How I quit my career and started my dream business (and how YOU can too!)

Love to quit your job and start your own business but don’t know how or where to start? Find out how one frustrated working mum did it – and her tips to help you make the leap too.

One of the most common questions we get asked, is how to make the leap from paid employment to running your own business. Many mothers love the idea of being their own boss, but are scared to leave the security of paid employment and venture into an unknown new territory.

One woman who knows just what this feels like is Jo Coxill from Vision 29. In 2013, fed up with the stress of juggling a full time job and her family, Jo quit her career and started her own marketing consultancy.

Today her business is going from strength to strength. And to inspire you to fulfil your own business dreams, she’s now sharing her experience with us – and 10 tips to help you follow in her footsteps.

I had a successful career – then was made redundant

Like many women, I had a successful career as a global head of marketing and loved my job. After a miscarriage, I had my first son seven years ago and was lucky enough to be able to go back to work in my role on a part time basis. Life was good, and I had balance.

However, when my son was two-years-old, I was made redundant. I managed to get another job relatively quickly, but to get the same type of role, I had to go back to work full time.

I found juggling a full time career at a company where I had to ‘clock-in’ every day with running a home and being a mum almost impossible. I began to feel stressed and depressed – to the point that it made me quite ill. I sadly experienced two further miscarriages in quick succession and that quite honestly was the last straw.

I didn’t feel ready for freelance, but a seed was sown

A friend had suggested I go freelance after I was made redundant but I didn’t feel ready at the time. However, she had sown the seed and it had grown. I had sounded a few of my close contacts out and they had all been incredibly positive, telling me I’d do well. They gave me to confidence I needed. So, in the autumn of 2013 I bit the bullet and set up Vision 29.

I tapped up everyone I knew, letting them know I was going freelance. I was invited to submit a number of opinion pieces to an online magazine and a couple of close friends introduced me to the initial breaks that I needed.

I landed two clients in my first two weeks

I landed two major clients within weeks of setting up on my own. One client harnessed my strategic marketing skills whilst the other saw something in me that would allow me to diversify and move into the areas of internal and corporate communications.

Since then, it’s gone from strength to strength and I now offer both marketing and corporate communications to my clients.

Running my own business has given me back balance

There are so many good things about going freelance and running my own business. First and foremost, I have balance back in my life. I can do the school runs, go on school trips, and spend quality time with my little boy.

I am also learning new things every day, from new marketing techniques to ways of running my business. I am meeting and engaging with new people every day – I’ve never had so many ‘business lunches’! I am helping businesses grow and be more successful.

At first, and like many new business owners, I used to get what I call The Fear – an overwhelming sense of “OMG, am I going to get enough clients, earn enough money, do a good enough job”. It can strike at any time and without warning but with time, as my confidence has grown and through teaching myself coping mechanisms, it doesn’t seem to strike as much now-a-days. When it does, I know how to deal with it and put it in its box until the next time.

I thoroughly love my life now. I have balance, I feel more in control, and I am growing every single day. I can manage my time to ensure that my clients, my family and I all have the very best of me and what I can offer.

10 tips to help you build a business you love too

To help other mothers make the leap from a career that may not be ticking all their boxes any more, to a rewarding business that uses their skills and gives them the flexibility to work on their terms, here are my 10 tips for going it alone.

1) Remind yourself that life’s too short to be unhappy

If you are unhappy in what you are doing, if you feel your balance is off, don’t suffer it. I felt so incredibly unhappy and for a while thought I had no other options so working for myself was almost like as a last resort. Now I realise it was the best thing I ever did. 

2) Discuss your business idea with as many different people as possible

If you’ve got a business idea or want to want to branch out into freelancing for the freedom, control and flexibility it can offer you as a working mum, then discuss it with as many people as you can.

Friends, family, trusted business contacts (I spoke to the owners of a PR and design agency who I got on with incredibly well), industry players – the broader the advice the more clued up you’ll be as to the opportunities and risks involved.

3) Listen to your gut

Since working for myself, I listen to my gut all the time. It’s amazing how it will tell you if you’re doing the right/wrong thing and if you’re making the right choices.

I am lucky enough to stay in touch with a number of younger females after our paths have crossed in the workplace and when they have asked me about career decisions, I always ask them what their gut says, as more often than not, it’s right. 

4) Create a zen office space

At first, I worked on my dining room table in our living area. I found myself working into the night (while the TV was on), dashing back to my PC to check emails, quickly note down a thought…

After a while, I got fed up of the clutter and lack of downtime from work, so I created a dedicated office just for me. It’s got all I need to be productive every day along with plenty of my favourite pictures and quotes to keep my inspired. It’s my space and that feels very empowering. I now am able to dedicate myself to work but also switch off (a bit).

5) Don’t let The Fear and Down Days worry you

Very often, when you set up your own business you’re moving from certainty to uncertainty. From a regular monthly income and a career where you know you’re successful, to not knowing when you’ll send out your first invoice or if you’ll even be any good at your new business venture.

This means that you’ll almost certainly experience what I call The Fear. An overwhelming sense of dread, worry and panic that you’ve made the wrong decision. If it’s not The Fear, it may be just feeling down one day, lacking in confidence and self-belief.

Both of these are perfectly normal! Everyone I’ve ever spoken to who has set up their own business has admitted they feel the same at times. The secret is to recognise these feelings when they come along and learn to cope with them.

Rationalising the thoughts and feelings, and taking your mind off them will help. If you’ve been working alone for a few days, call someone, meet them for coffee/lunch, get out for a while and give yourself a little boost. Rest assured, the feelings WILL pass and you’ll be back to yourself, building your business and being successful in no time.

6) Take joy in learning new skills (and learn to do them efficiently)

Gone are the days that you can call your IT department because your PC just crashed, delegate your invoicing to your accounts department or have your sales people cold call to win new business.

When you work for yourself, at least in the early days, you have to do it all! It can be a chore but it can also be very empowering. I’m not good with computers, so I often enlist the support of husband when it comes to understanding why my emails will no longer delete or why I keep getting an error message but I’m beginning to do more for myself and I like the sense of achievement when I do.

Sometimes, I just don’t have the time but there’s no one else who can help me. Of course, I have a trusted accountant (who is amazing!) and other partners who help me with my website and creative design (you can’t do it all yourself) but I do enjoy the feeling of achievement when I learn something new.

There are also a host of tools out there that you can use to make your life easier, so research which ones you need and spend the time implementing them.

7) Continue to grow as an expert in your field

Since setting up on my own, I’ve learnt so much more about my area of expertise. As I work with a wide range of clients, I need to always be at the forefront of what’s happening in the industry, so I’m like a sponge, soaking up new information all the time.

It’s so thrilling and something that I didn’t have the opportunity or the impetus to do before. For me, social media makes this so much easier and connects me with people all around the world who like doing what I do!

I’ve diversified my skills too. By moving into internal and corporate communications and understanding my client’s markets, I’ve opened up whole new avenues, which are thrilling and interesting.

8) Accept there will be peaks and troughs

The reason I started working for myself was so that I could balance work and home life, but it’s not always easy. At first, I felt I couldn’t turn any work down and so I was actually working longer hours and felt more stressed than when I was in a full time permanent job but I knew I was doing it to build a different future and after that initial flurry of projects, I managed to create balance.

Working for yourself does mean that you don’t know where your next project or client is coming from or when they’ll come and so, it inevitably also means that there will be peaks and troughs.

Sometimes, I have multiple projects and clients and my workload peaks but I know it’s only for a short time and then I’ll have a bit of time when its tails off for a while and I get go back to school runs and plenty of snuggle time with my boy to make up for it – I savour those moments, as they’re what I did it for! 

9) Market yourself!

No matter what type of freelance work you do or what business you run, you need to ensure that you market yourself. Your personal brand is what will make you successful. So be true to yourself, your ethics, your morals and your business acumen.

People do business with people, so make sure you put yourself across as an honest and reliable person to do business with. One of the most exciting parts of setting up my own business was creating a company brand that reflected me. I’ve already been through a re-brand but now I feel that my company’s brand, website and voice reflects who I am and what I want my business to be. you should do the same.  

10) Enjoy every moment

If you’ve made the decision to go it alone, then make sure you enjoy it. This is your time. Make it count and make sure it makes you happy. Good luck!

You can find out more about Vision 29 on their website.