6 months ago, when I stepped out of my comfort zone and started my own business I knew I was going to experience many a challenge and learning curve. My recent learnings have been adaptability and working outdoors in the winter months – chill blains and all!
I think I can safely say that my working week has variety in a way that not many jobs have. Well you could say variety or just plain weird. Take today for example, I started off with a decluttering project where I was sorting through a client’s walk in wardrobe and deciding what ballgowns she wanted to keep or donate to charity. In a blink of an eye I was out in the elements dressed in thermals wielding a paintbrush and restoring a wrought iron gate to its former glory.
What do I prefer? Actually, I enjoy all aspects of creating a ‘Happy Home’ for people. The combination of working with clients to plan how we can improve their house to increase its selling potential, designing gardens and decorating projects is allowing me to use my brain power, social skills plus plain brute force and muscle power! The only thing is that I could have done with a few more indoor jobs during the winter months.
I don’t think I have ever been so obsessed with the weather forecast before I started my business. Approximately 60% of my work is currently outdoor work which has caused a few challenges and frozen fingers in the past months.
I am a ‘glass half full’ person so I like visualise that the weather is miraculously going be bright and sunny everyday where in reality I am scraping the ice off my car windscreen with the hope that it will warm up soon and my paint won’t be frozen. I hate to miss a day’s work due to weather, it is part and parcel of working for myself and the mortgage needs to be paid regardless the weather so it’s a case of ‘man up’ and face the elements.
Not to give up easily I make sure for my working day I am fully prepared for any weather condition which means packing most of my wardrobe into the car. Do you need a coat of any type? Boots for any terrain? I can also offer you a range of gardening equipment, paint, cleaning products and Haribos (actually they are mine and I don’t share) Please do come and have a browse from now slightly battered car/office
I can start the day looking presentable if I am doing client consultations as first impressions count but slowly go downhill during the day if I have outdoor jobs often returning home with a strong resemblance to a bag lady or Benny from Crossroads (only my generation will remember him!) – like Benny, my hat can stay firmly on ALL day! Recently I took a break from gardening to get a sandwich in Sainsbury’s. I was preparing to say to the Big Issue selling gentleman ‘no thank you’. I was slightly surprised that after he looked at me he did not even ask me if I would like a copy. Then I looked at my reflection in the window and realised why!
Please do not think I have let myself go though – make up is a must at all times, mainly to cover the red nose and lips blue from the cold. I pride myself on getting a reputation for being the most glamorous painter/decorator in Marlow and surrounding areas – I can only dream!
One of my recent (and still ongoing – and on and on and on!) jobs is to restore and repaint wrought iron railings and gates. I love this type of work and go into a hypnotic zone when I am doing a painting job. Next time I do a job like this I will ensure it’s a tad warmer as although I am used to working outside I do not think I have experienced how cold I could get. Gardening is great as your moving but when the only movement going on is your painting hand your circulation virtually stops and hands, feet and nose threaten to fall off. 10 mins painting and 3 mins jumping jacks helps, much to the entertainment of general members of the public walking past the house. Comments like ‘ my dear, that is not a job for a lady to do’ and similar only spur me on to prove them wrong.
There have been times during this job that I did feel like crying due to the cold then I remember I could be in a stuffy office, going to a pre-meeting before the main meeting to talk about something that needs a separate meeting and brainstorming 'Blue Sky' ideas that never come to fruition. Don’t get me started on quarterly performance management reviews! After these thoughts the cold seems very bearable and I stick on my headphones and Desert Island Discs and get cracking.
The secret in trying to retain heat when working outdoors is layers and don’t stop layering until you start to find it hard to move your limbs. Three pairs of gloves are the limit for me.
Chau, my other half did look on a little incredulously recently when he saw me drying and putting on my top half of my clothes while sitting in a still full bath. I thought it was quite ingenious and my way of preserving the heat in my now vaguely warm body. You will be glad to know I had taken my hat off.
One of my other recent learnings - even if a client says that they are going to be out all day do not assume this is true. I found this out when I had completed my job in their house and then decided to get changed different outfit for the next job. I decided to get changed in the lounge. Half dressed in vest and tights who walks into the lounge after finishing early from work? Yes, the gentleman who lives there. Awkward? Oh, yes, I just thank the Lord it was not a few seconds earlier minus my vest...! You will be glad to know that I do still work for him and remained fully clothed at all times.
For now, my hat remains firmly on my head and thermals always at hand. Spring and that lovely tan I will get from gardening is hopefully just a few months away!
I thought it was time to update you on my continual learning journey from launching Happy Home Living and stepping out in to the unknown world of having your own business. Many of my new learnings do involve vacuum cleaners!
After a lot of thought and consideration it was decided not to jump off into the deep end but to put a toe in and combine the new business with a part time job in a shop – just to cover the necessary bills and keep the house.
After all that sensible thought and consideration, it was quickly decided that after two weeks of working in the shop it was best to get out quick for the sake of my sanity and also to keep the shop in business. I thought working in a shop would be easy – I would smile a lot, lots of chat with customers, scan things and put things in bags – job done! Not to be as the lovely shop I was working in needed me to have intensive knowledge of the products and the ability to retain these facts. I seemed unable to do either of these things and when it got to the point of seeing a potential customer looking in the window and me saying to myself ‘don’t come in, don’t come in as if you ask me a question I can’t answer it and if you want to buy something I don’t know how to use the till!’ So as you can see Retail really was not my cup of tea.
Actually, being useless as a Shop Manager was just a small part of why I left. The main reason was I was steadily building up a client base and balancing the two jobs was becoming impossible so I have now duly leapt into the deep end with the support of partner Chau and flying solo.
Now I have made my decision to fully focus on my business it is a little scary but also empowering and it’s up to me now. I can’t escalate an issue or a complaint to my manager and wash my hands of the issue, I have to deal with it (not that I get complaints of course!!)
My services are quite diverse from gardening, cleaning, decorating and also quite physical so I can end the day pretty knackered but feel like I have done a good day’s work and also made a difference to people’s lives in a small way. I love the thought of my clients walking back into their house after work and seeing it spick and span, their overgrown garden looking tame or a chaotic room decluttered and ready to be used as a room again (goodness I sound like Mary Poppins!) It does give me satisfaction although it also gives me dirty nails an aching back and very little desire to clean my own house!
50% of my week involves cleaning houses. Hopefully by next year I will have the experience and reputation to start to employee a team to clean but it’s important to do the groundwork first so I know what it’s like to properly clean (not just whisk around with a cloth and have a cup of tea)
What I have learnt about cleaning
I am a people person, if you haven’t already guessed from my previous blogs and my favourite part of my job is meeting new people. It’s still is a total surprise to me to have calls from people who are responding to my advert or enquire through my website (thanks Chau for a fab website!) They are wanting a service I offer rather than a service or product of the company I work for. Arranging to meet them and going to their house to discuss their requirements is not only necessary for me to earn money but a highlight for me to meet a new person and already I have found door opening from the contact they know which is a double bonus.
I have learnt not to say yes to every job and have quickly found out I have limitations and know what I am good at and what needs to be passed on.
One of my clients who I recently decorated his kitchen asked me what I was like with heights and did I want another job? ‘OK, yes’ I responded which was a total lie as I am petrified of heights but did not want to jeopardise a new job. So we went to look at the job he wanted me to do. It was a two storey tower perched on the river bank of the Thames – It would involve scaffolding and ropes or Spiderman to do that job!
I pride myself on communication skills and managed to politely back out of that one and in the future make sure I fully understand the job requirements and heights before I even open my mouth with an enthusiastic yes!
As I said, lots to learn but loving it at the same time!
Out of the frying pan and into the fire and all other quotations like that! Yes, it was time to start building my new business - Happy Home Living and putting actions into words – gulp!
My long suffering partner Chau worked his wonders with my new website http://www.happyhomeliving.co.uk/services.html (just in case you can’t wait to see what I am doing – plug, plug!) What with this, a Facebook page and of hours of pounding the street leaflet dropping I had drummed up some interest and it was time to get started.
With regards to the jobs I am pretty confident of my skills and very handy with materials ranging from a duster, vacuum cleaner to shears, paint brushes etc. There are a few areas I am not so experienced in but that’s the interesting bit and occasionally flying by the seat of my pants as I ‘learn on the job’
Never in my life did I think how much job satisfaction I would get from sanding and restoring 2 very dilapidated 5 bar gates. I was on a high for days and could not help but lovingly run my hand over the now smooth wood with my now calloused and blistered hands admiring my handiwork. I even had to do a detour and drive past just to have a little look again!
I can confirm now that I am a people person through and through and the highlight of my job, other than the calories I burn when getting physical in the garden is the people I meet. Being a good listener means I leave jobs with a combination of inspiration, education and appreciation for my life after spending time with my clients.
Most of my clients tend to be of the older generation and for me building up a relationship with these fascinating people is a huge perk of the job and in turn I think I am able to give some of them company and conversation – plus I do get a lot of tea!
I can see my niche market now so I know where to focus my sales and promotion. There is going to be a lot of hard work and problem solving ahead of me but its looking like a job that suits my practical and organisational skills in conjunction with talking - I like this combination!
I am so glad that I have kept my fitness up and in particular my upper body strength as boy do you need to be strong for some of jobs. ‘I would like you to saw those dead branches off the tree in the front garden’ says one of my customers ‘of course’ I reply ‘are you joking?’ I think. Never one not to rise to a challenge I threw myself into it and sawed and sawed and sweated and sawed. Geronimo or is it Timber? It came down, I was invincible! I was so tempted to knock on the door and tell them I did it but that would highlight the fact it was a first!
Now to dispose of it… chopped up the small branches and put in the Green Bin, Green Bin getting full. Sawed the thin bits of branch and squashed them in bin. Muscles are feeling the ultimate burn and just can’t do anymore. What to do? Let’s just drag it in to the car and take it home. Hide the evidence! Good job we have an open fire!
I have become obsessed at looking at people’s gardens, shrubs and untended exterior wood work. I almost feel compelled to knock on the door and offer to wood preserve their shed.... getting obsessive again.
Its ‘To Do’ List and planning galore! With OCD tendencies working in my favour I am in my element working out cleaning schedules for clients and ensuring I get the limescale off the taps. Sadly there is still limescale on my taps as my passion for cleaning at home has slightly waned!
In true Corporate Style I have compiled my Weekly Report so I can focus on my learnings and improve for Week Two!
LEARNING FOR THE WEEK
BEST BITS OF THE WEEK
WORST BITS OF THE WEEK
Overall a good week full of experiences that I would never had if I had not taken the plunge. So much to learn and its going to be a Roller Coaster over the coming months. Certainly out of my comfort zone but in a sort of comfortable and satisfying way!
More stories to come soon.
By the way, if you ever drive past a five bar gate and see someone stroking it – it will be me!
Its nearly a year until the day I touched back down in England penniless, jobless, not in a good place mentally or physically and the only possessions I had was the one suitcase I was holding (could not afford the excess luggage – yes it really was that bad!)
A slight come down from the situation when I had left for my adventures where money was not really an object and I was gaily throwing it around like sweets – Oh The Lessons You Learn Through Life...!
Anyway if you are interested to read about the ups and downs of my adventures please have a look at my blog ☺
That’s enough of the doom and gloom and let’s get onto the main reason why I am writing this is because I think I am ready for another change.
Oh Good God, you will say as I have barely drawn a breath from settling back into a ‘normal’ life and somehow fast tracked through what it would take most people years and have managed to acquire myself a unexpected yet wonderful new life including a health, peace, great job, amazing and very long suffering partner, a cat family and a house. Money? Not really but working on that ☺
Now is the time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of my totally unexpected and fully packed year and RELAX.
Well I did that for about 5 mins and really enjoyed it – honest...
However, … what if I decided to slightly shake things up a bit? Just a little bit this time not the full on disappear to the other side of the world!
People did say to me that I might have difficulties settling back into the corporate life after my career break. I on the other hand thought it would be great to have an element of structure back in my life. It’s wonderful to have evenings and weekends again – the joy of working in hospitality for most of my life have meant no weekends so I really do appreciate finding them again!
A few months into the ‘normal’ I yearned to have I just can’t get my head around sitting down at a desk for 7.5hours per day. It’s impossible and it just does not sit right with me anymore (literally as I can’t sit down!) My job is great and a lovely team and environment to work in but I just know that I think there is more out there for me.
Readers of my blog will know that my motto is ‘why not? give it a go and deal with the outcome afterwards’ not remotely sensible in in any shape or form but you can’t teach an old dog new tricks can you?
I had a thought bubbling away for a little while and I know eventually it will to be too much to contain and I have to do something about it. I want to start my own business, always had. I think it’s in the blood as my wonderful Dad started up his own business at 18 years old with nothing and managed to support the family in the most amazing way through thick and thin.
This new business thought of mine is not too radical or has massive set up costs, you see I have been sensible this time! It actually combines what I love and what a lot of people don’t, therefore it could possibly equate to a going concern. Or not.. there is the risk.
So what is it? you may be asking
Painting, decorating, gardening, furniture restoration and trying to give myself a little bit of space for giving my writing a go as well.
I am going to be a Lady Maintenance Person type of thing!! (proper title to be worked on soon)
My place of work has been absolutely amazing and in order not to be homeless I have been given the opportunity to work part time and I can now, with a lot of careful planning incorporate the two.
Leaflets (as you can see from the photo) are done and some distributed, advert on Streetlife and off I go!
I am not a natural salesperson as was so apparent when Chau, my long suffering Angel of a partner and I set off on the ‘leaflet through the letter box’ drop. My cowardly behaviour meant I could only do it if there were no cars in the drive and the house looked empty. If there was any possibility that someone might in I bowed out and ran behind the hedge. Chau in his charming way was handing them out ‘willy nilly’ to everyone, dog walkers an all. I was cringing but as his charms worked I crawled out of the bush I was hiding in and chatted to the people and it was working and interest in my services was certainly happening!
I did a Time and Motion study at Mums house. Mum needed one of her rooms painted so a perfect opportunity to work out how long it will take to paint so I can work out prices and quotes. A learning experience was had. All I can say is that buying the necessary equipment is key to success as precariously balanced on a rickety stepladder to reach the ceiling causes mess, pain, bruises and swearing. Just about acceptable in Mums house but maybe not for my new clients!
On that note if you live near me you may see on a few Buy and Sell Websites I am selling some of my clothes. I have to be ruthless. Do I really want that lovely pink jacket that I have not worn for 6 months or can I sell it and put the cash towards a stepladder that will prevent me from breaking my neck? Pink Jacket sold for £12.00 – result!
I think its good to put ourselves outside our comfort zone on occasions just to keep the buzz of life going. Yes, I know I do it a lot but its good fun living on the edge ☺
The buzz of getting an enquiry has been amazing and it’s in a little bit of trepidation that I have when I drive to a new job and it’s me and only me that is the one that can make it work, but that’s life all over isn’t it? You are responsible for making your own life work for you.
I think I may have struck the perfect combination. Stability in a part time job plus the risk of building up the unknown.
This combination makes it just about feasible to have a roof over our heads, keep the cats in Whiskers and us in beans (I am getting expert in 101 varieties of tuna, beans and potato combinations!)
So for now I will be alternating between high heels and make up to wellies and non-existent finger nails.
Risky, yes, and I will be sure to keep you updated on the outcome and the stories that no doubt will find their way to my blog. I am sure to be asking questions to gardening experts on what is a weed and what is a flower? Before I do serious damage in someone’s garden!
So for now I will leave you as I go and put some beans in a saucepan for another gourmet dinner!
Please like and share my blogs thank you.