In case you haven't heard, August is our Manchester Startup month - an entire 4 weeks when we delve into the culture, people, events and self starter spirit that makes the capital of the north one of the most vibrant and exciting places in the UK to set up a business. To continue along our current thread of startup inspiration we now have a self starter tale for you, from someone who has ‘been there, done that’ so to speak.
Col Skinner of Digital Consultancy agency Profoundry, is our kind of guy. Fed up with a career of answering to ‘the man’ he decided enough was enough and set about a courageous self starter journey to turn his career into a self employment opportunity.
Last week he told us 6 reasons why he reckons Manchester is amongst the top 5 startup cities in Europe so we decided to have a quick chat with him about his own business, his startup journey and all the ups and downs that happened along the way.
Hi there Col, so first off can you tell us a little about Profoundry and what services you provide?
Profoundry is a digital consultancy service that I founded in February this year. Having tried and tested a wide range of services during my career I wanted to offer only those services I knew could deliver results. I wanted clients to be able to pick and choose different services as or when they needed them. Not be stuck down by jargon filled long term contracts. This meant breaking "digital consultancy" down into 9 key services that can help any size business in any industry:
Digital Consultancy Search Marketing Strategy & Planning Content Marketing Outreach Online Audits UX Testing Conversion Rate Optimisation Digital Training
All of the above services are based on Insight, Strategy and Analysis, which I believe are the three cornerstones of all successful digital marketing campaigns.
Can you tell us why you decided to become self employed rather than continue along the career you had been developing for 6 years?
I had been working in agencies and in-house roles for 6 years doing things the way others wanted for those chosen by others. During this time I felt there were a number of things that made my life unnecessarily hard. To name a few:
• Proposals dumped on my desk featuring client and service combinations that were unlikely to result in ROI.
• Concentrating time on those elements that make us the most money not what gets the best results.
• Moving at a snail's pace in one of the fastest growing industries in the world.
• Seeing clients who shouldn’t have been brought on in the first place being over serviced rather than turned away.
• Being in businesses that didn’t dare to experiment with new ideas and risk testing strategies in the hope of achieving something new.
• Having a work life balance that gave me no time to experience anything new in my life.
I was tired of coming home each day complaining about all these things. I thought I could either try and find somewhere that contradicts all of the above or I could form my own business that operates in a way I feel is ethical and productive.
Now that your business is up and running, has self- employment lived up to your expectations? What are your favourite things about it?
The first day you walk into your new office (or home office) is a very surreal one. I thought I would feel very overwhelmed and alone on my solo quest. In fact I felt very empowered and motivated to make things happen. The fact that everything from accounts, to marketing to client work relied on me was as exciting as it was daunting and new. This level of responsibility will either make or break you during those early days/weeks.
My favourite thing about being a self starter has to be the control. I'm no control freak but being able choose who I work with, how I work with them and when is great. The pride from seeing your hard earned money go into your business account has to be another very fulfilling aspect of life in self starter-hood.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about turning their career into an opportunity for self employment?
To make it on your own you first have establish your true motivations and abilities. Once you know these you can establish whether the self employment route matches them.
If, after that, you still want to be self employed then I would pass on these bits of advice (in no particular order):
• Invest in the foundations of a professional fully functioning business, cutting no corners. This will make you feel part of a real full time business not a part time pipe dream.
• Take pride in your work as now it truly is yours and nothing can be blamed on others.
• Develop a keen sense of self discipline as there are thousands of distractions in life.
• Build up a thick skin for the critics out there.
• Remember that family, friends & colleagues aren’t you and will always offload their personal fears and thoughts. You are the one who is ultimately in charge of your career and life. It’s you who will be working late, stressing over money and begging for business leads all to hopefully be rewarded with your dream career.
• Cash flow is the nail in the coffin for 70% of new businesses. Payment for freelancers can be sporadic at the best of times. So plan to succeed, but be prepared to fail. Have at least 6 months worth of bill money set aside.
• Don’t be afraid of words like "failure" or “bankruptcy”. We all know that these things shouldn’t be taken lightly, but you can pick yourself back up after them.
What is the greatest challenge you have faced during the process and how did you manage to overcome it?
Personally, my biggest challenge as an independent digital consultant has to be the sheer amount of agencies out there with the budgets to put a great deal of money into marketing, tools and resource. Although I feel I like David against Goliath, I also realise that I various offer benefits that hiring an agency does not.
Cheers for the chat Col and the brilliant advice.
To learn more about the work of Cols digital consultancy ‘Profoundry’ why not pop over to his website
If you fancy telling your Manchester startup tale or have anything you would like to say about the city or its startup culture then get in touch!