My tenth anniversary since starting Mel Kettle Consulting almost slipped past unnoticed. Which seems sort of wrong given how few small businesses even celebrate one year.

On the latest episode of my podcast, A Great Recipe for Life, my friend Warwick Merry reminds me that we need to celebrate success, and usually I’m all for that. My impressive cookbook collection is a daily reminder of all my clients and many projects I have worked on over the last ten years, as I buy one a few to celebrate most new work.

Ten years is certainly a milestone I am proud of.

Celebrating 10 years in business

When I first decided to quit my job to become a consultant I had the unswerving support of The Accountant. And I still do. Apart from that lean time when he suggested “perhaps you should get a job”. Foolishly he uttered those words in front of my friend Jane who quickly shot that idea down, telling him in no uncertain terms “she has a job, and it’s going through a lull, so get over it and let her get on with it”. Thanks Jane!

Ten years in business is certainly a milestone I am proud of. Click To Tweet

My father, a town planning consultant and fellow sole trader, was equally supportive, telling me “I’ve been wondering how long it would take you to go out on your own”.

My mother was less than impressed that I was quitting my job to go out into the great unknown. And there were definitely times when I, and no doubt The Accountant, wished I had listened to her words.

For it is the rare small business owner who doesn’t have at least a few sleepless nights thinking “what the f*ck have I done?”. And that’s just in the first month! And when that first tax bill comes due. Or when your client decides they have better things to do with their money than pay you. Or when the work suddenly, and seemingly inexplicably, dries up. Because you forgot to follow your own advice of always doing the marketing regardless of how much work you have on. Yes, silly me.

There have been countless times over the last 10 years that I have been grateful I work for myself Click To Tweet

But there have been countless times over the last ten years that I have been so incredibly grateful I work for myself. None more so than those truly awful six months after mum died in 2010. To be sadly and quickly followed by the few months after dad died only eleven months after mum. The month of August has never been the same for me. However I’m grateful that most Augusts since 2011 I have been able to get away for at least a week. To reflect on the memories of my family’s past and to remember the happy times we spent together.

I’m also so very grateful I can choose who I work with. My wonderful, generous, kind and interesting clients who help fill my days with projects and assignments and tasks that so often challenge me and help me grow both professionally and personally. Yes, there has been the odd dud client. Everyone has those. It’s part of the learning process. My dud-ar is more finely tuned these days and I am far more confident in saying no to people and work that sets it off.

My dud-ar is more finely tuned these days and I am far more confident in saying no to people Click To Tweet

Working for myself means that sometimes I do reach my goal of twelve weeks holiday a year. And that I can take an afternoon off to see a movie. Or catch up with a friend I haven’t seen in a while. It allows me the flexibility to mostly live the life I want to without having to answer to an employer.

Would I do things differently if I was starting out today? I don’t know. Maybe. My advice for you if you are also thinking about starting your own business is this:

  • believe in yourself and back yourself (I talk about this on Steve Molk’s Humans of Twitter podcast that we recorded recently)
  • be your authentic self and be true to who you are. I know my values and I won’t work with people who don’t share them.
  • know your worth and charge accordingly
  • give back – take on some pro-bono clients, take time to volunteer. It’s important for our society and it will make you feel good.
  • understand the money – where it comes from, what you need to keep aside to pay bills, tax and your GST bill, have very clear terms and conditions and make sure the client is aware of them and agrees to them BEFORE you start work – and engage the services of a good accountant who understands small business
  • you really need to like people and be comfortable in asking them to do things for you, otherwise you’ll find it really, really hard to get work
  • use your network – both personal and professional – and ask them to help you. You never know who people know. Ask for referrals, testimonials, support, advice. Don’t only ask, you need to give back too.
  • understand what social media is and USE. IT. A whopping 52% of Australian small business do not have a social media presence and this both appals and horrifies me. It’s not that hard and it has endless benefits. I can help you if you need it. Just ask me.
  • be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes it takes a while to work these out, and that’s OK.
  • allocate money and time for professional development. Go to networking events and conferences and spend time with your professional tribe. Invest in yourself.
  • take time off. Don’t be one of those small business owners who never has a day off, never takes time out, never has a holiday. It’s the fastest way to burn out. I’ve seen it happen so often and trust me when I say you really do not want that to happen to you.

As I sit here writing this, I wonder where I will be in ten more years. Where do I want to be? I’m not sure. What do I want to be doing? Again, not sure. Ten years ago I certainly didn’t expect to be sitting in a cafe writing this blog post.

There are too many people to thank individually – I hope you all know who you are, and that I’m so very grateful and thankful for your support, love and faith in me.

Thank you.

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