Six lessons learnt in my first six months of business

by | 18 May 2021

It’s been six months since I took the leap and officially launched my freelance communication and copywriting business, Composed Communication.

Those of you who know me well know I’m not one to sugarcoat the truth. And honestly, it’s been a wild ride. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve felt out of my depth. I’ve doubted my ability. And I’ve spent more than a bit of time casually perusing the job ads, “just to see what’s out there”.

But you know what? All things considered, I’m so glad I made the change. And while I’m sure there’s still plenty of lows to come, the highs make it all worthwhile.

I want to share six things I’ve learnt in my first six months of running my own business.

1. It’s all about relationships

The thing that scared me the most when I launched was wondering how I would bring in clients. Looking at what others were doing on Instagram, reading about Facebook ads, funnels, SEO, and lead magnets had me breaking out in a cold sweat. There’s an imposter among us!

However, I learned that it didn’t really matter that I didn’t have a well-oiled marketing strategy. After a while, I stopped worrying that I simply didn’t have the time to post three times a week on social media. I focused instead on ensuring my posts delivered value to my potential clients.

My business has grown steadily through the relationships I have with people. In my first six months, most of my clients came through referrals from people I knew before I launched. And I’m pretty sure that as long as I keep doing good work, offering more value and building new relationships, the rest will flow.

2. Run your own race

I had no idea there were so many freelance copywriters and communication consultants in the big, bad world until I decided to become one. And if social media is to be believed, they’re all out there smashing goals, landing high paying clients, and writing the occasional book in their downtime.

“I’ll never be as good!” I cackled into my teacup over the early months.

But as I started to get to know other small business owners, I noticed a trend. Everyone and I mean everyone, feels the same at some point or another, particularly in the early days.

So I try not to compare myself to other people. Especially to people who are years into their own business journeys. I try to learn from them instead.

3. Know your strengths, acknowledge your weaknesses

I learned this important lesson the hard way a few weeks in when I spent two days working on some content for a client without a formal agreement in place. They changed their mind, and I got zilch for my toil. Ouch.

While the service I offer is built around my strengths, I freely admit that the processes and administration around running a business are my kryptonite. By identifying this, I’ve been able to work on bridging the gaps.

My goal for the next six months is to start paying some experts to take some of the admin off my hands.

4. Go outside your comfort zone

As a writer, I’ve always been comfortable working behind the keyboard, making someone else sound awesome. But as an introvert, sharing my own stories and experiences online still feels inherently uncomfortable.

But I’m in my own marketing team of one now! And I begrudgingly know I need to keep putting myself out there to grow my network and bring in business.

Running your own business means learning to get comfortable with risk and uncertainty. And frankly, every day, I seem to do something that scares the bejesus out of me.

5. Find your people

It takes a village to raise a child, and all that… the same can probably be said of a small business.

Although I’m a solo operator, I simply couldn’t have come this far on just my own two wibbly-wobbly feet.

I’m constantly learning from people who have been in my shoes, whether as small business owners, freelancers, copywriters, or all of the above.

6. Good self-care = good business

I’ve come to notice my business highs and achievements are inextricably linked to how much I’m prioritising my health and wellbeing. It’s no coincidence!

So I try to make it out for a morning run along the coast while listening to a podcast, at least three times a week after the school drop off. It kickstarts my creativity and grounds me for the day ahead.

Similarly, I find if I disconnect from work by meditating, laughing with my kids, reading a book or meeting a friend for a cuppa, my tank is filled. I can better focus on the bottom line.

So while I put my clients needs first when I’m working, I know I always need to prioritise my own self-care to best serve them.

So… is it too early to start planning my one-year celebration?

These first six months have been a white-knuckle ride. But along the way, this old dog has learnt a whole bunch of new tricks and got to know lots of ahh-mazing people.

I can’t wait to see what the next six months have in store.


Aussie employees are quiet quitting en masse, with disengagement estimated to cost the country over $200 billion a year.

These shocking stats fuel the importance of internal communications to connect with and engage employees rather than simply broadcast.

The truth is, you can splash your strategy across dazzling slide decks, videos, intranet sites and emails until everyone chants the company mantra in their sleep. But if your messages don’t connect the dots in a relevant, relatable and engaging way, why should employees care?

Effective internal communication is not about playing the tune repeatedly until it’s stuck in your employees’ heads. It’s about making them want to dance to the music in the first place.

If you need to check whether your internal communications are in tune, an audit is a great place to start.

Facing up to any disconnect you uncover allows you to craft content that genuinely resonates.  

Here’s my five-step guide to conducting an internal communications audit as the springboard for an impactful strategy. Let’s get cracking.

audit internal comms

1. Map your channels

Take a little stroll across the employee communication landscape. It’s time to examine all the ways your people find out information.

Obviously, hit up email, intranet, social channels, internal events and even the kitchen posters… but look beyond the usual content pushed by the communications teams.

Are business unit leaders sending team newsletters? Are rogue town halls happening in some parts of the business? Have online communities formed around projects or interests? Dig deeper. 

Catalog every existing touchpoint to unearth hidden disconnected fragments. Like an archaeologist assessing a dig site.

Next, critically evaluate whether each channel and message authentically supports the business strategy in an engaging way.

Hot tip: Slyly rope in eagle-eyed outsiders like marketing pros or external comms advisors to validate content quality. An impartial squiz means more honesty and less smoke-blowing.

2. Analyse your metrics

Take a big spoonful of data soup.

Dive into:

  • Intranet analytics
  • Email open and click rates
  • Event attendance
  • Video views
  • Social content reach and engagement

Pick out patterns. Map the hits and the misses. Do some emails get high hits while others don’t make it through the gates?

You’ll soon get a good feel for what content works and what doesn’t.

3. Pick some brains 

So you’ve got your list of current channels and performance data.

Now, it’s time for some direct audience opinions to cement how your internal communications are currently landing.

Whip up a survey, run focus groups and one-on-one interviews with people across the business to understand your employees’ perceptions.

Ask people:

  • Where and how they source information
  • If they feel connected to the company vision and their leaders
  • What content and channels they find most useful
  • What content they tend to disregard

Engaging external consultants to facilitate focus groups and interviews can eliminate bias and assure confidentiality.

4. Study your market

Cast a cheeky side-eye at competitors and speak to peers in adjacent sectors using wow-worthy communications. Where are others raising the bar?

Explore channels and formats that set industry peers apart.

And tap people outside your bubble. What can you learn from vendor partners, agencies, consultants and conference speakers? People who cross between organisations can offer revelations.

Of course, it’s important to amplify what makes your culture distinct. But stay open-minded to piloting initiatives successful elsewhere that could translate or be tailored to your teams.

Ideas borrowed and bettered from broader viewpoints demonstrate commitment to continuously enriching the employee experience.

5. Create next-level experiences

Next, look at your findings. You may have discovered some channels firing on all cylinders alongside some gaps that need some spark.

Now is the time to get a succinct strategy down on paper.

Start by mapping out the ideal future state. What do you want your internal communications to achieve?

Now, use everything you’ve learnt to manifest the vision. 

Look for quick wins you can implement right away. Then, lay longer-term foundations for improvements that will take time to build.

Focus on strategies that map to your objectives. And sprinkle in temperature pulses to measure progress. 

Keep your research findings about your employees’ preferences top of mind, and tailor your communication strategy to meet their needs.

Establish clear ownership and a process for everything you’re proposing. Stay ambitious but be realistic given constraints like team bandwidth.

Speaking of bandwidth

I get it. The team is so busy doing the do that you don’t have the capacity to step back and declutter your communications.

As an internal communications specialist who loves to simplify complex messaging legacies, I’m happy to advise or lend outsider objectivity.

If you’re too swamped to tackle a content audit yourself, get in touch

Need another set of hands?

It’s time to craft communication that engages and converts your niche tribe into happy customers or employees.

I’m a freelance communications consultant and content writer for busy teams. Let’s chat about how I can help you create content that wows.

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