advice for women in business


I’m celebrating International Women’s Day 2018  by asking for advice from women in business. From finding your tribe to charging what you’re worth, these 15 online business owners have learned from experience.

Ready to get started? Let’s jump right in.

Have a support network

“With apps like Messenger and social media networks like Twitter, finding and reaching out to your ‘work family’ has never been so easy!”

If I had to impart one piece of advice, it would be get a mentor, or at least a support network.

Starting out as a freelancer can be incredibly daunting and, by its very nature, lonely.  Add to the mix that you’re working on your own, without a team to bounce ideas off and going freelance can suddenly seem particularly overwhelming.

A mentor doesn’t have to cost you money (although obviously paid mentors do exist and can be worth their weight in gold). I was lucky enough to find a course leader I got on very well with who was happy to respond to my question filled emails for the first few months. This gave me enough of a confidence boost to know that I was heading in the right direction and offering the best advice.

I also connected with a couple of other freelancers locally with services that complimented mine.

Over the years my support network has expanded to include other social media consultants just like myself across the UK. With apps like Messenger and social media networks like Twitter, finding and reaching out to your ‘work family’ has never been so easy! Pippa Akram,

Social Pip, - A Hertfordshire based Social Media Consultant, specialising in working with small businesses

“Be a giver and help others to help themselves.”

I would tell my younger self three things:

1. Surround yourself with like-minded, positive people who will inspire you on your journey in business and who share your values.

2. Be a giver and help others to help themselves.

3. Believe in yourself and don’t listen to the “imposter” in you! Imogen Allen

Web Designer at Umbrella Digital Media, - Imogen is a web designer who loves to help others make a success of whatever it is they want to achieve.

Believe in yourself

“You are already so much more capable than you know.”

It’s tricky to pick just one thing to be honest! I’ve learned so much … about business, about people, about our trade as copywriters and not least about myself.

But if I have to single out one thing I would tell my younger self and any woman considering working for herself or starting a business, it would be to start sooner.

You are already so much more capable than you know. The people who are out there working for themselves and running companies do not have a secret formula that you don’t yet know, they’re just applying themselves and their passion and getting better at it one day at a time.

Do not wait until you feel like you know enough to start. If you’re any good, you will never feel like you know enough and at the same time, you already know more than you will ever need to know! Eleanor Ward

Director at InsideCopy, - Eleanor is a content marketing specialist, working closely with clients to help them achieve their brand visibility and customer acquisition goals online.

“You’ll be happier and more successful if you at least try to believe in yourself.”

Be confident and don’t doubt yourself.

There are so many times during my career when I doubted my abilities. I still doubted myself when I became self-employed, despite companies actually coming to me to ask for my social media expertise.

I’ve come to realise that if you doubt yourself, you’re actually holding yourself back from achieving what you’re truly capable of.

It’s not easy to change your mindset. In fact, it’s a daily battle. However, you’ll be happier and more successful if you at least try to believe in yourself! Elizabeth Harmon

Social Media Consultant, - Liz has worked with a growing list of clients around the world, helping to build successful social media strategies, create effective content and much more.

Embrace the learning curve

“It’s okay to be a bit rough around the edges sometimes.”

The one piece of advice I’d give my younger self is to not wait for perfection – because it never happens when it comes to running a business.

Things are constantly evolving and changing and you need to adapt to that. If you wait for everything to be perfect the moment will have passed and most likely you won’t be showing the real you.

So, hit go on that website, publish that blog post and stop re-recording that Instagram story! It’s okay to be a bit rough around the edges sometimes. It’s all part of our story and storytelling is one of the greatest assets you have in connecting with your audience. Carly Stringer

Social Media Consultant, Keystone Virtual, - Carly provides digital marketing and social media support, as well as online and in-person training, to service-based creative freelancers and small business owners in the UK.

“Keep it simple, do your research, and take it one step at a time.”

Dear Younger Self,

You never thought you would have your own business, you never thought you would have the need to or that your life would follow this course. But it did. And you’re doing it, whether you know how you are managing to or not.

However, what I would say to you before you start is believe in your abilities (you can do it!), keep it simple, do your research and take it one step at a time. It isn’t a race, you will get there in the end.

Don’t punish yourself for not knowing everything straightaway. Embrace the learning curve and have fun with your new experiences.

And don’t get scared by clients – they’re just people too! Kerry Harrison

Virtual Assistant, - Kerry is a Virtual Assistant who provides ongoing administrative, social media and lifestyle support to busy entrepreneurs, consultants and small business owners.

Stay focused on what you want

“Stay true to yourself.”

Stay true to yourself: remember who you are, stay rooted in that, and remember why you wanted to start your business in the first place. This will help you when the millions of distractions will try to pull you off track. Kat Sonson

Sonson Media, - Kat provides virtual business support to small businesses in property. She specialises in social media.

“Don’t get distracted by what others around you are doing.”

Decide what you want to do and how you want to do it, write it down and move forward with conviction, keeping what you wrote down as a reminder.

Know that you can and will do it. Have confidence in yourself and focus on your own path; don’t get distracted by what others around you are doing. Annie Brown

Virtual PA at Hello My PA, - Annie helps freelancers and businesses across the UK to become more productive in their admin, marketing and customer service practices; assisting them in achieving their goals.

“It’s okay to ignore advice if it doesn’t sit right with you.”

Early on in my freelancing, I tried to follow all the advice from successful business owners so I’d be doing it ‘properly’, but whilst those tactics worked for others, they weren’t really how I wanted to run my business.

So my advice would actually be that it’s okay to ignore advice if it doesn’t sit right with you, and instead seek out the people whose approaches really resonate and listen to them (for me it’s Paul Jarvis). Katy Carlisle

Squarespace Trainer and Website Designer at The Wheel Exists, - Katy set up The Wheel Exists in 2013 to help freelancers and charities create lovely websites on Squarespace. She also runs the Freelance Folk popup coworking sessions and won the IPSE Freelance Ambassador of the Year award in 2017.

Do things your own way

“Everyone works differently, so experiment with different habits and ideas and figure out what works best for you.”

Dear 27-year-old Karen,

My advice to you on starting out is twofold.

One: you’re kidding yourself if you think you’re actually going to do your work after you get back from your walk/coffee with a friend/the pub. Do it before you go.

Two: setting specific working hours, adhering to a strict routine and looking to others for accountability WILL NOT WORK FOR YOU. AND THAT IS FINE. Everyone works differently, so experiment with different habits and ideas and figure out what works best for you. Screw what everyone else thinks. Do it your way. (This applies to ev-er-y-thing, not just productivity). Karen Marston

Copywriter, Karen makes a living writing, is usually swathed in pyjamas, and shares everything she knows about this fabulous lifestyle – including how to write better and make money from it – on her blog, Untamed Writing.

Don’t undervalue yourself

“Don’t undervalue yourself. And don’t reduce your rates just to make a quick buck.”

Charge what you’re worth.

When I think back to how little I was charging clients for work when I first started Teapot Communications in 2015, I really do cringe! It’s one thing doing a bit of work on the cheaper side to get yourself established, but quite another completely selling yourself short.

Providing quotes can be scary. I still hold my breath sometimes when I send through costings to a potential client for a big project! But if you’re confident that your pricing is on point and you know that you’re worth what you’re asking for, then your conscience is clear.

There will always be people who say you’re too expensive. But you can’t win every job – and you can’t please everyone.

Don’t undervalue yourself. And don’t reduce your rates just to make a quick buck. Zoë Arpin

Director, Teapot Communications, - When she’s not drinking copious amounts of tea, Zoë helps small business owners around the world navigate their way through the world of marketing, copywriting and social media.

“If you want your business to success in the  long term, don’t undercharge for your time.”

If I could give one piece of advice to my younger self it would be this:

Have confidence in your abilities and skills and, most importantly, if you want your business to succeed in the long term, don’t undercharge for your time. Emma Sheppard

Design and Branding Director, Big Bear Creative, - Emma is a graphic designer specialising in logos and branding, the co-owner of Big Bear Creative and, most importantly, wife and mum of a crazy 2-year-old.

Make time for self-care

“Self-care is so important and it’s too easy to work ridiculous hours when running a business and forget about your own health and happiness.”

Just believe in yourself and go for it!

Don’t listen to the naysayers who tell you that it will never work and don’t worry about the competition! There may be other businesses offering the same services but what makes your business unique is YOU, so just be your authentic self, build relationships with people and the rest will follow.

Also, value your time and your worth! Don’t offer low prices to gain clients or give away too much for free. You know you provide great value in the work that you do and people will soon see that via testimonials and recommendations from your happy clients.

Most importantly, don’t burn yourself out! Your self-care is so important and it’s too easy to work ridiculous hours when running a business and forget about your own health and happiness. Outsource anything that you don’t enjoy doing or that is a poor use of your time as soon as you can! The investment will pay for itself in no time. Emma Read

Virtual Assistant, - Emma helps freelancers and small business owners avoid the administrative and marketing overwhelm of running their business so that they can concentrate on what’s important to them, such as growing their business or spending time with friends and family.

Don’t compare yourself to others

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Comparison is the thief of joy.

It’s good to keep an eye on your competitors and an essential part of a successful business, but comparing yourself is unhealthy, it feeds the Imposter Syndrome Gremlin and won’t make you a better businesswoman.

Eyes on your own paper. Sam Burgess

Founder, Social Mouth Ltd., - Sam is a Social Marketing Expert, specialising in helping small creative business owners find their voice online and be heard by their customer. She is also the host of an iTunes top 40 business podcast "Small & Mighty"

Make the most of every opportunity

“If I could have my time again, I’d tell myself to exploit every opportunity I had.”

I started my business with help from my ex-boss while I worked in a content marketing agency (I originally started to save some cash before going to uni!), but fell in love with my business and didn’t end up going to uni.

If I could have my time again, I’d tell myself to exploit every opportunity I had. While I still worked there, I could pick my ex-boss’ and colleagues’ brains. I can’t do that now – but I did check in with them six months after I went full-time and they had some great tips for me. I wish I did that before I left! Elise Dopson

Freelance Digital Marketing Writer, - Elise is a freelance B2B digital marketing writer from Manchester, UK.

…and my own advice?

“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself – there’s more to life than work.”

Self-care is essential – and it’s about much more than buying expensive candles and using the hygge hashtag.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Whether we’re talking about how much you can achieve in a day or where you’d like your business to be in a year, set realistic goals.

Give yourself the space and time you need to regularly check in with your feelings and your progress. If there’s an aspect of your business that’s making you miserable, consider outsourcing it or dropping it completely. You can only do so much – the days are never going to get any longer.

Finally, there’s more to life than work. If you’re working at 7 pm on a Saturday night, something isn’t right. Log off and get yourself a bloody big glass of wine! You deserve it! Sophie Livingston

Freelance Marketing Writer, - I'm a copywriter from Yorkshire who specialises in writing blog posts and website copy for digital marketers.