There really aren't many people who would ditch a completely secure and pretty prestigious job in the middle of a recession to do their own thing. But when your life starts to look like... get up, drive, work, lunch, work, work, work, drive, dinner, sleep, repeat... it's a pretty easy choice.
In November last year, I decided to dive into the world of social media marketing. It happened a bit by accident. I was one of the first people in the UK to get on Facebook and over time developed a pretty amazing level of knowledge about it. I just didn't realise it.
Then a friend asked me to run a 'test' campaign for them because they had heard Facebook ads 'might' help them. This test campaign, generated £7,000 revenue from a £20 ad campaign. That's a 35,000% return on investment if my numbers are right.
That's when the penny dropped - when it comes to social media, I know what I'm doing.
I started to pick up clients through word of mouth. I could no longer balance a potentially lucrative but part-time hobby I loved with a full-time job I was starting to cringe at. Unsurprisingly, the job was my sacrifice.
I found the first couple of months a lot harder than when I was in hobby mode. From not having enough time, suddenly time was a luxury. I was working by myself from home and actually starting to advertise for the first time.
The advertising part was probably the hardest for me. I was arrogant and assumed everyone who found my ads would buy from me and if they didn't, it was a personal failure. So the fact that my ad campaign got me a grand total of ZERO clients made me doubt myself. A lot.
Yet my business was still growing, my clients were happy with me and only too pleased to pass my name on to their contacts.
And then I realised something else. My first ad campaign had involved none of the steps I get all my clients to do - if I was employed, someone would probably have made sure I did those steps. I was a victim of a mixture of my own arrogance, freedom and keenness!
The second time I advertised was much better - I thought through everything a lot more carefully, and pretty much put myself through a Dragons' Den mindset. I thought up every objection I felt my potential customers could have and made sure there was an answer somewhere for them to see. I doubled my client base.
Enter problem number two: lack of time.
I didn't think about my capacity at all and ended up not sleeping to service the clients I had. I went for what I thought was the quick and easy solution of cheaply outsourcing the admin to Asia, with me keeping the important bits - I'll spare you the detail, but it was a lesson learned.
I had to scale down - I stopped all marketing, honoured all of the commitments I made to the standard I expect of myself, and then went back to the drawing board on how to grow my business. In all the chaos of starting up, I didn't think about how to make this baby scaleable until now. Lesson number three.
I had to go from being a individual, to a "proper" business! Bringing in support staff, having systems and structure in place. It took me a good three months of planning. But that is the best thing I ever did. I bet I jinx myself now, but it has been pretty much smooth sailing since then.
Business has gone from 'I' to 'we', and we've become a well oiled, efficient unit. We make sure our clients are happy by doing the same thing I was doing when I started - setting high standards and then still over-delivering.
We've got some huge plans for the future. We like to innovate, experiment and challenge ourselves. There are a couple of plans in particular which will let us help a lot of people and look at becoming a global brand in our market. That would be pretty damn cool!