'm in" situations and the perfect time to announce me taking over the reins.

It was just starting to be promoted, which slightly freaked me out, when the pandemic struck our little island and we went into lockdown. The event was put on hold and my business took an interesting slight change in direction. I had a hospitality client who had to shut their business and let off staff and consequently not be able to pay for my social media services anymore. I had people comment to me that my business must be thriving because everyone wants social media now more than ever to get their messages or business products online.

The reality is that yes some did and could still afford it but others didn't have the budget to and needed to do it for themselves. They had more time on their hands and wanted to give it a go. It was really admiring to see businesses adapt their services and products during lockdown, whether it was the option of delivery, launching a retail website or utilising Facebook shops to sell their products through social media.

It soon became apparent that what I needed to do was provide advice, support and a platform for communication. I helped set up a Facebook group for small businesses with two other self-employed ladies which became a great source for frustrated and worried business owners to find information, vent and ask questions. It was a mutual online meeting point at a worrying and uncertain time.

I utilised my #stressfreesocialmedia Facebook group to provide handy tips and advice through a fun daily quiz and offered to provide one-hour free consultations to businesses struggling to set up their socials or having issues.  It felt great to be able to help in any way I could at such a worrying and confusing time.

During lockdown the breakfast networking club owner I mentioned earlier contacted me out of the blue and told me she was selling her businesses and was going to close the club unless I wanted to take over it. Initially, it was a bit of a shock and my immediate thought was to say no as that wasn't my intention when I offered to help.

I thought about it for a few days and talked to family and friends and something switched in my head and I thought why not. I had organised many events before and I loved meeting new people and the relaxed format of the club. I thought it would be a great platform for me to provide the opportunity for people to really tell their story and journey as a business owner. Telling genuine stories and messages is something I am passionate about in social media marketing. So I found myself saying yes and adding this new element to my business. Bit of a mad thing to do during the middle of lockdown when events were cancelled but I was following that all-important gut.

Once Guernsey was in the fortunate position of coming out of lockdown events were able to take place again so my rescheduled talk took place. I was initially hesitant about speaking as my confidence in public speaking on social media had been knocked in my last job.

It was therefore so important to me that the first time I did speak in public again since this incidence would be in a relaxed and welcoming format and on my own terms. It was also my first time speaking as a business owner and I was honest about this with the lovely intimate group of business people who turned up to hear me speak. Two of these people are now a new client of mine and I am loving working with them so it was definitely worth putting on those brave pants that day!

Since taking over the Rise & Shine Breakfast Networking Club I have been asked what my plans are and maybe I should have had a big business plan to share about how I was going to expand, recruit staff and get an office etc. But I simply said I am just doing my own thing and what feels right.

I am aware of what others provide in the same fields but not worrying because what I offer is me, my ideas, support and time. I'm unique and therefore that's the service you get with me.....personal and unique. It will either suit your business needs or not and that is okay with me.

I know 2020 has been so hard on many businesses and am so grateful to still be standing today. I still can't quite believe I took the risk but am loving juggling being a wife, a mother of a flamboyant five year old, a business owner and dare I say it 'entrepreneur'!

I might be sitting on a dance studio waiting area or in my car at the school gate working with a computer on my lap but I'm my own boss....and fortunately allow flexible working!

I must thank my family for riding the rollercoaster with me and my fab clients who get it and are on this bonkers ride with me! I wonder what the next year will bring!

Nicole x

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