This past year was the most significant and beautiful year of my life. I started to do my own business and founded my consultancy company. I have taken more risks, met new people. I spent more time with my family, friends and even spared time for doing sports, I have traveled more (I went to Antalya to give training and even I swam in the sea in December) but also, I have worked harder than before. Actually, I worked constantly.
I am writing this piece to share what I learned as a consultant in the first year of founding my own company, and also some advice that helped me.
I gained a bunch of advice from my circle of friends and family to write such a review. Briefly, they are the personal first experiences of a long journey. Let’s see what will be life’s odds?
My Adventure of Doing My Business
When I was just at the beginning of the road, I just wanted to give a break to be more relaxed for a few months. I was thinking that I would apply for jobs abroad. However, things went better than I expected. Over time, I had global project opportunities and clients from abroad.
My dreams and plans have changed as wishing “having customers from different countries and traveling around always.”
I believe that it is one of the riskiest sides of doing your own business. You get so used to the routine the returning to a 9-6 job seems too overwhelming. It is not just about working hours. It is a huge luxury to choose to do the projects you want, the people to work with, and the time and place you want to work.
Not everything is a bed of roses, of course. You know that your income will be stable when you are a waged employee. Focusing on only the quality of your work can be enough. When you do your own business, the number of stuff you should keep track of is increasing. In just 1 month, you can earn the amount equivalent to your gross salary of a few months based on your previous job at one shot. If you work hard, you will be working hard for yourself, but the times when things are pending (For example, these were the times before the election. Some processes that were on track and budgets allocated became suspended until the end of the election) and in this case, even if you don’t earn money, you will still have expenses.
In such times, the standards you have set for yourself must not be undermined, and you must still spend time on business development and holiday. Since I come from a family of public employees and have always been employed as a wage worker, I think with the significant help of my mentors, I have been able to handle this process and my initial panicked mood.
I would like to thank Serbay, Mustafa, and Özberk who shared their positive/negative experiences in maintaining and controlling cash flow on a case-by-case basis!
Business Goals and Measurement
I created an empty excel file in Google Sheets on the very first day I began doing my own business. “Who have I met? Who introduced me to this person? When was the last time I got in touch with that person? “ and so on, I added by updating.
If brands reached me after encountering a content I created or a speech, I wrote my name there.
I have set some goals and metrics besides income. For instance, how many people I meet per week, my bid acceptance rate, percentage of income gained from my training sessions, etc. I keep track of all of them.
Just like I keep records of Analytics of my clients, I have my metrics in a Google Data Studio panel. Writing a blog was the only area I failed among the goals I have set for myself.
The blog posts I have written during this period:
“How do you reach brands? Are you the one who is writing to them stating there is such a service? “This is one of the common questions I receive.
No, it was one of the greatest pieces of advices I was given, for not to do. I never did that. Besides that, “Conversion Rate Optimization” isn’t the first thing that brands would think like “we should be investing in this for digital marketing”. (There is no sufficient awareness as much as Advertising investments and SEO). Most of the time, you will need to convince the other party about the need for the job first, and then to choose yourself.
During this 1 year of doing my business journey, I have worked with brands such as Hobium Yarns, Bhaya Cruises, Turkish Airlines, Dekopasaj, Pakolino, Anadolu Group Çelik Motor Bulur, AGT, and Darüşşafaka (pro bono), and I have provided consultancy and I am still continuing. I worked with agencies/companies such as Userspots, Contentus, Alafortanfoni, Invertiv, and organized several training sessions. I had the opportunity to provide training/coaching to the teams or ventures of Garanti Bank, Turkiye Finans Participation Bank, Kuwait Turkish Participation Bank in this process.
(Update: a few months after the first year, brands like TurkNet, CarrefourSA, Mucit Panda, B2Press, TutumluAnne, Atölye-Arçelik were added to the brands I offered consultancy services.)
Thanks to my experience in agencies for nearly 4 years, I was not at a negative stage in terms of networking and connections in the sector. According to my data-driven analysis, I can say that some of my new customers are introduced by my previous customers.
The process has always advanced with references. Not only me, I observed this situation in many people in the industry.
This is the golden rule in the consulting business. You cannot know the place the person you are meeting today will transfer to in the future, or where you will get acquainted with him/her again. There are not such a thing as big or small brands. You should work with the same motivation by being aware of that the fact that a document you prepared for a customer today can pop up in front of you in your next business meeting. At least for me, this is the case most of the time.
Let me give an example. I have worked with the Dekopassaj team in the past months. Emir Tumen introduced me to his investor Collective Spark after saying that he was pleased with my work. He shared that it might be useful for other portfolio initiatives, too.
Suddenly, I was required to present the project outputs to the investor which I had prepared in my presentation. Then, Pakolino, which is a different initiative and has a product I admire reached me with the support of the investor.
I told Atıl (Atıl Erken) that, I wanted to write this as an article while we were having dinner together last week to discuss what else we can do. I share this post after having his consent.
In short, my main suggestion to those looking to make a transition to this kind of life is to brace themselves in advance for an additional job while they already have a regular job. My experience in the consulting business has turned this process into an easier transition.
Time Tracking & Business Follow-up
To follow my projects I use Asana and its integrated time tracking application Toggl. Both platforms have mobile apps, and the sufficiency of the free plan for one user, and their ability to work together, made me choose them over their counterparts.
I try to measure every period starting from a phone call for a project to a business meeting. I report to myself and act transparently. “How much time have I spend on work? How many hours do I work for a day? Have I made an effort for business development?“
I totally agree with Yasar Safkan’s note he shared in the series of #NoteBookofASoftwareManager. If I can work without meetings, correspondence, or interview for 4 hours, I can say that day was productive.
The important thing is that you should continue to use it by yourself, even if you do not have to report it to anyone.
If I really had a good day or still enjoying it, I could ride a bike as much as I wanted, take a break and visit a museum, etc. And I am doing it.
If I don’t spare myself a certain vacation time, the distinction between work and life can be simply lost. But it helps me to monitor my working hours.
I think having mentors and even mentors with different characters is very essential. There should be people who don’t precisely tell you what to do but who can hold a mirror for you.
Mustafa Dalcı and Serbay Arda Ayzit are people that I put my faith in completely and I am very pleased with the quality of the work we have done together. These are the people who I can consult regarding some of my choices, and whose opinions and intuitions I care about. The breakfasts organized for the next morning of the night that I said “I feel that I can panic about this” slowly turned into celebration breakfasts a few months later.
Thank you particularly for beginning the discussion from the same level from the very first day we met in the table up until today!
When I founded the company, I already saved the amount for 6 months of personal expenses and 2 years of all company expenses. As an extremely meticulous person, I should have taken some measures in case of the unexpected expenses of the company and the possible malfunctioning of a device. I know myself very well, it was a must-do for me.
Establishing a sole proprietorship does not require high amounts compared to other alternatives, but afterward, there are monthly expenses such as Independent Accountant Financial Advisor fee, office expenses, and payment of insurance premium.
If you’re under 29, you’ll have benefits such as payment of your 1-year insurance premium by state and exempting yourself from income tax for up to a certain amount. I also benefited from this. In this regard, there is a video that the Boostroas team explained all the details in this great interview.
I also thank my friend Inan Yurtseven, whom I received consultancy as Accountant Financial Advisor. In addition to his patience for answering all my questions over the past 6 months, his use of Evernote, Google Drive, business tracking systems, conducting some of the calls online remotely, etc, makes him the Accountant Financial Advisor of my dreams in terms of speaking the same language.
Interviews with People Who Do Their Own Business
As if I’m trying to determine product problems through interviews in my regular work routine, in this process I had one-to-one interviews with a lot of different people. I met dozens of people from different sectors. The thing they had in common was having their own company.
Almost for a period, I divided people into two groups in my mind
0. Those who do their own work
1. Those who did not do their own work.
During this 1 year, I would like to thank the following people who were doing their own business and have not hesitated to share valuable information with me, in not only the areas they have been good but also the points they have struggled when they run their business in-depth and who have shared their experiences with an open heart.
Mustafa Dalcı, Serbay Arda Ayzit, Yaprak Rüya Bulut, Görkem Çetin, Ahmet Durmuşoğlu, Özberk Ölçer, Kemal Karabel, Emre Güzeldal, Emre Gökşin, Arhan Aykut Türker, Akar Şümşet, Ali Aygün, İnan Yurtseven, Emir Tümen, Pınar Ramsay, Sinan Kurmuş, Şahin Seçil, Ömer Atakoğlu, Tayga Baltacıoğlu, Can Taner, Murat İncesu
Regular Working Hours & Having a Routine
Some people are night owls, they work well at nights. Whereas, my most productive hours have always been in the mornings. Whether it’s morning or night I think the critical thing in this phase is to create your own routine.
I woke up at 08:00 almost every morning for a year including the weekends. This situation especially surprised my close friends more than anyone. My reason for waking up at 07:00 in the mornings for the last 2 months is the difference in a time zone with my foreign client. I pay attention to being available and accessible to the people I work with during their working hours.
If you want to change your routine to the mornings, then make sure you find a solid reason for it. For example, in the first few months, I had Pilates sessions for 3 mornings in a week (Pilates Team Nişantaşı). That helped me greatly to get up early in the morning and get out of the house. I lost 7 kgs and in the mornings, my motivation was so high that the day’s productivity is also increased.
When I was doing my business, another routine that I gained was taking a day off on weekdays and working on weekends for 1 more day. During weekdays, everywhere becomes so peaceful, calm, and silent and I think now I am living the Istanbul for the first time in six years.
Workplaces & Office Selection
Renting a monthly desk from shared offices doesn’t make much sense to me because of my business and consulting model. Because I spend some days working in the client’s office full time. Some days are spent in the field for some user research.
Therefore, I received service from Workinton only to establish a company, to provide an address for my contracts, and to receive my cargo on my behalf. I can rent a table if I need to concentrate entirely and work thereby paying the daily price. It is one of the most beautiful places that I can go to, particularly on the weekend when everywhere becomes crowded.
I also owe my high motivation to the several offices I work and share in #whereisnermintoday tag in social media.
If I don’t need to go to the client’s office for consultancy or training, then my workplace can be everywhere such as the beach, park, terrace, a nice cafe, or a hammock of a hotel on the mountainside, anywhere providing uninterrupted internet access.
I remember going to Olympos, Antalya for a week for holiday and business purposes and attending the meeting we had for Turkish Airlines from the beach thanks to my understanding project manager friend 🙂
Do you know that there is a fast and free internet in which you can even watch Netflix without interruption in some parks of Beşiktaş district?
It might not be an easy process for everyone to work alone. In my consulting model, working from client offices and conducting user research in the field were already the processes that increased my socialization. As you give consultancy to several brands, you make some lovely friends who attend your speeches as a whole team, make you smile, and support you for everything you need.
Even though they may seem like small things, several people make me smile and stay motivated with their contributions. Such as when Melisa Özdemir from AGT, whom I called to give weekly information about the project, asks me: Did you ride a bike today, Nermin?” or Zaliha Terk from TurkNet manages to arrange all meetings with the title of “NC Consulting” before/after the lunch break to include me in their lunch as the whole team, again when TurkNet Deputy GM Mr.Sinan said, “Our favorite consultant has arrived.” I am very lucky to work with these people. I think one of the reasons I feel really good right now is my chance to work with nice people.
Of course, in the places I go regularly, I met very nice people and had friends.
When I panic before the project deadline, I go out and work in a friend/client office. This was my greatest chance. I would like to thank esteemed brands such as Userspots, Optdcom, İçerik Bulutu, Contentus, Performics, Hobium, Dekopasaj, Pakolino, TurkNet who always reserved me a spot on their table by saying that “come use our office even if it’s not for our project
Last but not least, I would like to invite you to my new webinar. We will organize a webinar about Landing Page Conversion Rate Optimization on Wednesday, September 25, 2019, at 16:00 with the invitation of beloved Userspots. You can reach register and access to details from the link.