Exactly a year ago, I made the probably biggest decision of my life: I started my own business. It felt like true freedom, working from wherever I wanted to and according to my own schedule. I suddenly had the flexibility to go to exhibitions at 11 in the morning, to spend my afternoons at the gym and to avoid peak-time commutes. As a morning person, I would rather get up earlier and have already done what had to be done when I left the house in the middle of the day. Other freelancers prefer to sleep in and sit at their desks late at night.

When reality kicked in

What I realised though quickly is that in addition to the early morning hours, there would also be many graveyard shifts and I would be falling short on sleep as I had taken on too much work. On top of that would soon be insurances to explain your business model to, calls to HMRC about that one tax reference you hadn’t received, the bank asking for additional documents and those receipts you had to keep track of for your business expenses. If you never had to do any accounting before, this can become a real challenge.

Then came the month where my main client told me that they couldn’t pay me anymore…

Fast forward: The situation today

Spoiler alert: It all went well and I’m now happier than ever before with my decision to start my own business. I recently met another SEO-freelancer who started at the same time as me and he said one thing that made me realize how blessed I am. As we were talking about our recent travels, he said that he hadn’t been away for a long time because it was his first year in business and he was struggling to swim and not to drown. After he had said that, I didn’t even dare to reply because I had been able to travel at the end of the year, and I wasn’t only swimming very well, I was surfing – literally!

All of that wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t had that great support network that I had.

Cowork and Brunch at The Schoolhouse
Freelancers and founders at the first ever cowork and brunch.

Othership made all the difference

When I got the phone call from my biggest client and they were telling me that they had just lost their main investor, I was using the co-working space at the Psychedelic Society which I had discovered through Othership. I was lucky to be in such a positive space that afternoon, as hugs were definitely what I needed most in that moment. Yes, you can run your own business and be a tough company director in front of the people that need to see that side of you, but you are still a human being.

That situation also brought back my faith in humanity. There were suddenly people around me, not only in the co-working space but also at the weekly co-working brunch, that I had only just met that were believing in me and support everything I did, even if they were struggling themselves. Some of them helped me with advice, others were there to give out hugs, others invited me for a coffee or beer when I needed somebody to talk to or followed my still new and immature blog on social media.

It was amazing to see a true community where you not only find like-minded people but also human beings who genuinely wish you well and support you without expecting anything in return.

The business minded amongst you might wonder now how this affected my business success and I can confirm that the Othership community and the wider network also brought clients from either within the community or as referrals. I recently held my very first presentation in business context. I explained the basics of SEO to small businesses and that is another thing that was only possible through Othership, not only because they took care of the organisation at Moneypenny Workhub, but also because they were the ones believing in me when I didn’t.

Me looking nervous at The Psychedelic Society
Me coworking at the Psychedelic Society
Working from the Psychedelic Society
Communal vegan brunch at the Psychedelic Society

Upwards and onwards

Now, a year later, I can hardly believe how much has happened over the past 12 months. One thing I definitely feel is that I grew. I’m not the same person anymore, I also suddenly feel a lot older. The first year of business has certainly caused some wrinkles on my face, but it also has brought happiness and many new friends that have proven that I can count on them.

My business is constantly growing and so is my blog Charlie on the Move where I write about my travels (and the surf). I still have a long way to go, but I know that I’m on the right path. Despite all the blessings it still involves hard work and many nights where I don’t get enough sleep – but that is a decision you take when you love what you do.

I can say that I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it hadn’t been for Othership and I would do it all over again if I had to. If there’s one thing that I would change, then I would worry less because I knew that there are people I can count on.


Author: Julia-Carolin Zeng

Leave a Reply