Baby steps

The first few weeks were hard.

I missed having a client base, I missed receiving 100 emails over night, I missed being so busy I didn’t take a pee until after lunchtime – OK I missed feeling important.

There were a lot of meetings between the other two shareholders and I, and we sorted out all the things that need sorting out, we:

  • Chose a company name
  • Defined company values
  • Registered ourselves as a Ltd. company
  • Found an accountant
  • Wrote a shareholders agreement
  • Wrote a business plan
  • Set-up the infrastructure for working together (emails, domain names, accountancy software for our literally zero money)
  • We hatched a plan for a social technology tool that, based on our experience over the past 4 years is something clients will want to buy
  • We wrote sales plans, pitches, documents
  • Wrote a fiscal forecast – based on literally guessing and adding some margin of error
  • I cold-called every digital media agency in London
  • I cold-called every PR agency in London
  • I cold-called every media buying agency in London
  • I realised I fucking hate cold calling
  • I attended some meetings
  • I spent a lot of time on Imgur
  • I felt guilty

It was tricky, the clients I had loved to infinity within my previous role had a bad taste in their mouth from the demise of my previous company. They’d paid, often hundreds of thousands of pounds to a company that no longer existed to provide them with services. I was a harsh reminder of their disappointment.

It was a slow game, of getting back in touch with those old contacts, re-meeting them as our current company, slowly gaining their trust – and then..three months in, just as I was beginning to wonder if it’d all been a terrible mistake*…there was a win.

One ex client wanted to re-run a project they’d done with us before, in my old job, the project wasn’t worth a lot, but it felt like a million dollars.

The client’s procurement process was…lengthy… followed by a security process that was…genuinely amazing. But we got there, having signed, countersigned, amended, appended and re-approved about thirty documents, we were in. And now, more than ever, our work had to be immaculate.

We were (and are) eternally grateful to regain their trust. We were doing the same work as we’d always done, whilst in the background we had a super-mega-plan to create the social technology tool. So we hired one of our favourite developers from the old company as a freelancer. So as we could work on both areas of business concurrently. Of course his payment had to come out of one of the shareholder’s pocket.

Not getting distracted from the game-plan was crucial, it’d be oh so easy to slip into being just another social media agency.

From that first contract, another arrived – and soon, this month we will be paid for the first time since June 2013.

How had I survived, financially? The National Insurance Fund – getting repaid redundancy and holiday pay (even at stat. min.) has tided us over. My dear boyfriend and I have a stringent financial plan, everything is accounted for. We eat a lot more vegetables than we did before, and a whole lot less shellfish and steak. We have grown to salivate at the smell of simmering green lentils, we have been out for dinner once in the last seven months. We bought our New Years dinner with John Lewis vouchers we’d received for Christmas.

But it hasn’t been hard. It’s be different, but not difficult. I now realise how gauche, entitled and greedy I had become, and how I was so carefree with money that I was careless.

What is difficult is the worry, the ‘what ifs’, what if the client doesn’t pay on time? What if there is something grossly wrong with the invoices we’ve sent that hasn’t been noticed yet?

Halfway through this month I will run out of savings, if the client has not paid on time it will be fucking awful.

I am trying hard not to resent those with better luck, people with savings (note: this is nothing to do with luck, it’s just that I was a prick), and trying concurrently not to beat myself up about being shit with savings, or forget how important it will be to actually save some money, when I have some to save. The fear of having not enough money to pay my rent is something I haven’t experienced in a decade, and I honestly thought I’d never feel again. I am lucky, in many ways, there are people I could go to, people who’d lend me a month’s rent, but I desperately want to make this work, of course I want to be a ‘success’ I just don’t want to become a work wanker again.

*this is a lie, I wonder if it was a terrible mistake about once every three hours

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