Our chat this week is with Nathan Littleton of Future Visions, a web design and email marketing company. I’ve been working with Nathan since late last year, both writing content for websites he’s designed and working with him on his own downloadable content and newsletters. The amazing thing about Nathan is that he’s been running his business for 8 years … and he’s still only 21! Actually, the most impressive thing I find about Nathan is his generosity in recommending me to his contacts and friends. I was introduced to him via another client and he’s passed my details on to several people who have become regular Libro clients. He is also great at retweeting on Twitter and posting reviews on various sites whenever he’s asked to – thanks Nathan!
Anyway, let’s find out what life’s like when you set up your own business aged 13 …
What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
My business is called Future Visions; we specialise in creating websites and email marketing campaigns that bring business owners a measurable return on investment. I set the business up in 2003, aged 13.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
Having practised web design as a hobby for a couple of years, I did it because I really enjoyed it and recognised the opportunity to earn a bit more money than my friends who had paper rounds or corner shop jobs.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
Being quite young, it was the only thing I really could do!
Had you run your own business before?
No – I’d only just started high school, so I pretty much started from scratch. I didn’t know what was expected of me when I walked into a meeting with a new prospective client, so I just did what I thought was right. There were a few slightly raised eyebrows, but looking back, I respect the clients I worked with back then for taking the plunge and choosing to work with me (some are still clients today).
How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?
It was a juggling act to maintain the business and keep up with school work, so at any given point I’d find myself giving a greater focus to one or the other until I managed to strike a balance. When I finished high school and went into sixth form college, I got a part-time job to support me through times where projects were thin on the ground. I still see that as a good decision because I’d naively forgone the planning of my business in the early stages, so it gave me chance to step back out of the business and plot where I was going.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
I wish someone would have told me how much I was really worth! Perhaps it came with age, experience and maybe confidence, but I priced myself quite low compared to the rest of the market. On the other hand, I was running the business from my bedroom, so anything I earned went straight into my pocket, and this may have given me a competitive advantage while I got my feet under the table.
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
To start with the end in mind. I never really looked at what my goals were, so I never had any targets to meet. I wouldn’t change much about my fledgling teen career, but I’d love to look back on what I wanted to achieve back then.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
If I’d have known the benefits of systemising a business early on, I’d have done it much sooner.
What are you glad you did?
When I finished sixth form, I had a dilemma: take my business full-time and achieve as much as I possibly can, or take the same path as many of my school friends and study at university. I opted for the former and never looked back, and I couldn’t be happier with that decision. If I’d gone to university, I’d have had to give up the business, and I didn’t want to wonder what I might have achieved had I carried on in business. Many of my friends have now graduated and are struggling to find jobs, so I consider myself fortunate to be in a growing business. I have every intention of going to university, but I’ll study something I’m passionate about, rather than what I believe will give me the best job prospects; and hopefully, without the burden of student debt.
What’s your top business tip?
I’ll copy a tip many of the business greats have shared, and it’s to be a marketer of ‘your thing,’ not a doer of ‘your thing’. When freelancers (by definition) take on new work, they’re selling time for money. Without increasing their rates, there’s a limit to what they can earn. By outsourcing delivery or employing people to work on new projects, they can grow more quickly and start to see how lucrative running a business can be. I’m about half way there now, and I know that’s the best way for me to grow my business.
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
Growth was slow while I studied at school, but we’ve grown a lot since then. Since 2003, sales volume and profit has risen, sometimes doubled, year on year. We now work with a freelance network all over the world and even have some international clients dotted around.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
On a sunny beach, preferably. The goals for the next year are big ones, and we’re looking to work with more and more freelance designers who are passionate about what they do and are hungry for more business. With that, the business will be completely systemised to improve client delivery and turnaround times.
Catch up with how Nathan was doing a year on… was he on that sunny beach?
Nathan’s website is http://www.future-visions.co.uk. You can call the office on 0121 288 3688 and they’ll be happy to help.