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Five ways to manage your career progression when you run your own business

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WPR/PR Week mentee Liz Wilmshurst is a journalist, brand manager and internal comms professional now running her own communications consultancy, The Clever Comms Co.

Achievements have shaped my life ever since I was a kid. I’ve always been focused on the next qualification, the next job and my progression plan and, as a bit of a control freak, it’s helped me keep some order in the chaos that working in comms can bring.

But 16 months ago, I decided to get off the greasy pole and go it alone, running my own brand and communications consultancy. It’s been a rollercoaster ride and (on the whole) I’ve loved it, but being your own boss does pose some issues when the only person shaping your progression is you.

But just because you’re the boss AND the ‘do-er’, that doesn’t mean you can’t progress, or that you can’t celebrate your success. Here are a few things I’ve learned in my time as a business owner:

  1. Take stock

When you’re in the thick of delivering client work, it can be hard to take stock. You finish one job, then it’s on to the next, without a second to reflect. I’ve found that scheduling in time to review not only gives me chance to evaluate and note my learnings, but the process of writing out a case study also helps you see just how much you’ve achieved. Plus, it’s all great evidence to help you win that next client.

  1. Ask for feedback

If you find it hard to wax lyrical about how great you are, ask someone else to do it for you. If you’ve just finished a job the client was thrilled with, get a testimonial as soon as you can – make it part of your project wrap up process. Not only does it help build your credibility, it helps you better understand what you give clients that other people don’t.

  1. Keep on learning

Training can seem like a luxury when you’re paying for it yourself, but it’s vital that you keep developing yourself and ensuring your skills stay up to date. It might be a formal qualification if you need to cement your skills or add some credibility, or could simply be making time to attend talks and events that are relevant to your industry to keep your passion alive.

  1. Build a support structure

It’s easy to feel isolated when you work for yourself, especially if you work from home. In my first few months, not seeing other people really got me down, so a friend and I decided to set up a regular meet-up for a few people we knew who worked for themselves. We put a post on our local Facebook community group, and 40+ people turned up to our first meeting. We now hold regular sessions with speakers like accountants, business coaches and funding providers, as well as the occasional trip to the pub. All of our businesses are very different, but we all have issues in common, and being able to voice those feelings is really important.

  1. Accentuate the positives

I have a lot of friends who followed a similar career path who now have impressive job titles at high profile organisations. But what I try to think about is the things they don’t have that I do; like the freedom to choose the work I love to do, the flexibility to shift my working day around if my child is ill, the lack of politics that come from working in high-pressure roles. And as long as you’re doing what you love and you’re proud of your achievements, who cares what your job title is?

Liz Wilmshurst runs The Clever Comms Co., a brand and communications consultancy specialising in brand development, engagement and communication – internal and external. www.clevercommsco.com @clevercommsco