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Starting a business, months zero to nine

What I’ve learnt (the easy and the hard way)

At the end of last year, my friend Sarah and I put our heads together and came up with an idea for a service that we were convinced companies needed. Sarah is a passionate photographer who is also an engineer; she spent the first few years of her career modelling data at McLaren. After graduating with an engineering degree myself, I switched to pursue my passion for marketing, working in several different roles and jobs. Together we provide a service for companies in need of social media support accompanied by a consistent flow of beautiful imagery. We help brands develop their online presence to drive more sales (www.contentagency.london).

The learning curve was steep in the first few months, as you can imagine. We had the idea, we were really excited about it, but we had all the tedious admin to do before we could get going: market research to confirm the need for our services, find a name, register the company, open a business bank account, set up accounting software, create a logo, work on a deck… the list goes on.

The first thing we learnt was to outsource the stuff we knew we weren't any good at. It sounds obvious, but at the time we were quite keen to keep our costs as low as possible. We could have learnt this one the hard way, but it was Sarah’s brilliant idea to enlist the help of a graphic designer she knew, Hettie, to help up make our decks look smart. We also enlisted the help of her friend Scott who made a contract template for us and the invaluable help of my other half, Mark, who set us up on all of our accounting software and talked us through that side of things.

Next came a meeting with our first prospective client. We were so unbelievably excited that someone was eager to work with us. We came up with brilliant ideas to present and left the meeting feeling very confident about the whole opportunity. After submitting a breakdown of our work and price structure, we heard “oh, I was under the impression you were going to be doing this for free, in exchange for exposure. I don’t have the budget for this”. At the time it was pretty heartbreaking, but looking back now there were a few lessons we learnt from this:

Make your intentions clear from the beginning. Now our prices are mentioned at the start of each conversation, as soon as we gage interest. In the beginning we had also offered up our services for less than half of what we charge now- I know, mental. I’d even go as far as saying that I’m grateful for this experience because it taught us never to sell ourselves short. We’re working hard to make this work and we’re confident that it does, so why should we charge any less than we know that’s worth?

Another lesson that has been a tricky one to process is that even though we know that companies need our services, we still have to go out and find them. This has proved challenging at times . We’re still working out our niche, and how best to find companies that are a good fit.

If anything, the best part of the last year has been a brilliant learning experience and I’m looking forward to all of the future lessons founding and running a company has to offer.

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