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What being an independent Consultant for seven years has taught me

All Things IC turns seven years old tomorrow. To mark the occasion I’m going to share seven things I’ve learnt from being a Comms Consultant. I’ll also reveal this year’s anniversary artwork.

If you’re thinking of becoming a Communication Consultant, check out my Exploration Masterclasses. If you’re an existing Consultant, come and join my Momentum Masterclass to learn how to build momentum in your business.

Thank you to everyone who has chosen to work with me over the past seven years and continued to support the work I’m doing to increase IC practitioners’ skills, knowledge and confidence. I love advising organisations and Comms teams to improve your internal communication.

I’ve worked with some incredible practitioners and become firm friends with many clients over the years. Seeing you succeed in your roles and watching your employees benefit from your hard work is a delight.

These are just some of the companies around the globe who have hired me since 2013 to advise them on their internal communication. I’m proud to have personally worked with you all.

Celebratory artwork
Every year I buy or commission a piece of art as a visual celebration and artefact. This year I asked artist Anna Ebdon of Lady Ebdon prints to create me a version of her stunning handmade designs. I’ve known Anna for a number of years, we met when I ran the social media accounts for our local National Childbirth Trust (NCT) region during my maternity leave in 2012.

I’m trying to support fellow local entrepreneurs and shop local as much as I can, I have three of Anna’s creations in my home already and bought one of her husband Alex’s lino prints for my parents. She uses vintage book pages as beautiful backdrops to her prints.

To mark the seventh birthday of All Things IC being incorporated (registered), I chose an excerpt from The Garden of Paradise fairy tale, with the words Be Kind on the front. Kindness is incredibly important in my role and within my family’s set of values. She sent me the picture below showing it in progress, and you’ll see she matched the paint to the teal in my branding, which brings me a lot of joy!

How do you show kindness? How can you demonstrate kindness in your work? In this chaotic world, it’s never been more important to demonstrate it through our words and actions.

I love Anna’s work and the finished product is now installed in its new home, the All Things IC Hub. I put it up while working with mental health in the workplace expert Jo Hooper last week to develop our new Mental Health Leadership Masterclass on 6 April 2020.

See the short time-lapse video below to see us creating the gallery wall in my office. I know our health and safety skills are not the best in this film!

Regular readers of my blog will know the top right hand artwork (with the dark background) is the What Happens Inside Is Reflected Outside artwork I commissioned designer Lisa Kirkbride to create for me to mark my business’ 5th birthday in 2018.

So what have I learnt?

If I cast my mind back to 30 January 2013 and being on the eve of registering my business, I’m reminded of the parachute jump I did to raise money for my local hospice when I was a Journalist.

I remember teetering at the edge of the plane and being 13,000 feet up in the air. I was strapped to a 6ft 4ins tall instructor and praying everything he had promised would happen; that the parachute would open and we’d land on our feet. It turns out he was completely right.

When you launch your own independent business, you’re not strapped to someone else who is taking that first step for you. As I reflect back, it was terrifying, exciting and exhilarating at the same time. My daughter was eight months old and there was a lot at stake.

I shared that experience via Katie Macaulay’s The IC Podcast in January 2019, which you can listen to online or below if you want to know exactly what it felt like to launch my own business.

Part of the reason I created my Exploration Masterclasses was to nurture and guide in-house Comms practitioners who are thinking of making the leap and want to talk it all through in a confidential environment. It allows you to ask all the questions I know are whizzing around in your mind. The next one is full, so the next date after that is 28 April 2020.

What being an independent Consultant for seven years has taught me

1. You need to believe in yourself
It takes time to grow in confidence, find your feet and know the direction you want to go in. If you’re struggling, analysing your values is a brilliant way to truly understand what makes you tick. Jackie Le Fèvre is my go-to values expert. Believe in yourself and enjoy the journey.

2. Trust your instincts and back them up with research
Listen to your gut instinct. Masterclasses were in my head and heart for three years before I gave myself permission to launch them in 2016. When creating something new, test the market and ask your network for feedback.

3. Outsource to brilliant people
My PA Louise and accountant Keith are an essential part of how All Things IC works. Thank you both. This month marked two years since Louise joined me and I know many of my readers will recognise her name, particularly if you’ve attended a Masterclass. I thoroughly enjoy working together to benefit my clients and she makes sure I’m in the right place at the right time with the right people. Thank you!

4. Create time to work ON rather than IN the business
This gives you space and time to grow, think and dream. You can’t beat turning those dreams into reality. The All Things IC Hub lived in a secret board on Pinterest for five years. Seeing the teal sofa go from a pinned image to a real sofa I can sit on with clients feels amazing.

5. It’s ok not to have it all figured out all the time
It’s ok not to have a five or 10 year business plan. It’s ok to iterate and evolve to reflect the needs of the market. It’s also ok to make mistakes and fail. What I do today is not what All Things IC did seven years ago. Allow yourself the freedom and autonomy to experiment.

6. Build your network
Working independently can be isolating and lonely. Surround yourself with people who understand the realities of working independently and as an entrepreneur. I not only invest in professional memberships of organisations like the Institute of Internal Communication and Chartered Institute of Public Relations, but also the Institute of Directors and Chris Ducker’s Youpreneur community.

7. What happens inside is reflected outside
I’ve learnt how to prioritise my mental health. Well, it’s a work in progress, I saw my Counsellor today and take my mental health seriously. Investing in my emotional and mental wellbeing helps me run my business. I also recommend carving out a training budget and spending it wisely. I can’t stress enough the importance of investing in your own professional development. I’m a Fellow of both IoIC and CIPR and complete the CIPR Continuous Professional Development (CPD) scheme as I’m a Chartered PR practitioner.

I hope you find these reflections useful if you’re considering creating your own Comms Consultancy. Thank you again to everyone who has chosen to work with me since 2013.

Further reading about being a Comms Consultant via the All Things IC blog

Thank you for stopping by, here’s to the next seven years!

Rachel

First published on the All Things IC blog 30 January 2020.

 

Comments

  1. Kath says:

    Congratulations on seven years Rachel. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog posts over the past few years and following the growth of your business. It has been really inspiring and helped me in my IC journey. I hope you had something fizzy to toast your success!

  2. Thank you very much Kath.

  3. Lisa says:

    No offence to the main jist of this blog (which is honest and so useful, as per your usual) but your ‘health and safety gone mad’ time-lapse video was the best thing I saw today and really made me smile.

  4. Hi Lisa, I felt it needed a warning! Thank you for your comment, I’m glad you enjoyed it, Rachel.

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