Escaping the 9–5: Take the leap, it’s not as scary as you think. What we have learned to date
We’re coming up to a year since we started Cojo, and although we can’t say we’re millionaires, we’ve worked on some awesome projects and are continuing to do so. We’ve learned tons and have vastly broadened our skillset. We’ve had to jump into learning all sorts of stuff, such as marketing, sales, finance and those fun things called taxes. I personally doubt I would have ever gone deeply into any of these topics had I not started my own business. Having your own business pushes you do things you probably wouldn’t do work for someone else, you’re more inclined to do that little bit extra. From meeting new people, attending meet-ups, and ultimately going out of your comfort zone and forcing yourself to do more. Which is paramount to anyone’s personal development. These skills are not only invaluable to Cojo, but also to the clients we work with. We can now bring much more value to the table.
Be the captain of your own ship
Of course, there are always ups and downs, like with anything. But the difference is the stresses of having your own business is very different from that stress of working for someone else. This, of course, is incredibly appealing, being the captain of your own ship, being in charge. However by no means should this be your main reason for starting a business, don’t let your ego get in the way. For us, it was having the ability to choose the people we work with and to make a positive impact in this space. Having the choice to say ‘no’ to projects that don’t fit our values, and even people we don’t particularly want to work with. That’s something that we’ve learned the hard way, not letting money get in the way when your gut is telling you something’s not right.
One of the primary reasons we decided on starting our own studio, was we wanted to be able to contribute some good to this space, we wanted to focus on tech for good. There’s only so many dating and social media apps you can design until you’re pulling your hair out thinking ‘is this really what I want to be doing with my time’. We’ve been lucky that we’ve been able to work on platforms that have the potential to truly help people, and that is the reason we started the studio. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you do have to do the projects you don’t particularly love, bills do have to get paid. But having the ability to choose, is what’s so freeing.
Freedom also comes in the form of working when you want to, making your own 9–5, and working when suits you. You can spontaneously jump to an exotic island whenever you want, fly to Lisbon for that tech event, all expensed of course. You may have the impression that when you’re on holiday you’re not getting paid, like a normal full-time position. But in reality, you can put a few things in place for this to happen. There are ways as a studio or even as a freelancer, where you can delegate or even automate time so that you can create a passive income, income being generated automatically. When you sleep, when you’re on holiday etc. You can create design tools, podcasts, and courses, and even hosting is a good method. Another way around this is working extra hard three weeks of the month, and then having the last one for yourself. Alternatively, you can just work on a holiday. Although having done this myself, it’s not the most efficient way of working. But I guess it depends on the kind of work you’re doing, and how busy you are. Again it’s all about having the choice. For example for me writing a blog would be ideal on a sunny beach. Hmm, maybe I should…
It’s not all Piña Coladas, beaches and paradise
It was of course incredibly daunting quitting a secure job. Having financial security, receiving a guaranteed paycheck every month, and if you’re lucky having access to a ping pong table. This, of course, is not something you should take for granted and simply throw away. At the end of the day, it still is work, you’ve still got good and bad clients, and you do still have to wake up early. I for one thought I would have more time in the day to do other things, things I’ve been meaning to pursue. But the reality is owning your own business will take up more of your time, but the great thing is, is that you choose the time. At the end of the day, starting a business is not for everyone, it may not suit your needs or your personality. However, you don’t truly know until you try.
YOU can do it.
With a few things in place, anyone can start their own business. The main thing to have nailed down is a plan and strategy, don’t just quit your job out of the blue to start tomorrow. Have a plan, take your time, be patient but have a goal or even a date in mind, otherwise, you might never start. Having a plan B is also very important, it means you have something to fall back on if it doesn’t work out, it also means that you understand the consequences and maybe even realize that you might not be risking all that much.
Having a strong foundation prior to starting is important, you don’t have to of had all the experience, but some are helpful. Take an internship if you must, it will set you in good stead and save you time, and I’m sure money. Books, mentorship, and videos will undoubtedly help, but nothing beats the real thing. However if you do already have some experience working with clients and they’ve enjoyed working with you, and especially if you get repeat customers… that’s a great indication that this might be the right thing for you.
Another imperative aspect is being money savvy. If you’re one of those people that struggles with money, then making sure you learn beforehand is a must. Knowing how to be frugal is beneficial, especially at the early stages. Keeping overheads low, such as not buying any unnecessary equipment, office space, or evening hiring people. Having a financial strategy sketched out can really help. It’s important to write down all the expenses you think you’ll have, that includes travel and food. We started off with making sure our overheads were as low as possible, we worked from coffee shops and from our homes, and used all the free software we could. We had three different Marvel accounts at one point. We’ve slowly and gradually increased our expenses in line with gaining more clients. We still use free software, but we’ve upgraded to a part-time co-working space, hopefully, if all goes to plan we can have our own place one day. One thing we did struggle with, however, was estimating how much money we’d think we would make, we were overly optimistic, and haven’t reached those numbers yet. Our advice would be, be conservative especially as there are always things that pop up that you haven’t accounted for. And very importantly always make sure to have money set aside for a rainy day! 🌧
Starting a studio/agency might not be for you, but if it’s something that piques your interest, then give it a go. It might seem trivial, but write down the pros and cons, think about what’s the worst that could happen. Starting a business is less daunting than it used to be, tech has made it easier. Plus starting a studio has much less risk than trying to start many other businesses, such as a tech product or even a traditional brick and mortar store, where at the get-go you’re already losing money on rent, stock and staff. As a studio, you can start with a bare minimum, and patiently grow and grow. If you do go for it, remember to have a plan, take your time, be patient and don’t go spending your money all at once. If you want some further help or guidance, give us a shout. We’re more than happy to help.