How I quit my job to become a successful entrepreneur with no clients lined up

How I quit my job to become a successful entrepreneur with no clients lined up

Leaving my job in 2016 didn’t feel brave at the time. I’d saved up a bunch of money and I was looking forward to 6 weeks’ worth of Scout camps and volunteering. I was going on an adventure! Winning my first clients felt easy as well. I just had to email 10 people I knew (many of them also through Scouting) to see if anyone needed help with their social media or their website. I got a gig writing Facebook content for one small business and built a Wix website for another one. A few weeks later I started copywriting for an agency where the graphic designer had a kid in my Cub Scouts.

The network, experiences, and sense of adventure I gained through Scouting were fundamental resources to help me leave my safe, sensible job and enter the world of self-employment.

The breakfast queue at the Jamboree

My stick insect friend

The editorial team

A taste of what life might be like

Back in 2014, I applied for a role in the International Service Team at the World Scout Jamboree in Japan in the height of summer. Based on the skills I had, and my general distaste for extreme heat, I put myself down to work in the media team – mostly an indoor job – and was assigned to be a sub-editor on the Newspaper team – result!

Then I started looking at how far it was to Japan and wondered if there might be more adventures to be had if I extended my trip beyond just the 2 weeks of the Jamboree. I messaged an Aussie friend and a few weeks later, I had a plan. Australia’s not exactly on the way to Japan, from Edinburgh, but it would still be less flying than if I made two separate trips. Only one small issue remained – I’d need to be off work for almost the entire summer. I wanted to take a full month of annual leave from 10 July to 10 August 2015.

Fortunately, my team at work were reasonably accommodating, and my leave request was granted, on the condition that I promised never to take more than 2 weeks leave at a time for a very long time.

Time flew by and in July 2015 I arrived fresh faced and excited, ready to start work on the Jamboree newspaper as part of a team of 25 other volunteers – photographers, reporters, graphic designers and other editors. That very first day I also made friends with a stick insect, although that’s only incidental to our story.

 

Every day I got up at 5.30 (it was too hot in the tents to sleep any later), and queued along with thousands of other volunteers for breakfast. By 7.30 I’d be ready for my 20-minute ‘commute’ across the enormous jamboree campsite into the media centre (which had shade and fans and WiFi, and was my idea of heaven compared to the rest of the Jamboree site…) We had a team meeting every morning where Ger, our fearless leader, would assign task to everyone for the day.

We had goals, we had plans, we had deadlines. We made our own decisions, we solved our own problems, and we ate a lot of ice cream on the patio in the shade. And by the time we got to issue four, we were a tight knit team, and I was having the time of my life.

And that’s in spite of the fact, I was working about 14 hours a day (with the occasional ice cream break). I’d gone to the Jamboree along with more than 100 other Scottish Scout leaders, and only spoke to any of them for a few minutes each day. We worked so late each night on the newspaper that the canteen delivered food to us because we were never finished in time for the dinner service.

I said to my friend Kay one evening as we sat scoffing our bento boxes, waiting for final proofs to read over, “I wish my real life was like this.” I’d been in the world of work for 4 years at that point, and none of the jobs I’d had so far had brought me anything like this much satisfaction. I knew it was time for a change.

The moment I realised what I was meant for

By issue 8, poor Ger, our fearless leader, was getting burnt out. While I sat with the other editors sat on the patio eating ice cream, chatting, and waiting for the reporters to get their articles out, he had to go to meetings with the other team leads and talk about grown up things. He needed a break and I wanted a challenge.

Enter Katie, Lieutenant Editor!

Standing in front of the white board that Tuesday morning, I was so happy. I felt like I was doing exactly the thing that suited me. I loved leading the team, I loved helping people figure out their articles, I loved making the decisions and solving the problems with everyone’s help.

When I got back from the Jamboree, and back to my grey office walls and fluorescent lighting, it took me all of 8 seconds to start planning my escape. I was going to take my writing skills, my creativity, and my love of the internet and I was going to get me a job in Marketing.

Unemployable?

The problem was that all the marketing agencies looked at my official experience – writing informational web pages with little room for imagination and innovation – and decided that didn’t count. I didn’t have the experience they were looking for in the roles I wanted to do. I got offered a couple of roles where I’d be copying and pasting other people’s content into Buffer, day in day out. I’d be just as frustrated and bored as I was in my existing job, but on half the salary. I figured there had to be a faster way to get where I wanted to go.

By Christmas time I’d decided I’d go freelance for a while and do some marketing for people who I knew. Six months or a year of marketing experience, tacked on to my previous career history, seemed like it would be a better offer, and a chance to demonstrate that my skills really did transfer. I figured I’d show that I could walk the walk, as well as talk the talk, and would get hired on the back of my results.

So I made the New Year’s Resolution in 2016 that I would leave my job that year by my birthday (in July) and start freelancing. Went to my first ever Business Gateway workshop on the 14th January (and met the wonderful Andy Johnston), and started working on a website, and a brand.

At the same time, I started signing up to Scout camps for every week of the summer. I booked in 10 days with my own troop, then two weeks at Blair Atholl Jamborette right after. When I booked a third Scout camp, another 10 days over in France at an event called Roverway, that I knew I really would have to had in my notice. I knew if I didn’t book those camps, I might never have had the guts to meet with my boss and resign, because I found it hard to explain exactly what I was leaving for.

Quitting without a job lined up

It felt really hard to justify my decision to leave when I didn’t have a single client, another job or anything at all lined up. All I had was a few grand in savings and a lot of enthusiasm. If it hadn’t been for those first two guys who took a chance on me when I was all brand new, I’m not sure where I’d be now!

And of course, when I did start freelancing, I realised how much I loved deciding my own schedule and working on my own terms. I learnt so much so quickly, figuring out branding and pricing and managing my time. I realised I didn’t like copywriting, but I loved making websites. I didn’t like Twitter but oh boy did I love Instagram. I certainly didn’t know back in 2016 how much time and energy I’d come to invest in training myself, and getting help from others.

My 2018 security pass

Everything was going grand until January 2018. I’d just started working with Digital Boost clients through the Business Gateway and I was going to deliver my first workshop the next month. I’d met a start-up founder in November and had just invoiced for a piece of work we’d done together. I was working with Andy on designing my new brand – The Whin – and had paid a good chunk of the cost already. And then the first Digital Boost project hadn’t finished and the payment terms on the start up’s invoice were so long and all of a sudden, I realised I was as skint as I’d ever been in my life. I had to borrow £100 off my parents so I could afford to buy groceries for a couple of weeks.

For a few days it really felt like I might have messed it up. Maybe I hadn’t worked hard enough, or networked with the right people, or charged enough for my services. I wondered if I wasn’t as good at marketing as I thought, despite all the time I’d spending researching and learning and working on my skills. By that point I’d realised I didn’t ever want to go and work for a boss in a marketing agency after all. I needed to find a way to stay independent, and carry on working for myself, but I was struggling so hard for every half-day workshop and 4-page website. How on earth was I going to turn it around? It felt so grim. But then I got lucky.

I’d been chatting back and forth with my old manager about coming in on a contract to work on some specific online forms. I’d worked on online forms in my old job and really enjoyed the aspects of user experience and service design. It was only three days a week for three months, but it was a gift, and it came at the exact right moment. After those first three months, my contract was extended, I was promoted to project manager and I got a pay rise, and most of July off. And about 5 months, as much as I was enjoying having reliable income, I was SO ready to be done again.

Even though this time it was on my terms, I still wasn’t really happy. I didn’t have the authority to make decisions and have a real impact. And if I had the authority, I wouldn’t have got to spend time on doing the user-focused stuff that I really loved. I have the utmost respect for all my colleagues there, but the contrast between working there and working with a solo-business owner could not have been more stark.

I was done. I was ready. It was time to launch The Whin.

How to connect your Facebook and Instagram accounts

How to connect your Facebook and Instagram accounts

Sometimes it’s really useful to be able to cross-post content from Instagram to Facebook. But the process you need to follow to connect your Facebook Business page to your Instagram Business profile is surprisingly complicated.

Some people get it right first time without much difficulty, but if you didn’t, don’t worry. Follow the steps outlined below and you can get yours sorted in no time.

 

Linked Accounts in Instagram

The first thing you need to do is to link your Facebook account with your Instagram business page. This needs to be the Facebook account that you use to manage your Facebook page. Most people only have one, which makes this easier.

Ideally, you’d have the Facebook app on your phone, as well as the Instagram app. Get signed in to the right Facebook account on that app, and then switch over to Instagram. Tap your profile icon, and then the menu button in the top right hand corner. Settings is what we’re looking for, and it’s right at the bottom of that menu.

In that menu, click on Account. This menu then gives you lots more options, and you need to select Linked accounts from the second screen.

 

The screen here will show you the 5 different social platforms you can link with your Instagram accounts. The relevant one is Facebook, but there are other options!

If you’ve tried to link your Facebook account before, you may already have your name listed here. If you have two Facebook accounts, this may have the wrong name. So either way, tap on Facebook, and then Log in if you need to. Or you can Unlink and sign in again. As long as you’re logged into the correct account on Facebook on your phone, this should work.

Connect the right Facebook Page to your Instagram

Once you have the right account linked, you need to check you’ve set your Instagram profile to connect to the right Facebook Page. To do that, head back to your profile page. Below your bio, and above your grid and any Stories Highlights, you’ll see an Edit Profile button. Tap this and scroll down to the section of Public business information. The Page listed here is where you’ll be able to share any posts across to Facebook.

It might have the right page listed already, but if not, tap the word Page and you’ll see a list of all the pages associated with the Facebook account you’ve liked to this Instagram profile. If your page isn’t listed, you’ve either connected the wrong Facebook account, or you don’t have admin access to the page.

Of course you’ll know Instagram has a whole host of other features for marketing your business, including links, Insights, Direct Messaging, and so on. If you want to make sure you’re using those correctly, why not use our Instagram MOT Checklist to give your account the once-over and make sure everything’s running smoothly? 

Add your Instagram to your Facebook Page

If you’re starting from your Facebook Page and want to make sure your can cross-post things to Instagram, you need to approach this task from the other angle, starting with the Facebook settings. Connecting the two accounts also allows you to use other Facebook tools to help manage your Instagram page, such as better ad targeting and a combined messaging inbox.

It’s easiest to do this while using Facebook in a browser on a computer, not in the mobile app, or on a mobile device, to access these settings. First, make sure you’re signed into the right Facebook account and go to your Facebook Page. At the top, you’ll see a row of menu items – choose Settings from the right hand side.

This will open the General settings by default, so you need to scroll down the list of menu options on the left of that page and select the one which says Instagram.

Then click the button at the top of this page to Connect Account. You’ll need to log in to the correct Instagram profile, and then Facebook will pull through all the details automatically.

This should be all you need to do!

One of the main benefits of connecting your Facebook and Instagram profiles is how easily you can share content on both channels at the same time. This is called cross-posting. We did a whole podcast episode on how to do cross-posting properly, so make sure you check that out.

Launch Party recap

Launch Party recap

Thank you so much to everyone who came along to The Whin’s launch party this month! I’m flabbergasted it’s already been two weeks. Time flies when you’re prioritising your clients over your own business … oops!

It was such a pleasure to see you all and celebrate with you – here are some photos for you to enjoy!

Katie setting things up at The Whin launch party Guests talking at The Whin launch party Rachel, Katie and Louise at The Whin launch party

The biggest thanks have to go to Rachel and Louise, my two incredible assistants, who organised everything for us. I had a million and one questions for all our suppliers about chicken nugget buffets and recycled paper, and they handled everything for me with grace and efficiency.

The Whin logo sticker Andy and Katie wearing The Whin logo stickers

The branding for The Whin, including the name, the logo, and my awesome business cards, were all designed by Andy Johnston of Eido Studio. It was such a pleasure to work with him earlier this year on the brand, and for him to join us for the party as well.

We had a fun little contest where everyone shared their biggest social media fail, and the funniest story won a prize! Take a look over on Instagram to see (anonymously!) what everyone shared.

The Whin cupcakes on a clear stand

We were extremely well looked after by all our suppliers, including Rabble Taphouse and Grill in their glorious Garden Room. The delicious cupcakes came from Bibi’s Bakery, and the workbooks were turned around by GMP Print Solutions in record fast time, and delivered a whole day early.

If you weren’t able to make it don’t worry, you haven’t missed out on all the fun. On Monday, we’re launching another wee contest over on LinkedIn to win a box of 6 delicious cupcakes from Bibi’s Bakery. Keep your eyes peeled!

Images courtesy of Louise Oliver, Rachel Anderson and Andy Johnston.

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com

When talking about WordPress websites, people are usually referring to one of two services. This blog includes affiliate links.

What is WordPress.org

WordPress.org is a service which lets you download the free WordPress software, and a host of themes and plug ins. This software you can then install on your server and use it to build your website. Although the software is free, you’ll have to pay elsewhere for hosting and domain registration.

What is WordPress.com

WordPress.com is a service which lets you build and run your website using the same WordPress software, but without having to download it, to buy server space, or anything else. It’s essentially a hosting service with WordPress software built in. You can register your domain through WordPress.com too.

Should I use WordPress.org or WordPress.com?

The short answer: WordPress.org.

If you’re sure you want to build your website in WordPress, then the question is less about how you get the WordPress software, and more about how you want to host your website. If you’re not sure what a server is, or hosting, we can use a simple metaphor.

Imagine your sever is the building that your website lives in. Like choosing a home for yourself, you’ll find that many of the basic features are the same. Houses have walls and doors and a roof. Your hosting will have a control panel, email tools and security certificates. A nice house will have more space and extra features, and so will a better server. In general with hosting, as with housing, you want to compare the prices and features offered and choose the combination that works for you.

Where to host a WordPress website

My own recommendation, after years of working with clients across all kinds of hosting platforms, is to host your website with SiteGround. You get 24/7 support, which you’ll probably never need. They offer a one-click WordPress installer to make thing easy for you. So although you’re using WordPress.org software, you never actually have to visit the site!

 

Price wise, you can get SiteGround for £2.95 + VAT per month for up to three years! 

In terms of the features you get, with SiteGround, you can choose any theme you want, or even install one that’s been designed for you. You can add payments through any merchant tool you like (WordPress only allows PayPal), and you can add SEO and performance enhancing plug ins to make sure your customers find your website and can use it quickly.

WordPress does have some great features built in, including Jetpack, which protects from spam, supports some SEO features, and lets you schedule social media posts to publish at the same time as your blog posts. If that’s the only thing swaying you however, you can install Jetpack on any WordPress site, and it has variable pricing depending on what you can afford.

Do I need to buy a domain name?

WordPress.com allows you to register a domain name, if you haven’t already, as part of the price of your plan. Any additional domains are charged at $18 per year for a .co.uk website. SiteGround also offer domain registration, at around $14 a year for .co.uk domains. If you do need to register domains, however, there are cheaper options, and unlike hosting options, there’s not much difference in service between one provider and another. Namecheap.com offer the best value domain names that I’ve found, with prices around $7-10 for a .co.uk domain, so I’d recommend you check out their options before deciding where to buy.

The Final Word

I’m a huge fan of WordPress and genuinely think it’s the best tool around for building your website. WordPress.com is a great option if you’re nervous about setting up hosting and domains, and you don’t have a budget for additional support. However, I’d always opt to use the WordPress software, free from WordPress.org. If you’re comfortable setting up your hosting, or you can connect with a web developer or WordPress expert, you can really benefit from the additional flexibility, and set up a faster and more effective website for your business.

I will get a small commission if you purchase any SiteGround product through one of these links, but I’ve chosen to affiliate with them because I love their product so much!

3 easy steps to set up your Instagram Business Profile

3 easy steps to set up your Instagram Business Profile

Switching your Instagram profile from personal to business is pretty straight-forward, and absolutely necessary. This 3-step guide will lead you through everything you need to know to get yours set up.

Why do I need an business profile on Instagram?

There are some clear benefits to switching from personal to Business on Instagram.

  • You get access to Insights data which shows you who your audience are and how they interact with your content
  • You can add contact and location information to your profile that help people to find you
  • You can run promotions direct from your Instagram account, without having to use Facebook Ad manager.

Each of these elements is essential to running a successful Instagram account for your business and each one is only available in an Instagram Business profile.

Step 1 – Select ‘Switch to business profile’ in your settings

To access your settings menu, go to your own profile, and click the 3 bar menu in the top right hand corner. A little bar will pop out over a section of your screen, with a ‘Settings’ button right down at the bottom.

Scroll down this menu until you see ‘Switch to business account’. If you’re starting from scratch, using the link to ‘Sign up for a business profile’ to create a separate profile from your personal account.

Step 2 – Enter a business category and contact details

First you need to choose a top level category – probably ‘Local business’. Then choose from the second drop down menu to find a more specific business type to suit what you do. I chose ‘Business service’ but there are lots of other options.

The next screen asks you for your email address, phone number and business address. Adding these details here means people can email, call and get directions to your business. If you work from home, you don’t need to put your full address, you can just include your area, and the first part of your postcode. Although you’re not expecting people to drop by and see you, they may like to know if you’re near to them.

Step 3 – Connect to your Instagram to your business’s Facebook Page

The last thing you’re asked for is to connect to your Facebook Page. If you’re signed in to the Facebook app on your phone, it should pull across the information there and give a list of Pages. You need to be an Admin user of the page you want to connect, so if you’re not, you can choose ‘Don’t connect to Facebook’ and add the right page later on.

If you don’t have a Facebook Page at all, you can also choose to have one set up along with your Instagram. It will have the same name as your Instagram account, if its available, and it can just sit there in the background if you’re not ready yet to start using it. Remember, just because you then have a Facebook Page, doesn’t mean you’re required to start posting content right away. It can sit dormant for a few months whilst you focus on your Instagram page and growing your following there. Be strategic in your choice of platforms and how you spend your time, if you want to see the biggest return on investment.

Your Instagram Business Profile is now ready

That’s it! As you’ve seen, it’s quite a straightforward process to follow, and once you’re set up you can go back and change details like your address and your bio, so that your Profile page looks exactly how you want it. Make sure you get to grips with Instagram’s insights, where you can see who your followers are and how they’re interacting with your content.

Using Social Media To Reach Young People

Using Social Media To Reach Young People

98% of 16 to 24 years olds used social media in the last 3 months. This is higher than any other age group.

Data from ONS 2017. Designed in Piktochart

“The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow”

– Nelson Mandela

Social media isn’t just a helpful tool for the younger generation. They live and breathe it, in a world where a WiFi connection has become as necessary as running water or electricity. Who are the youth of today? In a nutshell, your potential customers and certainly your customers of the future. Businesses who fail to engage with young people on social media platforms risk being left behind.

Many a time I’ve battled with a client over the benefits of their social media use when the return on investment is much clearer for search and display advertising. With an ad like that, you’re targeting people who are actively engaged or trying to buy, which is brilliant! But young people spend most of their time in a passive state, especially on social media. So you need to use the platform to engage them, and let them get to know you. Then when they do switch on and they’re ready to buy, your products and services become their obvious choice. This is especially the case when they need to involve their parents in their buying decisions.

What Social Media Platform to Use

Source: BBC Newsbeat

Young people use social media very differently to their parents. They’re not on the same platforms, and actively try to avoid spending much time in the same places. If Mum is on Facebook all the time, the young person will not be.

YouTube – This is one of the most popular platforms for reaching younger people. Teenagers especially are avid YouTubers.  A report from Cisco predicts “by 2019 online video will be responsible for 80% of global online traffic”. You should be creating some video content yourself, and filling it with engaging and youthful personalities, when you can. You can also engage with other YouTubers, sending products or offers to carefully selected influencers to help promote your offer. Make sure you ask the YouTuber about their viewer numbers and demographics before deciding who to work with.

Instagram – Is very popular with young people, 59% of young people engage with this medium. It appeals to their creative side and you can quickly capture millennials’ attention with stunning visuals.  Instagram Stories are also a great way to connect with younger users. The marketing benefits of using Instagram are dramatic, according to Hootsuite “75% of Instagram users take action, such as visiting a website, after looking at an Instagram advertising post.”

Snapchat – In March 2018 a Pew Research Centre survey reported 78% of 18 – 24 year-olds used Snapchat, many of them multiple times a day.  Although they’ve been facing stiff competition from Instagram, and have harmed their own user stats with an unpopular redesign, the platform is still incredibly well used. It’s main appeal is how befuddled ‘grown ups’ are by the platform, meaning their parents are unlikely to be notified of their every move! On the other hand though, it’s marketing tools are challenging to use effectively, and users respond less well to branded content. Snapchat is a tough nut to crack!

Facebook – This is an easy to use, relatable platform.  There has been some debate about whether Facebook is falling out of fashion with young people.  The older generation are increasingly using and seeing the benefits of Facebook but it is still an established platform and remains popular with younger people too.  Facebook Live has helped keep it relevant and this is where it’s at if you want to reach the biggest audience. If you’re running a Facebook Page already, have a look at the demographic stats in your own Insights page. Are you reaching the people you want to? If not, it may be time to rethink your strategy.

Twitter – Half of the younger generation use Twitter and in the UK the majority of users are under the age of 34 (Hootsuite).  If you consider the 3 most followed Twitter users are Katy Perry (109 million ), Justin Bieber (106 million) and Barack Obama (102 million) it gives you a good indication of the demographic engaging with the medium. It appeals because the information is up to date, newsworthy and it’s a great platform for sharing opinion. It’s less popular with teenagers than some of the other options here, but if young adults are your target audience, and you have a regular feed of news-worth content, it can be a great medium for you!

Pinterest – This platform is significantly more popular with women than men.  Users post aspirational lifestyle tips, how to guides, recipes, pictures and shopping galleries. It is a growing platform for businesses and a good way to increase your presence.  If you pin something appealing and of value to your target audience this could increase brand awareness. You can combine your products and services with content from other users into Boards which appeal more broadly and can help get you noticed. Content on Pinterest often continues to be viewed and stay engaging over time, so it’s a great one to use if you can’t reliably produce new content week after week after week.

LinkedIn – LinkedIn is widely regarded as a professional setting for older people.  It may not appeal to the younger generation, you may engage them if they are considering working in your field but are unlikely to attract younger customers through this medium.

How to use Social Media?

You don’t need to be on every social media platform – that’s a great way to get overwhelmed and struggle to do make any progress at all. My preference is always to start with your ‘best bet’ platform – where are you and your audience both most comfortable. Work really hard on that one platform for 3 months, and see how quickly you can grow your followers and engagement through focused efforts. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you might think about trying something new, but get really good at working with one platform before you start branching out all over the place.

You need to think about who your audience or target customer is then find a way to appeal to them. Tell stories of people similar to your target audience.  Everyone loves a story, especially if it resonates directly with them. Engage with people by showing them you know and understand them. Use young employees or previous customers as examples and tell their story so the content is relevant for the audience you’re aiming it at.

Choose your hashtags carefully on Twitter and Instagram, but give them a miss on Facebook. The best tags to use are the ones which your customers are using themselves. Follow tags relevant to your customers to see the type of content that’s there, and work out how you can fit in. Make sure to link and comment on posts by other users in the hashtags you want to stay relevant to. If you are engaging in the community around a hashtag, not just broadcasting to it, then your posts will be shown more amongst other people in that same community.

Need a hand?

If you and your team need a workshop session to figure out your strategy, you can grab a copy of the slides I use to deliver this to clients. That’s right, you can have them for free!

If you need a bit of support to deliver the workshop or you want to get into the details, just send me an email, and I’ll be in touch.