I haven’t always been a runner. My teenage self would not recognise the adult who opened the curtains one wintery morning and exclaimed “it’s snowed, let’s go running!” However, when I contemplate my freelance career I realise that building my business involves going through some of the same stages that I went through to become a cross country enthusiast.
I was first challenged to run by a retired Army PT who was one of my instructors on a luxury boot camp in rural Devon. A close relative had been diagnosed with diabetes and I felt the need for a (possibly literal) kick up the backside to avoid the same fate. I ran through woods, up hills and dodged the occasional sheep. Surprisingly, I rather enjoyed it and decided to continue when I got back home.
Going it alone
The prospect of that at first run was utterly frightening; at that time of day the park behind my house was populated entirely by teenagers avoiding going home after school. I jammed my headphones into my ears, turned the music up as loud as it would go and ran. No-one pointed, or jeered. If they’d passed comment I wouldn’t have been able to hear them anyway. It was much the same when I announced I was going freelance. I was afraid that people would just point and snigger, but they didn’t. Some of them even offered to help.
I’m told that small business owners, particularly female ones, can be prone to ‘imposter syndrome’. Are we really good enough, will we make it, will anyone give us any work anyway? When I got my first client I submitted my work and held my breath, waiting to be found out. I needn’t have worried. He loved everything I’d done and sent me more work within a matter of days. It reminded me of my friend Chris, the former World Champion triathlete, who invited me to run with her group one Sunday. I nearly said no but was talked into it. We ran through Swithland woods and around the villages. The fast people did shuttle runs to keep the group together and when the hills got tricky Chris handed me the lead of one of her whippets to give me an extra pull.
Over the years I’ve done more runs through those woods, around parks and even entered some races. I’ve met people who do triathlons and run ultramarathons. It’s changed my outlook and what I consider to be normal behaviour. It’s also helped me to learn a valuable business lesson. I’ve seen bigger and more impressive businesses than mine go under because they didn’t spot the trends early enough to make changes. It’s easy to let fear of change stop you from acting; equally, you could look at your success and justify sticking with “the way we’ve always done things”. Could that ultimately result in a loss? Or could change open up new horizons for your business in the same way that running did for me?
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