[Katy Moody, Managing Director of SHARP PR]
The day I’m writing this marks my eighth month in business. You may not think that’s an accomplishment but as far as I’m concerned, at such an early stage, every tiny victory is to be celebrated. Not in a Patsy and Edina champagne-fuelled PR kind of way, but in the form of a small pat on the back topped with a glimmer of hope that I’m actually doing okay.
Someone told me recently at a networking event that success is ‘progressive’ it never stops, you just keep pushing your goals further. So hopefully that means that I am ever so slightly qualified to tell you about how I achieved my first step/tip-toe/dalliance on the stairway of success (If you want to call it that. I feel like it makes me sound like a bit of a knob.) To give you a bit of background, I run a PR agency based in Newcastle that provides affordable services to growing businesses. After seven years in the industry I saw a massive gap in the market for a company to offer social media, copywriting and consultancy services without the eye-watering price, allowing small and growing companies to come and take advantage. Oh and we don’t do press releases UNLESS it’s really beneficial to a client and they can see the return – I bloody hate them!
To be honest, the beginning was rocky. The first few months felt like I was playing a game, like when you play ‘mums and dads’ in reception class, but then the clients started arriving (thank goodness!) and now my days are awash with social media posts, copywriting, new business meetings and thinking “sh*t what about our own PR!”
So if you’re thinking about setting up on your own, then here are a few of my survival tips.
You need to want to know about everything. I watch TED talks, listen to podcasts, read books, stalk companies outside my industry that I think are doing well, go to talks and events and also set up meetings with people who know a lot more than me.
Curiosity drives creativity. It’s vital and you can’t run a business without it. A very wise leader once told me that he considers business like a tunnel, he was an engineer by trade, his team are moving through the tunnel and he is stood with the flashlight, looking around, discovering new things and leading his team towards new adventures. I always try to think like that, no matter how deep we get in the tunnel, I always turn on my flashlight and look round.
When I set up the business I didn’t have a bloody clue what I was doing! SHARP originally started as a magazine and had limited success, however all anyone wanted to know from me was how to do their PR, so the business quickly changed. Three months in I had a PR business with no clients, but what I did have was contacts who I’d met throughout my career. I set up meetings, messaged LinkedIn contacts and asked for introductions.
I can’t thank people enough over the last few months for referring work to me, offering advice and giving me opportunity after opportunity. I’d be nowhere without them. The business community in the North is a very kind one and I always try and repay that by offering help wherever we can. If you go to our Instagram right now (@sharpmediagroup) we give away free advice to every single person that DMs us. Granted we’re not going to write all your web content for free, but we’ll give you some tips on how to do it yourself. If we help other businesses to flourish, then our business will flourish too. Be kind. It will always pay off.
Finance and commitment
I was very lucky in the fact that I’d known I was probably going to set up on my own for a while, and myself and my partner had discussed me setting up the business and also the timeframe it would need to work. Believe me it was hard, whilst I watched boatloads of clothes arrive from ASOS to my friends’ houses, I was searching out the cheapest tea in the supermarket so I could buy podcasting equipment.
This stage of the business isn’t even over, money isn’t so much a worry anymore, but there’s a constant feeling of nervousness. If I lose a client, if there’s a hidden cost I hadn’t accounted for, I don’t want to be caught short. If you’re setting up on your own, you need to have your finances in order and also be ready to give up the ‘things you like.’ At the end of each month I used to send all my money to the bank of Pretty Little Thing but that definitely doesn’t happen anymore!
Don’t forget to look after yourself
It’s so important to consider your own mental health. I have every weekend off and away from my emails and I try to stick to that as much as possible, otherwise my life would very quickly turn into an endless cycle of work and sleep. I’m trying to do more exercise (I’ve signed up to the Great North Run to give myself no choice) and I also take a lunch break and go outside every single day.
You have to remember that your business can’t function without you (in the early days) so you have to be healthy and looking after yourself.
This sounds cliche but don’t give up. If you have an idea or something you’re passionate about then keep going and don’t stop. History is full of millionaires that were told ‘no’ a million times. Don’t let a tiny two-letter word get you down. I’m not going to sugarcoat it either, it is hard. The hours are long, unforgiving and stressful. Sometimes I feel like if I sit still enough I can feel my hairs turning to grey one at a time. But remember it’s worth it. If this is what you really want, you’ll get there.
Follow SHARP on Instagram @sharpmediagroup or to contact Katy directly, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org