When our guest blogger Sheri Werner quit a City-based HR role to set up her own business, she wasn’t expecting a global pandemic to wreak havoc on all our lives. But that wasn’t going to get her in Sheri’s way. Read her story here:

After 13 successful years as a human resources (HR) specialist based in the City, in January 2020, I finally took the plunge and launched my own complementary therapy business, specialising in Reiki (more about that in a future post).  Working in HR can be relentless, and though I was enjoying my day-to-day responsibilities, I’d gone through an intense period of personal development that led me to conclude the moment was right to dedicate my time pursuing a new passion.

Would I have left the stability of a permanent job knowing a global pandemic was just around the corner?  Probably not.  It’s been incredibly tough starting a new business during such uncertain times, especially one that has human contact at its heart. However, I’ve tried not to let the challenging conditions get the better of me and instead used the experience to gain insight and ideas that have enabled me to boost my entrepreneurial spirit. I’ve shared my top five lessons here for any readers thinking of taking a similar leap.

  1. Take your time and use a clear head to properly explore your ‘concept’ to ensure it is well-defined and feasible. Consider whether there’s a demand for whatever product or service you’ll be selling and who your competitors are.  Depending on the nature of your business, you’ll most probably need to look beyond your local areas for this.  You may be all fired up and full of ideas, but if it’s all in your head for now the first thing to do is write a business plan.  There are templates available online that will help you flesh out key points, such as who your clients / customers will be, what you’re offering, how much your costs (including your time) and charges will be, and as I’ve already mentioned who your competitors are.  Some business coaching or mentor could well be in order at this stage to help you develop your strategy and goals.
  2. Before going any further, ensure you’ve spoken to anyone with whom you share financial or domestic commitments to check you both have the same expectations and that these are realistic.  It’s possible that a major career change will cause ripples on the domestic scene no matter how supportive your partner is.  “These are our Hopes and Dreams!” I hear you cry.  “We don’t want mundane discussions about hard cash or household responsibilities!”  But the reality is that you both need to agree on what’s happening to avoid any future conversations that begin with “If only I’d known…”.
  3. On that note, whilst you’ll need all your self-belief in launching and running your own business, understand that it’s unlikely you’ll be an overnight success / make a large profit from day one, especially with potential clients being super cautious about spending right now.  Plan financially before you start out, ensuring you have enough to cover your initial set-up and day-to-day running costs as well as living expenses before you factor in any profit.  Your costs are likely to include any training or qualifications; premises; equipment / materials; website design and hosting; advertising; professional membership; insurance; travel expenses; tax; and potentially, employees.  These investments make it vital you don’t sell yourself short when you price your services or product.  Also, go easy on the promotions and giveaways, otherwise people may equate “cheap” with “of little value”. And if you do offer freebies to family and friends always remember to ask for feedback and testimonials. The former will help identity potential improvements whilst the latter are great for inclusion in marketing literature.
  4. Make time to create your online platforms before you launch.  If you don’t have a design or marketing background, you may need professional help with the look, feel and thrust of your website and social media campaign and to help keep you focused around your goal of attracting and retaining clients.
  5. As a sole trader, you’re going to need to be all things to your business: practitioner / manufacturer; accountant; marketer; business development strategist; web designer; administrator and then some.  You’ll also need to be your own best friend and cheerleader.  It’s easy to underestimate how lonely it can be when you’re your own boss, and how much you can miss the camaraderie of working in a team with shared goals.  Acknowledge your successes and get support with any weak areas from a trusted professional.  You will build a new network but it will take time.   Emotional resilience is also crucial, particularly in the current economic climate.  Assess whether you’ll struggle with the transition from being “kind of a big deal” in your current role to a newbie on the scene in your new venture.  Some loss of status is inevitable, so prepare your family and friends, enlist their support, shore up your confidence with detailed planning and research, and if you have any self-esteem issues, or your identity has been strongly bound up in your job, get some professional support from a coach or therapist before you make a drastic change.

A professional re-invention can give you a new lease of life, greater freedom and better job satisfaction. But when it comes to going solo there are very few short-cuts so make sure you do the groundwork!

Sheri Werner is a fully qualified and insured Reiki practitioner and founder of Seven Jewels Therapies.