What do you do for a living, and why did you make the jump to self-employment?
I am an iOS developer helping early-stage startups build great apps. I was working for startups and moonlighting for others during 4 years until I realized that I needed enough focus and structure to be able to help them further. This is my first year being self-employed, but the results already convinced me this was the right decision.
What’s a big challenge you’ve had with running your own business, and how did you overcome it?
Given that this is only in my first year being self-employed, I won’t claim that I have encountered the hardest challenges yet. However, I live in France and we have a very complicated system when it comes to setting up your company. There were so many things I didn't know about and a lot of contradictory advice.
Fortunately, a friend of mine introduced me to a small company that handled most of the paperwork, gave me a ton of advice, and provided a really modern accounting service (which only works in France, sorry!) for at least half the regular legal and accounting fees.
Do not underestimate how much help you’re going to need for setting up your company and how much time it’s going to take away from real work.
What advice would you give to those who are just starting out on the journey of running their own businesses?
I was afraid to start my own business for too long, but stepping out regularly of your comfort zone turns out to be one of the most rewarding thing you can do in life. If there's something economically viable you're passionate about, that don't feel like work most of the days, there's no reason to wait anymore. The conditions will never be exactly right and you will never be ready.
If you're not entirely sure being self-employed is right for you, moonlighting for clients can help. You will have a good overview of what it's like to run your own business and how hard it can get. However, remember that this is a temporary solution. I don't believe you can give your best self if you try to focus on too many things at the same time.
Once you've embarked on your new journey, getting clients will be the next obstacle you will encounter. Sure, if you already know the right people, work will likely come to you regularly by doing practically nothing. That's actually the biggest trap you can fall into. Avoiding feast and famine cycles should be your priority. Look for new clients every day, even when you're booked. There are never enough backup plans. If you're really struggling to find clients, remember that you only need one to turn things around. Reach constantly to everyone you know and don't buy leads (they're worthless). Also don't be afraid of cold emailing. If you keep it short, simple and do it regularly, it will work at some point.
Finally, there are two pieces of advice I like to give in order to raise the odds of closing a deal. As an introvert, I really like the comfort of my home office, but meeting a potential client face to face, even for a simple cup of coffee, can do wonders. I've also found that working on a small project first with a new client is the best way to build trust. Once you get a person to perform a first small transaction, she'll be more likely to commit to bigger transactions in the future (of course, this also depends on the quality of work).
Where would you like your business to be three years from now?
Hopefully with lots of delighted clients and successful products to be proud of. I don’t really see myself focusing on something else than startups because working on new and innovative products is what I’m the most passionate about.
I would also like to make room for my own products. It would be a mistake to not apply everything I've learned from working with so many bright people.
What quality, habit, or decision has contributed to the success of your business?
I think there are a few skills which help me provide the best services, and it mostly comes down to being organized. I’m not afraid of over-communicating with my clients by telling them what I’ve accomplished in a given day. I also keep track of everything that happens during a project in thorough details. Not only this helps me fight bad memory, but it also makes you appear more professional in front of your clients, which will, in turn make them more likely to work with you in the long term.
Being punctual is also very important. Being good at estimating tasks and never working without a margin of error helps me in this way.
Perhaps the most important habit of all is that I never stop learning new things. Even though extending the knowledge of your own specialty is very important, there’s really no excuse to stop there. I try to learn new things from all fields, even those which don’t have anything to do with my work, like philosophy, psychology, design and all branches of sciences. I’m convinced that this habit will help me succeed in the long run.