This week marks the eleventh week since I left my job at the bank. I’m pretty sure I told someone this week it had been seven weeks so that gives you an indication of my awareness of time so far. I actually just had to count it again on my iPhone calendar because I thought it must be wrong but the calendar does not lie, it has indeed been 11 weeks. Which means that next week will mark three months. THREE MONTHS?! Where did the time go? In corporate world speak that’s one full business quarter and a lot can happen in a business quarter. Here at Studio 1 Interiors we’d be inclined to agree. And by “we’d” I mean “I’. Reflecting on the initial start-up period over the past few weeks I’ve compared it to the first three months of any new job. We all know that new job feeling. It can all feel a bit scary. You’re out of your comfort zone. You’re asking lots of questions. You’re getting to know people. You’re trying to impress. You’re taking on a significant amount of new information. You’re doing things you’ve never done before. You’re making mistakes in order to learn a different way to do things. You have days when you feel like you didn’t do anything right and you have others where you feel like you’re starting to get the hang of it, you get a spring in your step and you feel a little chuffed with yourself. How great are those days! In the past 11 weeks I’ve experienced all of those things and amongst all of it, my new boss also doesn’t mind if I sometimes rock up to my desk wearing my pyjamas so that’s pretty cool too.
Like any new job, I’ve been doing a lot of things for the first time. Setting up a business bank account, applying for an ABN, researching business insurance, creating an invoice template, ordering business cards, wearing PJ’s to work…pretty standard stuff but it’s the first time I’ve done some of those things. If I didn’t know how to do it, I found out, I did it and now I know how to it. And you know, it’s never as difficult as you think it’s going to be. A whole new set of skills can easily form and there is always someone happy to help you with it if you’re willing ask. And that’s on the business admin side of things but the same applies to the design skills I’m using, and nurturing, every day in my response to client briefs. Each time I do something I learn something that informs the next time I do it. Each time, an improved version of the time before. Constant learning and improvement. Which is exactly what happens in a new job isn’t it? Through practice, and feedback, you gain an understanding and skill for what you need to do to create the outcomes which you want to create. And, after a while, it comes so naturally that you don’t give it a second thought. It’s simply what you do. So, rather than see what I’m doing as something I’ve never done before, I’m approaching it instead like another new job. I’ve done plenty of those before and with each, I’ve always experienced it getting easier over time.
With new jobs comes new people. One my most favourite parts. And in this new job I’m meeting so many amazing people who have given me some really helpful business advice. People who are just happy to see people succeed. People who don’t see each other as competition but instead see it that we’re “all in it together”, to help each other, not compete and I love that vibe. And that’s something which feels very different to the corporate world I’ve been used to and of course I totally get that’s because of the scale that these businesses are operating at. There you don’t tend to work closely with those offering the same products or services are you. They’re your competitors, so you keep them close, you know what they’re up to, you try to stay one step ahead of them, you learn from what they’re doing and you go out to do it better / cheaper / faster. But my experience so far of small business – and even those offering a very similar service – is one of collaboration. Is there a way we can help each other? If so, great, let’s do it. Often it’s people meeting people, having a connection and working together as friends.
Last week I asked a friend to help me shoot some photos of my apartment for my website. I love my place but felt it needed a few quality styling additions to nail the look I want to achieve and because the business is new the budget for said task was around the zero mark. I had a think about how I could get hold of some beautiful high end products and decided to email one of my favourite specialist interior stores in Sydney. I was very honest, I told them a little about me and about my business, I explained what I was up to and asked how they would feel if I borrowed some pieces for the shoot. Not only did they reply, they said yes, no problem, come and help yourself. So I did and I was like a kid in a sweet shop. “Can I have one of these? ““Oooh, what about one of these?” The answer was always “Yes, sure!”. It was so generous of them to help me and I was so grateful and humbled again by the support that people have shown me. And when Studio 1 has its own retail store (!) I hope that I can return the favour for someone else who’s starting out and might be in need of a helping hand.
One thing I am realising that the business is going to need to invest in fairly soon is a set of wheels. Not every client will let me drive their BMW X5 like my recent Bondi client and while the Car Next Door scheme is great, it can become a little tricky in terms of logistics and availability. I also forgot how much I love driving. I find it so relaxing and I also forgot how much I love listening to (and singing along badly) to music in the car. I think I may have entertained a few Sydney drivers this week who’ve spotted me singing along to a power ballad in car-e-oke this week. See what I did there? Careoke. Oh wait, I just googled it. Urban Dictionary is all over it. It’s already a thing. Should I know that? I’ll stick to interiors. Also, um, how good are automatic cars to drive?! #gamechanger
What I don’t have that I would normally have in a new job is someone to report into. Someone I can check-in with on a weekly basis on how things are going. Rather than having someone I’m accountable to, I’m now accountable to me. The person I’m now checking in with is me. And as I sit here reflecting on the first 11 weeks of business I can acknowledge that I’ve done a pretty good job so far. I’ve achieved a lot. I can take pride in how far I’ve come. Room for improvement? Always. Because there is aways something new to learn from every opportunity that comes my way. Remember that praise whore from episode one? She’s a bit of a distant memory! Perhaps that comes from being happy. Being content. Not constantly trying to seek that happiness through the approval of others.
When I met up with some ex-colleagues recently one of them asked me what had been the biggest surprise to me since going out solo? The answer was just how natural it has felt. Not necessarily always easy but always with a very comforting sense that I’m on the right path, even when challenged. And rather than worry about what’s at the end of the path or what’s coming later on in the path or where the path will eventually lead or how quickly (which is what I spent most of my career worrying about) I simply try to take each day and each week as it comes and I love that. It’s brought me such a great feeling of being content. Oh the other thing that was a surprise to me was my first broadband bill – $300+…so this week I became a Dodo unlimited broadband customer because clearly using your phone as a personal hotspot when you run out of data can get kinda expensive. Free WIFI cafes will once again be my friend.
Is there anything I miss? Well, you know I love people and I definitely do miss the lovely people that I used to work with and see on a daily basis. My work family. I miss the general office banter, friends swinging by your desk for a chat or catching up with someone while you make a cuppa in the kitchen. I’ve been calling friends more rather than texting because it’s kinda nice to have a conversation! And when the money starts coming in, I’d like to think I’ll be in a position where I can make use of one of the trendy wee shared office spaces in Sydney. Where I can get my banter fix and use someone else’s WIFI! But aside from people I really don’t miss much about what used to be a very structured daily corporate routine. I love that I can listen to my music without the need for earphones and that I can sing along when a tune grabs hold of me and home karaoke ensues. I love that I can go for a walk in the park at lunchtime or have a slower start to the day if that’s what I feel to do. I love that I forget what day it is because weekends no longer feel like the days I long for and enjoy the most out of the week. In fact weekends are fast becoming work days but that’s ok because I’m happy doing it. Happy putting in the hard graft to get my business off the ground.
Within the (almost) twelve weeks it has all become increasingly real. I now have business cards. I have an email address. I’ve invoiced my first paying client. These may seem like simple things but they’re things which make a business real. Tangible. People ask me what I do and I now say I’m an “Interior Designer” – well, ok, not technically 100% true, I usually preface it with something along the lines of having just gone through a bit of a career change…it’s part of my story and one which people seem genuinely interested to hear but I think it’s probably also part of me starting to own what I now do and who I am, without worrying that people are going to question me or doubt what I’m telling them. I should take a steer from the title of my blog, I should own it, ‘like a boss!’. And as it becomes more real and I have those ‘pinch-me’ moments, I’m really happy. I’m challenged, I’m often out of my comfort zone and sometimes it doesn’t work out the way I thought it might but I’m running my own business. I’m doing something I’ve always wanted to do and I’ll take all the challenges that come with that because even amongst all the challenges I feel more settled than I have in a very long time.
If you’re reading this and you know there is something else you want to do. My advice is to go there. Go there despite the fear of the consequences of following your heart, despite the money fears, despite the poverty fears, the fears of being selfish, fear of having to ask for help, despite all those things, take some action today, because when you do, it will be the best thing you ever do.
“Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.” – Steven Pressfield
This week I’ve also encountered a slight issue when telling people my email address over the phone. The word interiors seems to be causing some slight communication issues with my accent. Three times I’ve experienced a conversation along the lines of; “Interiors” “sorry, say that again?” “interiors” “I really can’t understand what your saying” “I.n.t.e.r.i.o.r.s” “ooh interiors, why didn’t you say!”…’I thought I did, three times’. Must be the rolling of the Rrrrs. Might need to get out the Kath and Kim accent for future delivery of the email address.
See, always learrrrning.
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