My work is all about relationships. I help organisations build lasting connections with their audience through online communities and meaningful content. So it’s ironic that my own business began through the breakdown of a relationship.
I spent years in agencies, working with clients primarily in the healthcare and charity sectors, businesses ranging from small local organisations to large international operations. I put in incredibly long hours, spending far more time working than I spent with my family or friends, but I loved what I did and I was good at it.
After I became pregnant, however, my relationship with my employer deteriorated. Following the birth of my daughter, returning to that job no longer felt like an option. It’s a source of great sadness to me that things took such a negative turn, and it shows how powerful relationships really are. They’re fragile things, that need constant cultivation, and yet their impact on every part of your life and your business is incredibly strong.
When that relationship fell apart, other relationships came together to completely transform my future. Finding myself suddenly self-employed was daunting – I worried about where I would find work, starting completely from scratch. As a Director of Brighton Digital Women I have been lucky to meet incredible businesswomen and professionals across the city, and when I announced that I was making the move to freelance life, they flooded me with requests and referrals for work. I’m excited to be closing my first month as my own boss having made more money than I would have if I was still employed and having gained some incredible clients that I had previously dreamt of working with!
As a working mum with a four-month-old daughter, too, groups of other mums have been invaluable in figuring out what on earth I’m doing, and staying positive about myself – I don’t think there’s a mum out there who doesn’t worry that they’re basically terrible at the whole parenting thing, but speaking to others and finding out that everyone else does the same and feels the same is such a massive source of strength. The women I speak to on a daily basis fill me with courage and warmth, and give me a good giggle, which you need when you’re only getting 20 hours of sleep per week!
Relationships don’t just matter for individuals. People evaluate your business by how you make them feel more than any logical factors. 95% of purchase decisions are made based on unconscious, emotional factors – we come up with logical reasons to justify those decisions after the fact. People liking you, and remembering you, is as crucial to acquiring customers as it is to finding clients and making friends.
Just like in your personal life, those relationships are fragile and need constant attention. So don’t neglect them – once they go sour, it’s very, very hard to go back.