Starting your own business can be challenging, exciting and financially rewarding, but sometimes the reality is a little different - and budding entrepreneurs aren't always mentally prepared for the struggle.
After 5 years working in corporate HR, Anna Abrahams retrained as a massage therapist. In 2008, she started Inspirit, a nationwide on-site corporate massage service that provides massage, yoga and beauty practitioners to UK offices. Anna talks to MOO about those tough first two years, and how she kept herself motivated.
Hi Anna. Was it difficult to motivate yourself after working a 9 to 5?
Yes, at first. Giving up my financial security and routine was de-stabilising, and with no boss to fall back on for support and guidance or to set me clear deadlines, I discovered I needed a fair amount of mental strength and perseverance to stay focused (and occasionally just to get out of bed in the morning!)
Was there ever a low point when you considered giving up?
About a year in. My whole life had become about work. I was exhausted, I didn't have time to see friends so I felt isolated and I had a sense of failure hanging over me, as making Inspirit a success fed into my sense of self-worth. I felt like I was sinking and wasn't sure if I should carry on.
Are you turning a profit now?
Yes! Inspirit is turning a healthy profit now, and among our client list are BUPA, Lloyds Banking Group, River Island, Flight Centre and many more large multi-nationals as well as smaller companies too. Our range of services is expanding the whole time, as is the size of the team. I'm very positive about the future.
Are you happy you carried on even when you weren't making money?
I'm very pleased. The feeling of satisfaction you get from building something – building a team and a service you can be proud of – and actually turning that into a profit, is incredible. There are always ups and downs, but you have to stay focused and motivated, and sometimes accept you are simply in a downswing. It never stays like that for too long, so you have to persevere and not lose faith.
To that end, I have learned a few tricks that helped me stay motivated!
Top ten tips for staying motivated
1. Have a plan
Know what you are trying to achieve in both the short and long term, and follow a plan to make sure you get that done. Whether that's a detailed business plan or a daily "to do" list, having a plan will keep you focused. Plus, it gives you a boost when you can tick things off the list!
2. Break targets down
Large goals can feel overwhelming and send you into a kind of work paralysis. Break the pieces down into small tasks and you will find that the end goal is totally achievable. So for example, if I set myself a task to myself of getting 10 new clients over the next few months, I could break this down into practical tasks such as running a special offer to encourage new bookings, or follow up on undecided clients.
3. Discuss ideas with others
Running your own business can be an isolating experience. Colleagues, friends and family are very useful sounding boards and have expertise and experience in areas you don't – amongst my group of friends are lawyers, PRs, journalists – so ask yourself, who do you know? Talking to others gives you a fresh perspective, help you from ideas more clearly, overcome stumbling blocks and feed your creativity.
4. Keep it fresh
Keep thinking of different ways to promote yourself – I love how MOO customers never run out of these types of ideas, like these beautiful pocket portfolios made from MiniCards. As part of my promotional plan for 2011, Inspirit is the official therapy partner to RSVP 2011, a big events industry showcase where our team of therapists will be giving out free massages.
5. Visualise better days ahead
Ok, so it makes me sound like a hippy, but I find it helpful to visualise the benefits to my life that will result from achieving my goals. Whether it's a dream holiday or simply a boost to your self-esteem, imagine how that will feel if you keep going and make it happen. At the moment, I'm obsessed with buying a mini-cooper, which I simply can't afford. So I designed my perfect mini online and have a photo of it on my wall to remind me that if I keep growing the business, one day it will be on my drive.
6. Be open to change
It can be very deflating when things don't go your way. I've had times when I have lost a client or an employee or a deal has suddenly changed its parameters. You need to adapt instead of losing hope, and think how you can work the situation to your advantage. Sometimes what seems like a setback can turn into a positive, and if not, at least you can minimise the damage and learn from the experience.
7. Do regular exercise
I swim regularly which re-energises me and yoga classes keep me calm and clear. Choose whatever form of exercise suits you best, but make sure you do some - it improves your mental clarity and decreases feelings of stress, anxiety and frustration.
8. Establish clear working hours
Don't burn out - I learned this from experience! It's too easily done, so make sure you get some work-life balance and build breaks into your daily and weekly schedules. As we all know, there's a difference between working hard and working effectively. Since my office is my home, this is a particularly challenging one for me. I have to remind myself that its ok to be at home relaxing, instead of attached to a computer at 10pm.
9. Treat yourself
Give yourself things to look forward to – a visit to a gallery, a shopping trip, a night with your friends. You deserve some rewards for all your hard work! I book a regular massage every month to relieve the muscle tension that accompanies hours in front of a computer, and to combat work stress. After a massage, I feel like a new person.
10. Accept the cycle
No one can stay motivated 100% of the time. When you're struggling, do what you can on the list to help and be assured that inspiration will return if you just keep going. And don't forget to keep putting yourself out there. Hand out your Business Card to anyone who seems interested – the upswing will happen sooner than you think.
Thinking of setting up a business similar to Anna's? Well, you'll need Business Cards of course! Check out cards created by our very own fantastic designers for Nail Therapists, Make-up Artists, Hairdressers, Hair Salons, Alternative Therapists and Yoga Teachers.