The defining moment in my marriage came the night my father died. I hadn’t felt loved or cared about for, by my husband, in years. I knew then that I couldn’t spend the rest of my life married to him but I had a 12 year old daughter to care for. Three years later after two bouts of depression and counselling, I started to make plans in my head. I’d worked for a bank for 15 years prior to having my daughter but hadn’t worked since other than volunteering at her primary school.
I’d had a small cattle rearing business with my father-in-law and had kept the books for that business, so I decided to do my bookkeeping exams. I still had no plans to leave my husband until our daughter had gone to university. Events, however, overtook after I had a break away on my own. So in December 2008 I decided enough was enough and asked for a divorce.
That was the start of an awful period in my life. He took my request for divorce badly and retaliated by telling lies to some members of my family, this caused great distress to all and although some relationships were mended, one sadly could not be restored . The marital home eventually sold and in November 2009 I moved 200 miles away to start a new life. I only knew one person here and had no job,because I hadn’t worked for so long I had a very limited chance of getting a job. Add to that my daughter was living with my mother and I was visiting them about every 2 to 3 weeks. The M6 and I became very good friends. Once the house was straight, I concentrated on my studies and in April 2010 I passed. I now have letters after my name. Dad would have been proud of me. Even with my qualifications no-one wanted to employ me.
My money was running out, so I had to do something pretty quickly. How difficult could it be to work for myself?
So my bookkeeping business was started. First thing was to find clients. I put an advertisement in the local paper for a month, but nothing came of that. So I joined the local Chamber of Commerce and the lady who completed the forms suggested I go to a free networking event they were hosting the next week. I had never done anything like that in my life; I was terrified,but I went and met two very nice ladies who were as nervous as me and we spent most of the evening chatting. I then contacted a local woman’s business organisation who gave me some marketing ideas which weren’t really suitable for my business but they invited me to a Chamber of Commerce breakfast club that is held monthly. Someone from the organisation would be there to introduce me to people. At your first meeting you can give a 30 second talk introducing yourself and your business. Yes I did it! I was nervous and not sure that it was the greatest 30 seconds ever but it did get me my first client.
I now table host at this event, which entails me making sure that everyone on my table gets the chance to pass their cards around and tell everyone on the table about themselves and their business. I have made friends from this networking event and been told about other events which I now go to and enjoy. You never know where a potential client will come from. It might not be someone you meet at an event but they might know someone who does need your services.
In the meantime my daughter built a website for me and I have found a few clients from there.
When I first started I took on any client that asked me but I have learnt that if I don’t like them or their demands for my time are unreasonable then they aren’t work keeping on my books. I have had to toughen up as clients can be very unpleasant and it’s hard not to take it personally.
You really do need a business plan before you start out and to belong to an association that specialises in your business. Do your research about the type of business you want to start and how much other people are charging. I still do networking and am enjoying it you meet so many nice people and learn about their business. Always have a strap line for the end of your 30 or 60 seconds.
It hasn’t been easy and I’ve had many a Monday meltdown. Only recently have I realised that I’m a professional business woman but still feel my greatest achievement is bringing up my daughter, This year I’ve started my level 3 and level 4 AAT exams. Madness I know, but I want a business where I employ staff and the big house and flash car!
- Do what you know
- Research your idea
- Who are your customers?
- How can you reach your customers?
- Do a business plan (finance, timescale, qualifications, overheads)
- Find your local Chamber of Commerce meetings
- Any other Network meetings (ie Linkdin)
An inspirational Story by Athena Hall
For more information about Athena Hall visit: www.athenahallbookkeeping.co.uk