Jenny Haynes on why it’s okay if your career dreams take a slightly off piste path, and offers her tips to start a business.
For pretty much as long as I can remember, I wanted to be an actress. Over the years I went from performing ‘shows’ in the living room to my long suffering family, to spending hours in pretty much every youth theatre club in the North East, before, aged 18, making the move to the big smoke and filling my boots with as much London Fringe Theatre, Student Films and Unpaid/Profit Share/Expenses only work as I could get my hands on.
I spent a few years juggling a variety of minimum wage night and breakfast shift jobs with weird and wonderful acting projects, keen to soak up as much of the big city as possible, all with one goal in mind: to get into drama school.
In the summer of 2013, that dream finally came true, and on the rooftop of the pub of the Kensington Pub I was working/sort of living in, I accepted my place into the theatre school I had always dreamed of getting into. I remember sitting on the roof on that gorgeously sunny morning, having barely slept after working till 4am the previous night with tears in my eyes, thinking this is it. THIS is what I’ve been working so hard for, what I’ve always dreamed about. Sounds cheesy, but I’d literally spent years dreaming about that moment, and now, it had finally happened.
Fast forward to 2017, and I’m answering the door to a postman delivering an obscenely sized box containing £600.00 of hen party accessories.
My career path has taken somewhat of an interesting swerve, in a direction I could have never anticipated. In early 2017, after running Saturday Hen Party Classes for a number of companies during my time at drama school, I took the leap into setting up City Dance Parties, my own hen party dance business. My life has become hen parties, and do you know what? It’s been an absolute breath of fresh air.
It can feel a bit daunting to take a step back from your dreams and to let your career path venture slightly ‘off piste’, as I like to put it. I think to an extent we feel somewhat guilty if we take our ‘eye off the ball’ slightly, and let our eyes wander elsewhere for a moment.
I appreciate it’s different for everybody, but for me, this little swerve has, I believe, benefited not only my overall happiness, but my acting career in ways I couldn’t have predicted.
Over the years, I had become so doggedly focused on just achieving this ‘goal’ of becoming an actress, that I’d lost a lot the joy of it, and had somewhat forgotten why I wanted it in the first place.
With a bit more breathing space, I’ve once again found the joy in acting; I know what sort of work I want to do and why I want to do it. Financially, I’ve more stability than I’ve ever had before, which I’ve been able to invest back into my career, and most of all, when I go into an audition now, I want the job for the right reasons, not because I just really bloody need to pay the bills.
Starting your own business can be a scary leap to make, but can be an incredible adventure. If you have an idea cooking in your head, is something I’d thoroughly recommend taking the leap:
Here’s a few little tips for if you’re thinking of taking the leap:
Tell as many people as possible:
A simple tip, but with each person you tell about your idea, the more committed you are to making it happen. Taking the leap is scary, and your far more likely to make excuses or back out if you keep it to yourself. So get mouthy! Share the idea with family/friends/social media, and it’ll start becoming more of a reality, and less of ‘just an idea’.
Reach out for help:
One of the most wonderful surprises I’ve had this year is how many people offered to help out when I was starting up. From friends who work in event companies, to people I’ve met in conferences, to a marketing manager my mam met at yoga camp, people have been amazing. Reach out and utilise your contacts: if your friend is a photographer, ask if they’ll take a few snaps for your site; if you know someone in Digital Marketing, ask if they’ll spend a few hours chatting you through some strategies; if you know someone in a similar company, see if they’ll link you on their site. It takes guts to go it alone and set up your own business, and people appreciate that, so don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Be Like a Sponge:
Whether you’re listening to Ted Talks in the bath, watching Dragon’s Den on the tube, or reading as many books/programmes/trawling through sites to do with your business as possible; it’s a good idea to immerse yourself in a world of ‘your business’, especially at the start. It will keep you motivated, give you an idea of your competitors, and will start giving you an eye on what you like/don’t like, and how you want to mould your business. A lot of my business marketing is based online, and I love listening to Brighton SEO podcasts to get me learning and focused in my spare time.
Figure out the Funds:
Here’s the tricky bit. Financing. Write a big list of what you need to start up your business (e.g. website, work phone, kit, marketing). Figure out the best places to focus your budget to begin with and take it from there. What things do you need to get things set up (e.g. a website), and what items can wait a little longer (e.g. some plush kit)?
Carefully figure out where you can cut costs. People Per Hour, and Fiverr are good sites to explore for slightly cheaper web and logo design, but do your research before hiring somebody, otherwise you can just throw money away.
One of the first questions you should be asking yourself is ‘where am I going to get my business?’. Will it be through online marketing, paid advertising, word of mouth, social media, local advertising? Write down a list of strategies, and focus where you’re going to put your energy.
I found it really helpful to keep a journal, with daily tasks, and monthly round ups – the daily tasks are great for keeping you focused and on track day to day, and the monthly round up is great for keeping an eye on the bigger picture. It can feel like you’re getting nowhere sometimes, but if you look at your month to month progression, you can see all the improvements and the small changes you might otherwise miss!
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Follow Jenny on Twitter: @JenniferHaynes5