I started Activate Fundraising in August 2008 after working as a fundraiser for over 13 years and it’s the best career decision I’ve made. It’s incredibly motivational relying on your own resources to win work – my years of experience negotiating sponsorship deals has certainly been helpful when it comes to negotiating my fees.
Starting up, I only needed a laptop, mobile phone and printer in my home office and I used savings to help me keep afloat for the first few months. My husband produced my business cards and then it was up to me to spread the word that I was working for myself. Within 2 months of leaving my previous job, I landed my first contract with someone I had worked with before and I haven’t looked back.
The recession has been difficult as most of my clients have some element of public funding. On the plus side, it’s given me the chance to think about my business differently, develop new services and research the market. I have relied on word of mouth to gain business up to now but now I’m also developing my website (with help from the Online Business Success Course from ACEInspire).
I have childcare for three days each week and – being lucky enough to have my mum close by – I can schedule meetings on the other two days, if necessary. I work in the evenings and occasional weekends but I’d rather do that than only see the kids at bedtime or miss important events.
For anyone else considering becoming freelance or setting up their own consultancy, I would definitely recommend spreading the word around your networks about your plans. And not just the obvious professional networks but friends too – you always know more people than you think and you never know who they might put you in touch with.
You should also consider working with other consultants – it can expand the services you offer, introduce you to new clients and increase your skills and experience.