Location: The City, London
Good morning and Happy November! I hope you have all had a fantastic start to the month. Would you believe that there are only two months left of this decade? Two months!! Whilst it may be two months until the decade comes to an end, November marks the start of my five-month as a newly self-employed content creator. I’m not saying it’s been easy – I’ve worked harder than I ever have before – but saying that it has been the best thing I’ve ever done in my professional life still holds true, despite the ups and downs. In those five months, needless to say I have put my networking hat on and made it a point to attend as many industry-related events as possible – even when I just wanted to hide away at home and continue working on my Pinterest account (because my oh my have I been getting things wrong up until now). At those events, I make it a point to work the room, just like I would have done whilst attending a hedge fund conference in my previous life. It came to the point where the stack of business cards on my desk became large enough that it warranted me investing in a business cardholder just like I had in the corporate world. Same cardholder, totally different cards! As I was putting the cards in, I thought wow there are so many transferable skills that I have picked up over the years that I can now apply in my new role – and can probably apply to many other jobs in fact! Here are the ones that I find myself using all the time.
Email & Diary Management
I think this goes without saying. In a world where pretty much everything is done over email and (when did you last send a letter or fax?) online, it’s imperative that you find a strategy that works for you when it comes to email and diary management. Here’s what I do. First of all, I cannot work with an inbox that does not have every email filed in its own specific folder. If an email hangs around in my inbox, it’s for two reasons. Either I am still working on the response, or I am waiting for a response from the other parties in the email chain. I also highlight those emails where I am expecting a response in a different colour. Once an email chain is closed off, it gets filed. Tidy inbox, tidy mind.
For diary management, when I first began working in hedge funds (almost 10 years ago!), I was taught a very specific way to add entries to both my diary and that of others. Why? Because everywhere I worked had a shared calendar system, and if the entries weren’t clear, people would get mad. I wish I was joking. Ten years later and I now get it. When you have a lot of people putting things in your diary, it helps if you have a clear and concise method that everyone follows. Now, I am just a start-up, but one day I hope to build a team of people all working on the same vision and we will operate a shared calendar system just like I am used to. Don’t wait for the business to grow before doing it – build your foundations now. One day you might have people searching for a meeting or diary entry, and since the same system was followed, they will know exactly how to find it – even if it was many years ago.
I actually believe this is a skill. When I was younger, I used to be quite the introvert. I was never really all that confident in myself – probably coming from the fact that I ended up in a Maltese-speaking school, when at the time I spoke little to no Maltese. I was therefore never the leader of the pack and I always used to stick to myself. As I got older though, this changed. I started believing in myself and my abilities a whole lot more, until I made it to Head of Investor Relations at one of the asset management firms I was working at. If you’re not familiar with this kind of role, it basically means that you are the connection between the outside world and the firm. It can mean dealing with investors, shareholders, press, journalists – you name it. It also meant that I had to attend numerous industry-related conferences where I literally had to ‘work the room’. This was incredibly daunting at first, but as time went by, I realised that most others felt the same and after you attend a few of these things you start to recognise the same faces. All of a sudden it starts to become easier. The world of social media, content creation and ‘influencers’ is no different. Order yourself some business cards, attend the events, make new friends and like I said previously – work the room. I know how scary it can be at first, but I promise it does get easier. You just need to start.
I cannot stress this point enough. Being organised is key to getting a job done in a timely and efficient manner. If you have already established your email and diary strategy, then you are already halfway there. This applies to so many different roles. As I write this I am just thinking about the number of builders, electricians, tilers and plumbers that I have dealt with when renovating properties who have lost so much business simply because they are not organised. Saying ‘yes I’ll come next week’, only to never show up – and then I call someone else. Forgetting to send invoices for work that they might have completed months ago. In fact, I am still waiting on an invoice from an electrician for work done on one of the houses I had in Malta. My husband and I have since sold that house and we are still waiting on the invoice (despite chasing). If you are struggling to keep organised because you have so much work coming in – that’s great! Invest in yourself and your business and get yourself a personal assistant. Virtual PAs are ten a penny. You may not want the additional cost, but the value that this will add to you and your business will be huge.
Building a Mailing List
This only just occurred to me the other day. When I was working in finance, it was usual practise to send out a monthly newsletter with updates on the performance of the fund and general market commentary. Whenever we would meet an investor, we would always end the meeting by asking if they would like to be added to our mailing list. I’m now realising that this is no different to any other business! Whether you are working on content creation or have your own business selling knitted scarves – start building your mailing list! I send out a newsletter each and every week with an update on what I got up to over the last seven days, my latest blog posts, the items I have added to my wish list, etc, etc. If people are interested in your business, they want to hear what new stuff has been going on! I continue to grow my mailing list and think this is so important that I actually signed up for Christina Galbato’s new course all about blogging and how to build a mailing list. I haven’t started it just yet (because I’m just wrapping up another Pinterest course) but I already know it’s gonna be great. For those that don’t know, I learnt everything about building a career in social media from Christina’s Influencer Bootcamp and I know the quality of her courses are right up there.
This actually brings me to my next point. Data analysis is EVERYTHING. If you invest a lot of time in your weekly, or quarterly newsletter, then you should invest equal time in your stats and the data that you have available. If people aren’t reading what you send out, then maybe it’s time to rethink your strategy. This applies for any occupation you are working in. The data that you receive will tell you everything about your potential clients, investors, stakeholders, etc.
This has always been a huge struggle for me since I was younger. As much as I try, something always manages to delay me, like traffic, or road diversions or a call that I need to take. Someone once told me that if you are late, you are telling whoever you are meeting that your time is more valuable than theirs. This stays with me each and every time I am late for an engagement and it kills me. I think I am partly to blame for this, as I often bite off more than I can chew – but in saying that, time management is definitely something that is important for every career and it is something I continue to work on.
Every role you take on will have its own share of challenges but like I once read – 10% is the actual problem and 90% is how you deal with it. Your ability to look past the problem and search for solutions has a big correlation to your achievement of goals. Barriers prevent these problems from being reached. For example, I recently had an issue with my newsletter that I just couldn’t solve myself on a Saturday afternoon. I had emailed the relevant service providers with my problem however I received no responses – obviously because it was the weekend! I actually hired the services of an HTML developer and he couldn’t figure it out either. In the end I had to quickly come up with an alternative before my newsletter was due out on Sunday evening. Funnily enough, the service providers came back to me on Monday and said it was not possible to do what I was trying to do. I am still using that same hack that I came up with that weekend, but if I didn’t keep pushing to solve the problem, there would be no newsletter in the format it is now.
And last but not least, having an overall business strategy is crucial – no matter the industry you are in. A business strategy is a set of actions, plans and goals for how a business plans to compete in a market with its own product or service offering. We can actually tie this in to the data analytics point too. In my case, it’s a constant struggle to keep constant content on each of my social media channels, especially when I feel as though there are new ones being introduced every day. There was one week in September where I thought to myself that I MUST start posting on TikTok because that is the next big thing. After a week of thinking about it, it occurred to me… does my target audience of successful women in their late 20s and 30s actually use TikTok? The answer to that is NO. So should I invest anymore time in thinking about it… definitely not.
What transferable skills do you think you have that you could share? Let me know in the comments below!