Seven months ago, Lydia took her love for helping people to the next level and started her own career planning business. She shares her journey so far and advice for anyone considering the same path.
If you had told me five years ago that I would set up my own business I would not have believed you. In my mind, setting up a business was risky, hard work and cut throat. No, thank you!
So five years ago I was graduating from University, from a four year vocational University degree I didn’t enjoy, or go on to use. I got a job working within the charity sector, and felt right at home – this was the type of work that felt good to me – I was helping people and making a difference. So I progressed in my career in the charity sector, met some great people, and for the most part, really enjoyed what I was doing. In one particular role, I was providing career development sessions for interns; something I realised quickly I really enjoyed, and was getting great feedback from them of how useful it was.
Something I’ve learnt is that we all have skills, every single one of us has things that we can do well, and often these things come so easily to us that we don’t even recognise them as skills, because it takes no effort. Three years after graduating from University I had had three different roles within two different charities, and I was starting to realise my particular skills were around working with people, organisation and presentation/training. These skills, mixed with my passion to help people took me on a journey to complete my training to become a certified professional coach, with a view of becoming a career coach – inspired by the sessions I was providing for interns.
During my training I learnt a lot about myself. But most of all, I learnt that there were things I could do that would really help other people. During my training I ended up practicing my coaching on all my friends. A lot of them were struggling with the same issues: trying to figure out what they wanted to do in life and whether their current job was making them happy. I was struck by how important it is to enjoy your job, and decided that I wanted to use my new coaching skills to help people find work they actually like. An idea for a business started developing in my mind.
Now, I need to remind you here, I did not consider myself to be entrepreneurial-minded. I hadn’t even done business studies at school; I was starting from nothing. All I knew was that people needed something I had, and that I had a passion for helping people. The passion I felt engulfed any fears I had around business.
I started subscribing to every blog going, reading books, listening to webinars, brainstorming business name ideas; I’d gone from fear to excitement, and it all felt like it was happening pretty quickly.
“we all have skills, every single one of us has things that we can do well, and often these things come so easily to us that we don’t even recognise them as skills”
But then, every so often, those fears and doubts would spring up in my mind again: setting up a business is risky – what if it doesn’t work, this is going to be hard work – what about your social life, who do you think you are – you’re better suited to working in the charity sector than the business world. In all honesty, I still have these thoughts from time to time – especially when I’m on the phone to a potential client and they’re asking me how I can help them!
I officially started my business in July 2017, so I’m not even a year into being a business-owner yet. The biggest thing that’s helped me keep moving forward is that right now, I see it more as a hobby than a business – this means it doesn’t feel risky (I still have a 9-5 job so anything I make in my business is a bonus), it doesn’t feel like hard work (I love chatting to people and helping them, and I’m enjoying learning about marketing, and how business works) and it definitely doesn’t feel cut throat (I’m “doing business” in a way that feels good to me, and ultimately I set up this business because I want to help people). Although I have ideas and plans of where it might take me, and understand that down the line maybe I will need to reframe it again to be more business than hobby, right now I’m just enjoying the ride.
I am not claiming to be the best business-owner in the world (I can’t even claim to be the best business-owner in Sheffield!) – far from it. I am not claiming to know everything (I am still learning and have my own coach who’s helping me figure out how to “do business”!). I am still very much at the start of my journey. But what I hope you get out of this article is that setting up a business doesn‘t have to be risky, hard or cut throat. If you see it as a hobby, and do it out of a passion, it can actually be pretty fun… at least that’s been my experience so far!
Things that have helped me set up a business and my top tips if you’d like to do something similar:
Being passionate about what I’m doing
It takes a lot of time and energy so absolutely find something you care about, try it for a little bit and check in with yourself (honestly) to see you still feel the same.
Viewing it as a hobby, alongside my full time job
This is something that has been so important for me – I do have targets of how much money I’d like to make each month, but there’s no pressure or stress if I don’t hit them, because I still have my salary coming in from my 9-5 each month. This has been so important as I’ve learnt to sell my coaching service; I simply share what I do, and hope they buy not because I’m desperate for money to pay my mortgage, but because I want to help.
Asking for what I need and accepting help from people
Something that has really worked for me is talking to everyone I meet about what I do (and giving them a business card when they inevitably tell me that they know someone who doesn’t like their job). My experience has been that people want to help where they can.
If you’d like to find out more about what I do, there’s a few different ways you can connect with me: