ABC IS ONE!!!
My journey and what I’ve learnt in the 1st year of running my own business
Wow! Avvy Barter Consultancy is ONE today!!! I have to say the usual cliché…Where has time gone??!!! I thought I would’ve understood the concept of time flying since becoming a Mum, but I can honestly say that the first year of nurturing ABC has been the quickest.
If someone had told me that I’d run my own business, I would’ve looked at them and laughed. To add to that and say that I would launch during a Global pandemic would’ve meant pure craziness, right?! We all go through highs and lows in our careers and wake up thinking ‘I need a new challenge’ or ‘I need to move on.’ I started having a lot of these thoughts around mid-2019 when I returned from mat leave. Things had moved on and I needed a new challenge, but we decided to give it some time as I was now juggling 2 children under 5, work and quite simply…life!
However, change was round the corner as I was made redundant in August 2020 due to Covid-19. I enjoyed being furloughed at first as I focussed on the kids and doing DIY around the house. I took on several projects which included converting the spare room into an office and I’m so grateful that I did! Little did I know that I’d be spending 10-15 hours a day in that room launching my own business! I wasn’t surprised with the redundancy, given the Global pandemic and that clients were pulling ad spends left, right and centre! I had a mild wobble and felt a little lost thinking ‘how will I find a new job with the flexibility I need?’ But Harps (my husband) advised me saying ‘this is your chance to do what you want and move on! This is a blessing in disguise!’ So, I rolled with it and started putting feelers out to people I knew in the industry. Within a week I had some positive feedback which really excited me! In fact, the birth of ABC was when I was asked if I’d do consultancy work as a white label service. That way I’d be working with other agencies too where they would use my expertise and knowledge as and when clients needed. He planted the seed of me owning my own business and it literally took a long chat over a few Vodka lemonades with Harps to decide to go solo! Within days, Avvy Barter Consultancy was born and before I knew it, I was full of excitement registering my company and designing my logo!
I had no idea what this would entail and how many rollercoaster journeys I would go on, particularly emotional ones! I was as assumptive as most of us were about Covid-19 that we would perhaps have one lock down and things will start improving. But as each week rolled into months, I would speak to people about their challenges with their clients and eventually accepted that I need to be patient and ride these testing times. Someone once said ‘Congrats Avvy, you’ll never turn back. Owning your own business is the best decision ever and you’ll be just fine!’ Truth be told, as the months passed and with the leads I had going quieter and quieter, I’d often ask myself if I’d made the right decision. I spent so much time catching up with old and new colleagues, making noise of my new venture. Some weeks, I’d be pitching to various different agencies and feel so positive about the meetings. Other days I struggled to get motivated and had lack of traction. Netflix and The Crown were a saviour in my darker days. I went from chatting to hundreds of people in Havas, to me, myself, and I at home! For those of you who know me, know I love a chat, a good laugh and banter! The dark days were tough, something I’d never experienced before. Was it the fact that I wasn’t earning any money and wasn’t getting the work in? Or was it 3 lockdowns, home schooling and contending with a toddler’s terrible twos? I’d say both, my life had turned upside down from being a bubbly, sociable working Mum in the hustle and bustle of London, to a Mum, at home, dressed down, pulling her hair out with what felt like an eternity of kids fighting, cooking, and cleaning. God did I miss those Media lunches and feeling ‘normal!’
Every time I thought I had a breakthrough with ABC; I would take 5 steps back. The emotional rollercoaster was horrendous, and I wish I was warned. I lost confidence for a while too. Some days I only got out of bed for the kids, but my patience was wearing so thin! I began to question myself, my decisions and who to trust. I very quickly learnt that it’s very different going solo VS working for international organisations where campaigns worth millions of pounds would fall in your lap! I began to be weary of people and when a friend once advised ‘Avvy, you’ll be surprised at who you think will help you actually doesn’t and who comes out of the woodwork to genuinely help. There are some lovely people out there and you’re one of them so don’t give up, keep trying and keep in touch with people, I guarantee you, business will come!’ I will never forget their words and advice when I most needed it as I trudged along. A huge setback was the 3rd lockdown when 2 campaigns that I worked my socks off for, got canned!
One thing that kept me going was that so many businesses were struggling, not just me. They had staff to pay and make ends meet, whereas I could control my overheads. Their problems were far bigger than mine, so I learnt to appreciate and understand that if they can get through it, so could I. I continued to network and have met some really lovely people on the way. I lowered my expectations and didn’t expect to make any money in the first 6 months. Fortunately, I was physically prepared for it.
Earlier this year, even though I had some work coming my way, I didn’t believe it. I had lost faith and started keeping my eyes peeled for any other potential opportunities. But things began changing, I started getting enquiries, people from the past were even getting in touch. What did this actually mean? Surely I was doing something right, I was making noise in the market and making a bit of a difference; albeit behind a screen on Zoom or the phone, I was getting traction! Thank God for LinkedIn and my blogs! I also underestimated how many people I actually know in the industry and more importantly, how well respected I am! Several people called me the ‘Barter Queen’ which shocked me at first, but it was just the confidence boost that I needed! This gave me a glimmer of hope and I was then advised not to expect to make any money in the first year but to keep trying. With this in mind, I began tackling each day individually, rather than looking at my monthly or quarterly goals. As a passionate negotiator, I’ve always been about numbers and bartering a good deal. I put that aside and ploughed through the day because ‘The mundane actions in the present lay the foundations for exciting experiences in the future.’ I kept disciplined, I logged on before 9am every morning after a coffee, showering and getting dressed properly. My mindset had changed when I realised that I was at my all-time low, I decided I needed a life coach to help me become the positive person that I’ve always been. I swear by them as they’re literally life changing! I was no longer in joggers or pjs, I would dress up and even put on my jewellery, make up and perfume on as if I was meeting people in person. In actual fact, I was just doing the school run and mostly attending virtual meetings. But it didn’t matter, I felt good about myself, hopeful, professional, and determined not to give up!
Now, fast forward a year and I have never been so ecstatic to have built my own business from scratch. I now wake up being in demand with an inbox full of emails and exciting opportunities. I’m working with some amazing agencies, clients, media owners and all-round fantastic people! Every day is so exhilarating as I’m learning so much and challenging myself to be out of my comfort zone. I don’t always get things right, but I’m learning along the way. I’d love to mention names, as I’ve been supported by fabulous people who have given me the chance to prove myself and that my business model works. This has been so uplifting and rewarding. I live and breathe good work ethic, particularly as my brand is my name and there’s no getting away from that! My work ethic has always been to work hard and play harder and I’m now enjoying the fruits of my labour. I actually made some money in my first year, something which I’m so proud of as I no longer feel the financial burden, especially with a promising forecast ahead.
I no longer loathe when someone says ‘everything happens for a reason’ or ‘when one door closes, another opens’ because I’m living proof of how real it all is! Things are a lot calmer in my world, I handle motherhood and the daily chores far better around my work schedule. Life is a juggling act as we all know, but we really don’t need to kill ourselves at the same time. Sometimes we don’t even notice the situation we’re in until we take a step back and assess it. How often is that? Not very! The advice I’d give to anyone who has thoughts of ‘moving on’, ‘changing their jobs/careers’ etc, is to go with your gut feel and don’t doubt yourself, have faith. You don’t know how capable you are unless you take the plunge and challenge yourself. Bosses challenge us, clients challenge us, life challenges us, why can’t we challenge ourselves? If we’re making money for others, why can’t we make money for ourselves?
As mentioned, there are too many people to thank in this short, turbulent, but satisfying journey of mine so far. You lovely human beings know exactly who you are, and I cannot express enough gratitude for the support and love that you’ve all given me. I’m miles away from who I was a year ago and have further to go to be where I want to be! The tears of fear, doubt, worry, joy and excitement have all been worth it and I’ll continue to do a small dance every time I raise an invoice and a huge dance each time I get paid! So, here’s to my 1st birthday today with many more years of fun, learning and growing to come!!!
Here are a few lessons I’ve learnt in the past 365 days. Hope you find them useful:
1. Celebrate each win, no matter how small or big. The smallest successes feel absolutely amazing and are a huge step in the right direction.
2. Keep reaching out to people. Keep networking and keep talking. You learn so much from others, be a sponge and soak it all in. There are some incredible ears out there to listen to you and share their wisdom too.
3. Trust your instincts and gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right.
4. ‘Analysis paralysis!’ If you’re thinking about doing something, DO IT! Don’t waste time procrastinating. The worst thing that will happen is that you may lose an opportunity or waste time when you can be proactive elsewhere.
5. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. We often become the victim of negotiations and sell ourselves too cheap being desperate for the business. Value yourself and hold that value. You are an expert in your field and people want to work with you for a reason, hold your ground, you’re worth it!
6. Not all people think the same way as you do, so don’t worry if they don’t connect with you or agree with your passion and vision.
7. Keep disciplined and focussed. A good routine really helps and keeps you structured. If there are days where you can’t focus or be productive, take a break or take the day off if your diary permits. Being your own boss means taking time out too.
8. Keeping motivated can be a daily struggle. Try and meet with people in person, listen to motivational podcasts, they’re great. Vex King or Rhonda Byrne books are amazing too!
9. Calmness is power. Your emotions may get the best of you at times, walk away, get some fresh air and try to refrain from reacting there and then. Learning how to emotionally disconnect yourself from a person or situation that upsets you is an art that I’m still trying to master!
10. Acceptance! Move on and accept things that are out of your control. You can only do your best right?!
11. You haven’t failed at anything; you’ve learnt from each lesson.
12. Get a mentor. They are invaluable and will advise you from a different perspective. Preferably someone you respect and understands your business. You’re never too old or experienced to have a mentor who will encourage, support and challenge you.
13. Don’t forget to enjoy the journey. Be proud of yourself and how far you’ve come with your dream. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s taught us that we’re not alone and us risk takers have smashed it!
14. Behind every successful entrepreneur is a caring person. Whether it’s your partner, friend or family member. Keep talking to them, discussing ideas, plans, goals, challenges and concerns. They will be your back bone and I’m truly blessed to have my husband as mine!