It’s time for another Small Business Chat and today we’re meeting Joshua, currently from Crunch Accounting. Joshua originally contacted me about doing a guest post (and he did all the right things when he did, according to my Terms and Conditions, which is why he’s being featured here!). I thought that his story was a very interesting one and would fit well in this series – basically he has moved from unpaid to paid freelancing to an almost full-time job in the same area, which is an interesting direction to take …
What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
I’ve never had a name for my business. I worked as a freelancer doing copywriting for various different companies, but I now spend most of my time working for Crunch Accounting. I got my first job as a writer back in 2009 writing music articles.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I’d worked lots of normal jobs such as in bars and call centres and while regular money was good, I didn’t enjoy any of it for a second. I wanted to be doing what I really liked to do and with so few full-time copywriter jobs around (even less were those that needed no previous full-time experience), I took it upon myself to find my own work. I knew that it would be difficult and I’d be poorer for some time, but I also knew it’d be much more rewarding. I thought that if I didn’t get started in the field I wanted to work in soon, it’d be too late.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
I’ve always been interested in writing. Since I was about 14 I’ve been putting together stories and other ideas. I never took it hugely seriously until I was much older when I decided that being a writer was exactly what I wanted to do. Ideally I wanted to be a published author, but I was acutely aware that this was not an easy task. There were plenty of other jobs out there that involved writing that gave me the chance to talk about the other subjects that interested me. I searched out as many as possible. While a lot of them were unfortunately unpaid, it made me 100% sure that I wanted a career in writing.
Had you run your own business before?
I’d never run my own business before. I came out of school and went straight into regular jobs so I had no experience of it really. The closest I came was putting on a few a gigs in Brighton. While not massively related, it did give me some ideas on marketing, networking, organisation and budgeting. It also gave me the confidence that I could make money myself through my own hard work.
How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?
As I previously mentioned, I started off with unpaid work. It’s very hard to get writing work without any experience or a portfolio, so unfortunately it was a necessity. It was all done in my spare time while I worked a normal job full time. This mean working 9-5 in an office and then spending my evenings and weekends writing. Eventually I started to get paid freelance work, but not enough to quit my day job. After a few years of building up experience I finally managed to snag a full-time writing job with Crunch. I’ve been there ever since. I still occasionally do extra freelance work on the side if any interesting jobs happen to come up. I’m also in the process of putting together my own online magazine about music and science called the Scientist Conductor. It’s in its very early stages at the moment.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
Probably that sitting around for hours on end writing product descriptions for mattresses would eventually pay off. I nearly gave up after a particularly gruelling job and having nothing else in the pipeline. In the end though, the experience from that got me a few other roles which in turn got me even more. Freelancing is a pretty slow slog to start off with, but if you keep at it, it does pick up.
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
I’d say pretty much the same thing as above. Keep at it and keep going. Few things start out easy.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
I wish I hadn’t procrastinated so much. I was very bad with self-discipline, but I’ve gotten a lot better now. Before I would struggle to get myself to finish a job, where as now I can make myself just get on with it (mostly).
What are you glad you did?
Making the effort to branch out into something I really wanted to do. It killed all my free time and was tiring, but it got me to the point where I’m actually happy with my job rather than just using it to get by.
What’s your top business tip?
Perseverance is key. If you give up easily, you won’t succeed. There’s always going to be problems to overcome and sometimes it’s just a matter of moving 1mm at a time.
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
It’s gone well, but it started slowly. I was always pretty diverse from the start. I was writing music reviews, SEO content, product descriptions and advertising copy all at the same time. It’s one of the positives of being a copywriter, there’s a lot of possibilities and, with a bit of work, you can find your own niche.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
I hope to have my online magazine not only up and running, but successful. While I do not expect to make much money out of it, I want to have a good team of writers underneath me and build up my experience as a journalist and editor. Ideally I want to be paying my writers as well. I’ll be aiming for that before I take any pay myself. I also hope to pick up a few interesting jobs on the side over the next year. My main concern is working with Crunch though and helping them to continue their growth as I have done for the past year.
What a good example of determination and positivity! I think writing is the part of my job that it’s hardest to get down to, as it does require a certain amount of creativity, and I bet we all suffer there! I look forward to finding out what happens with this new magazine idea …
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured. If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my new book, Going It Alone At 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment.