9 things that I learnt in my first year of business
This article was first published on the Flying Solo web site, a site for small business.
In 2014, after 25 years at CSIRO, I established my own science communication business. Now, some 12 months later, here are some of the things that I have learnt about business operations as I transitioned from the corporate world to sole trader to company director.
- Establish a work space. Ideally, you will have a dedicated office. If you don’t, try to set aside part of a room where you can leave your work stuff. It helps focus on work in a home environment, and you don’t want to waste time having to gather your resources each time you start work.
- Develop a routine. This is important. Commuting to a workplace imposes structure on your work life. On day 1 working for myself I was in my office at 8.30 and have tried to do the same each working day since.
- Maintain networks/socialise. Not having people around was the thing I missed about leaving CSIRO. I make up for this with regular (at least weekly) catch-ups with colleagues and former workmates. These meetings are part social and part business – I’m never sure of the precise ratio.
- A contact per day. On the top right of my office whiteboard I have written ‘1’. This is my reminder to reach out and contact at least one person each day. Good for business, good for networking, good for the soul. It might be a phone call. It might simply be an email forwarding interesting information.
- Attend events. Be known and keep up with advances in your field. Look out for workshops and conferences. I picked up two major jobs at a national conference I attended a couple of months into my new professional life.
- Collaborate. It’s often more productive to work with others. Including others in project pitches increases your chances of success. You’ll quickly find this reciprocated.
- Join and participate in professional groups. The Australian Science Communicators is very relevant to me. Flying Solo is a great community resource for small businesses.
- Get a good accountant and lawyer. You probably want to scrimp and save money here, as I did at first. However, setting yourself up properly maximises your chances of success. Find people you trust. As my accountant advises, ‘Regard me as the person up the corridor at work. If you have a question just ring or email.’
- Invest in accounting software. Far neater, more flexible and quicker than doing accounts in a spreadsheet is to use software. Most packages will do much more than a spreadsheet; even issuing and tracking invoices.
Written by Paul Holper