Are you ready to fly solo?
20 October 2020
The stories of three successful business owners, the lessons they've learnt and what inspired them to take the leap
Let's admit it. Working 9-5 isn't for everyone. Perhaps you dream of starting your own venture, where you can be your own boss, or you want to achieve the mystical work-life balance to spend more time with your kids.
If any of that sounds like you, these entrepreneurs' stories will surely bring you some inspiration.
Claire Thomas, online marketing and design specialist
Claire Thomas is the owner of Agnes Street, a small business that focuses on marketing and brand design. She represents a variety of clients, ranging from wellness, fashion and lifestyle. 'I help these start-ups achieve something that's beautiful aesthetically but I also get their name out there,' she explains.
Prior to starting her venture she found herself working as an auditor with the Queensland government, she says that the role “really helped with strategising, writing, reporting and understanding how business run”. So before jumping ship from your current role, take a moment to understand how it can help you achieve your long-term business goals.
Claire is the first to admit that the words that gave her the courage to start her business 'Jump and the net will appear', might not resonate with all aspiring business owners, but they were important in starting Agnes Street.
Claire currently works in Ubud, Bali, and is one of thousands of Australian business owners who spends a large chunk of their year working overseas and dealing with businesses back home. She has spent the last few years building her business in creative digital nomad hotspots such as New York, Barcelona, London, Oslo, Paris, Lisbon and Tokyo.
'I spend at least six months a year working overseas and meeting other creatives at co-working spaces, many of whom inspire how I run my own business,' she explains.
She believes that her success is partly due to having 'always been passionate about what I've done. And that resonates with people.' She also admits that 'it's sensible to have some financial support behind you first.'
Claire's business advice:
Ask for help and find a good mentor to guide you through times that might be unexpected in your business. 'In the beginning I was a little too proud, but I know now to ask for help,' she says.
Jules Blundell, founding director of VideoBuzz
Jules worked for 15 years in education and recruitment. But as time went by, the Melbourne mother-of-twins couldn't resist embracing her creative side. She founded VideoBuzz, an agency that creates animated videos for businesses that need help simplifying complex messages.
'I have this ability to turn them (videos) into something a 15-year-old is able to understand,' she says with a smile.
She jokes that the main reason she started VideoBuzz was because 'I don't really fit into a company. I don't like following rules and “just becauses.” but I do love being creative. Every time I have a new business that comes through the door with a new product I get to come up with all these amazing ideas for these 60 or 90 second videos.'
As you can imagine, creating animated videos isn't always a one-person-task. Instead, Jules outsources work to short-term contractors, a technique she highly recommends to other solo business owners, so long as you check credentials thoroughly. 'I outsource to people from all over the world and across Australia, depending on the task at hand—video production, design, copywriting, web design—that's the beauty of working in animation.'
Jules's business advice:
The importance of underselling, not overselling, your product or service. 'Only sell 70 percent and keep 30 percent back,' she says. 'That 30 percent should be the little surprises that enable you to add value and provide a remarkable service — something that makes people go “wow, that's amazing”.'
James McCracken, The Successful Adviser
Remember when the Yellow Pages was a two-volume book that thudded onto your doorstep once a year?
Well, James McCracken was pretty damn good at selling for them. So good in fact, that he worked his way up to a national training role. But something in James' life was missing. He knew he was capable of carving out his own brand. His own identity. His own business.
Fortunately, something called the internet began to gain momentum. 'The company gave me a sack of money and said “you're being made redundant”,' he recalls. 'I figured if I didn't do it at that stage, when I was in a reasonable financial position, then I would forever be making excuses.'
James' decision was made easier by the fact he had spent years honing his skillset for the launch of his business. 'Instead of taking the highest earning job that I could have within the Yellow Pages, I chose to take jobs that prepared me better—so a management role and then a coaching one,' he says.
He now runs The Successful Adviser, a company that provides business growth solutions for financial advisers. As well as writing, James produces and stars on a podcast by the same name, where he shares his business know how.
James' business advice:
James has come across a few pearls of business wisdom that he's happy to share:
- Be patient: 'Just because you haven't made a million dollars in your first six months, doesn't mean you're doing something wrong.'
- Set realistic goals: 'Work out what you're likely to earn your first year. Then halve it. Then halve it again.'
- Don't be stingy: 'Don't skimp on your brand or online positioning. It could cost you a lot more in the long run.'
Are you ready to fly solo?
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