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The year the world stopped

The year the world stopped, I started my marketing agency. Writing this article was the first time I had a proper look back at the journey that 2020 has taken me on. I don’t quite know how I managed it.

At the beginning of the year, I was a Marketing Manager and my husband was in the second year of his Education degree at university. We had got married in November the previous year and since then we had been focusing on our career and personal goals. We had so much we wanted to achieve.

Then COVID-19 arrived in the United Kingdom and everything stopped.

Early on in the first lockdown, I was put on furlough from my marketing role, so I started working part-time as a carer to make up for the lost income. I didn’t have any care experience but I wanted to do something that would make a difference and this felt like the only way. It was the hardest work I’ve ever done, but I will treasure the experience forever because of the people I met and the things they taught me about resilience and selflessness.

The hardest part of the role was the end of life care. I nursed dying people, made them comfortable, talked to them, and held their hand as they took their last breath. I looked after the families and answered their questions, and helped them navigate the difficult journey of grieving for a loved one.

Then in June, I was made redundant from my marketing role, just days after my contract with the care agency came to an end. It’s not unusual for companies to jettison the marketing teams first in times of hardship but this was different. There were very few marketing jobs available and thousands of out-of-work professionals were fighting over every job listing. Depression soon sank in and I spent the next week on the sofa feeling sorry for myself, worrying about bills and ignoring the outside world.

As I pulled myself back together in the following weeks and my job search continued to bear no fruit, I came up with a plan. I decided to try and drum up some freelance work until the job market came back to life and continue to work in care to make sure we could still pay the bills in the meantime. We quickly assembled a website and created social media profiles and on July 5th ER Marketing Group was born. 

I had never run a business before but my husband had a lot of freelance experience from before we met, so I was lucky to have him at my side to guide me through the process. I put in 14-hour days hunting for new clients and learning how to run a business. Each hour of work we gained was celebrated and as word spread our diary began to fill up with marketing projects. It was overwhelming and at times exhausting but it was a welcome challenge and I was having a great time.

Moving from being an employee to being the boss wasn’t easy. I had to make decisions which were previously someone else’s job and it was a bit of a struggle but I adapted with the help of people I met through online networking.

I have learnt a lot so far and I am always keen to share my knowledge with anyone who may find themselves in the same situation. 

Finally, the hard work is starting to pay off and we have a steady flow of business coming in. Looking back, I can’t believe we made it work with everything else going on, but we did, and it is one of my proudest achievements.

Believe in yourself – you can do this! 

The early days of starting a business are challenging in many different ways. You might have a solid business plan but putting it into action is hard work. You might have days where you doubt yourself or your abilities, or you might struggle to get out of bed because you feel like you are working really hard and not getting anywhere or making any money. 

Before these days hit, write yourself notes reminding yourself that you are capable of doing this. Make a list of everything you have achieved so far then when the doubts start to creep in you have something to read that will remind you of your capabilities. 

Don’t be afraid to think about the future but be realistic about it. 

Make realistic goals for your business with achievable objectives. There is nothing wrong with ambitious goals, just make sure you set out a clear plan with achievable goals, otherwise this could lead to feeling demotivated later on. 

It is easy to get lost in dreams of running a multi-million pound business and all the things you will get to do once you are rich. I suggest starting with smaller goals like breaking even, making a profit, or outsourcing some work then start to think big. 

Make the most of online networking 

Remember that we all have bad days so before that happens find yourself a nice online networking group. There are a lot of free online networking groups where you can talk to people who have probably gone through the same thing. 

There are also groups where you all sit in a zoom room and work independently and every now and then have a chat – almost like being in a real office. If you are struggling with working from home then try little things like that and see if they help. 

Don’t be afraid to talk about your concerns, a lot of other business owners are happy to share their knowledge with people just starting out. 

Emma Dunlop-Walters
Emma Dunlop-Waltershttp://www.er-marketing.co.uk/
Emma Dunlop-Walters is one of the founders of ER Marketing Group, an affordable marketing agency based in Newbury Berkshire. When I started the business I knew I wanted to help small businesses recover from the COVID-19 crisis so I made this the main offering of my business.

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