Welcome to another Small Business Chat update with Alison Thompson from The Proof Fairy, who started off, like me, as a proofreader and editor, but then added authorship, coaching and event organisation into the mix. We first met Alison in this series in July 2012, and she updated us in July 2013, August 2014 and August 2015, when her plans for the year were these: “Who knows! I’m hoping the ADHD business will provide a regular, almost passive source of income, leaving me free to pick the most exciting projects to work on with my Proof Fairy hat on. I’ll have had an updated version of The Boy From Hell published and I’d like to have another couple of books under my belt too – a parents’ guide to ADHD and an erotic novel!” So, has she written that erotic novel?
Hello again, Alison! Are you where you thought you’d be a year ago? What has changed and what has stayed the same?
Everything and nothing! This time last year we’d moved house and it caused a lot of upheaval for the business. This year we moved house yet again, after a pretty horrendous experience with a dodgy landlord. The whole experience has been very unsettling and it’s had a huge effect on me personally, as well as the business. Couple that with losing several long-term, established clients because they just got too successful and no longer needed my services/were too busy to provide work/took on in-house staff to do what I’d been doing – and you can imagine the result! For a long time, I pretended everything was okay, stuck my head in the sand and slogged on, but last month I finally bit the bullet and took on a part time job to supplement the income. It means I don’t have to worry about paying the bills for a while, but still have time to work with my existing clients and hopefully pick up a few new ones. And strangely, since I started the job I’ve had three really good enquiries that could lead to interesting long-term projects, so the end is definitely not nigh for the Proof Fairy!
The ADHD side has also been interesting. In October I launched an online parenting course (www.adhdkidsonline.com) which has had great feedback but isn’t selling as well as I hoped – probably as much through my own poor marketing as much as anything. And my book was “properly” published earlier this year but apart from a couple of blogger reviews, it’s not really had the increased profile I was hoping for. But there’s room for improvement in both areas I think – it’s just a case of having the time and money to take action.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
I wish I’d known a year ago that the house we were moving to was going to be a total nightmare! It’s caused (and is still causing) no end of problems that have affected every area of life, and I really could have done without the hassle! But these things are sent to try us … we’ve learned a few lessons from the experience, and now we are in a nice house with a good landlord, hopefully things will settle back down.
I guess the biggest thing I’ve learned is to be more proactive when times are tough. Because of the problem with our house and various other personal issues, I lost focus on the business, and it took me a long time to realise what a devastating effect that had had. Fortunately, I came out of ostrich mode just in time to take action and pull things around, and the change in mindset has opened up a few interesting-looking doors! I know a lot of people in business think you should “play it big” and always give the impression that you are successful, but when you find yourself believing that when the opposite is true, it can only end in disaster!
Any more hints and tips for people?
Sometimes, being honest is the best way to go. I’ve been upfront about my situation with a few people and that has led to new opportunities that might not have come about had they believed the impression I was giving out – that I was frantically busy!
Diversify – but not too much. I think part of the problem I’ve had was that I got so excited about the ADHD business that I lost focus on The Proof Fairy, which was, after all, my “bread and butter” job. If you’re starting a new enterprise, make sure you still allocate enough time, energy and enthusiasm to whatever it is that’s paying the bills, until the new project is successful enough to take over.
BONUS NEW QUESTION: What question would YOU like to ask other small business owners?
How do you maintain focus on your business when issues in your personal life are draining all your energy?
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
Whatever I say in this section, I never seem to get there! So I think I’m going to leave this really open and just say that in another year’s time I want to be financially comfortable and doing something I really enjoy. And I will DEFINITELY have written that erotic novel!
Wow – what a year. I think it is hard to concentrate on two very different things, and an editor friend of mine says, very wisely, that you should be marketing yourself while you’re busy as well as when you’re quiet, to close those gaps and fill in the lulls. The impression you give is very important, too – I found that having been posting on social media that I was working early, in the middle of the day and sometimes late, I gave the impression I was ALWAYS working, and driving myself into the ground, whereas actually I’m pretty sensible and take long lunch breaks for gymming or running etc. Anyway, we wish Alison all the best for a quieter but more work-filled year – and best of luck with that novel, of course!
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 (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.