December 16th, 2008
Yesterday I ran an interview with author Ian Sanders (LEAP! Ditch Your Job, Start Your Own Business & Set Yourself Free and Juggle! Rethink Work, Reclaim Your Life) about what self-employed women can learn from their male counterparts. (You can read his simultaneous Q&A with me on what self-employed men can learn from women here.) Because Ian has such an impressive entrepreneurial bio, I decided to make him the first male anti-nine-to-fiver that this blog has featured. And because he lives in the UK (and I am a seventies-rock dork), I threw in a “favorite British rocker” question at the end.
Q. You’ve had quite an impressive business development and marketing career. What prompted you to strike out on your own?
A. I’d reached that glass ceiling where I was being pigeonholed to do just one thing: I was managing director of a radio studio business but wanted to do loads of other stuff and I wasn’t permitted that freedom. On a personal level, I had burnt myself out – I was stressed and unhappy. I needed a change.
Q. What was the most unique or innovative way you wooed and/or landed a client?
A. All my business has been won by word of mouth alone over eight years so I don’t have any amazing, jaw-dropping secrets. It’s dead simple. Be nice to deal with, be a safe pair of hands, make a difference, and people will use you and recommend you.
Q. What would you do differently in making the leap to self-employment if you could hit rewind?
A. What would I do differently? Have more confidence from Day 1 to charge more money, to pick and choose what I do, to choose what I don’t do, to only work with people I respected 100 percent. I would have been more true to myself from Day 1. But hey, those things come with time.
Q. What advice would you give to hopeful entrepreneurs looking to make their own leap to self-employment in today’s credit-crunched economy?
A. If you have a great idea, if you are resourceful, if you are a ‘grafter,’ and if you have buckets of optimism and passion, there are still stacks of ideas out there. A recession is a good environment for incubating new ideas. For a recession, I think opportunity not threat. All my clients want to retain their competitive edge, so they still need to spend money on hiring me in a downturn!
Q. Why did you decide to write LEAP? What makes the book stand out on the business shelf in bookstores?
A. Why did I write LEAP? It’s my story. A few years ago I started writing ‘The Self Sufficient Entrepreneur,’ but it wasn’t me — it was like any other business book. So I tore that up and started again. I wrote something that was me: punchy, accessible, short, not the nuts and bolts of business, but a book like a friend to inspire, support, and motivate. Because going it alone can be lonely and you need someone to help you on that journey. It’s the business equivalent to that great book ‘The Best Friend’s Guide To Pregnancy’! What makes it stand out: it’s (hopefully) different. I think it really talks to the reader. I have had some great emails (from Seattle to London) from readers who felt empowered to make the change once they read the book.
Q. You’ve done some fun promotions for the book (the great video series on your blog, for example). What was your most successful promo tactic? Which did you enjoy doing/making most? What would you never bother with again?
A. Probably the videos. I liked these most but have they translated to a huge uplift in sales? One viral had 28,000 hits but didn’t seem to be a huge rise in Amazon rankings. I guess there are no short cuts — it’s a slow-ish process. But on a personal level I enjoyed the videos most — I like that currency of communication; talking to the camera. I like to blog. What would I not bother with again? Handing out postcards at a ‘Change Your Life’ event did not seem to be very fruitful.
Q. Your new book, Juggle, features interviews with leading business bigwigs about how they do what they love without letting their personal life suffer. What was the biggest thing you learned from your interview subjects while working on this book?
A. It reinforced my own philosophy to be yourself, to stay true to your own values. Stick to what you love and forget the rest.
Q. Speaking of juggling, how are you splitting your time between running a business, being a dad, and promoting two books? Where have you had to cut back the hours?
A. How do I split my time? Not very well. I struggle with having enough ‘me time.’ Writing the second book was a huge drain on my family life; finding the bandwidth to write a book in two months was tough so I took two mini-trips to inspire me, to write it. I love the flexibility of working by myself to spend with my two boys, but they are demanding. Where have I had to cut back the hours? Doing ‘me’ stuff, sitting in a coffee shop reading the weekend papers and stuff like that. Weekends get full of work stuff; it’s all a blur, work and play are all mixed up. That’s good but it’s also bad.
Q. Who’s better: Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin, Clapton, or The Who?
A. I don’t ‘do’ Clapton or Zep. I cannot see them making it on to my iPod in any circumstances! I guess I would say the early Who. I am a late convert to the Who. I went to a Who press conference to launch their world tour last year and Townsend and Daltrey played a four-track acoustic set to a tiny audience that blew me away. How Daltrey had such presence and still that voice all these years on really wowed me. Early this year at a small showcase gig I saw Ronnie Wood from The Stones join the Sterophonics on stage, and boy, he’s still got it too. I think big bands and artists like that playing acoustic or in a small setting is like being self-employed. It’s like, ‘Can you go solo? Can you still cut it without the backing band?!’