With a recent survey revealing that 11% of the British population plan to start their own business in 2018 stating a better work-life balance and wanting to choose the type of work they do being the driving forces behind this, we hear from PR consultant and journalist Megan Allen what it’s like going self-employed.
Where it all began
Having studied American Studies at university, it was the overseas secondment in South Carolina where Megan Allen of Rural Roots PR and Journalism, realised she wanted to pursue a career in journalism and creative writing.
“My first job after graduating was with our local paper in Rutland. I went on from here to gain my qualifications with News Associates in London and remained in local journalism for six years.
“It was then when I was travelling in South Africa that I had an epiphany moment and realised I wanted to marry the skills I had with raising awareness of the opportunities available in the rural sector.
“Having grown up in Rutland, it wasn’t until I had moved away that I realised how much potential there is within among the rural sector, and how much joy the countryside can bring to people,” explains Megan.
On her return from South Africa, Megan began working for a food and farming charity which had associated farm attractions and camping accommodation which offered the opportunity to gain a wealth of skills within the rural and tourism sectors.
“It was a great place to learn. I worked my way up to senior management but was then made redundant when my job was split into three. You could say, I was a victim of my own success.”
However, this didn’t deter Megan but encouraged her to start her own business.
“Before I was made redundant I planned to start a blog called Rural Roots with an aim of bringing people out of the city to realise what an amazing place the countryside is.
“I had already purchased the domain name, and so decided to make more of this. Starting on a shoestring budget, I channelled my energy into building a good website and explained about me and what I could offer.
“I then started to network. I was in a fortunate position being ‘born and bred’ in Rutland that I knew the local businesses and who to approach, and so I made myself known within these networks and concentrated my efforts on local business.”
For the first six months, Megan focused on steering the business down the route of rural tourism using Twitter and other digital marketing channels to build her brand.
“In the initial stages I was doing a lot of PR and social media management, but over time I have incorporated consultancy into my offerings as well as journalism.
“The creation of The Rural Travel Guide, my online news website dedicated to rural tourism, has been born out of my desire to keep a hand in journalism and this industry, which is not only of benefit to me but also my clients. My dream is to see this in print at least twice a year.”
When it comes to running a business by yourself it can be daunting as you no longer have the fall-back of others to steer you in the right direction. “I had always worked in organisations where I was responsible for certain aspects of the business, such as managing my own budget, fixed working hours and a defined holiday allowance so it was a big change to move to being responsible for all of this.
“When I first started Rural Roots, I registered as a sole-trader and also had to sort out things like business insurance which isn’t necessarily the first thing you think about.
“I am not currently VAT registered but do all my own accounts which has been my biggest challenge. Learning how to use certain accounts packages and keeping on top of it all takes time. I have made mistakes by signing up to things which I didn’t need but this is a one big learning curve for me,” she adds.
More recently I have started working with a business coach which has meant we have implemented a long-term strategy for the business which has really helped me know where I am heading,” says Megan.
Another aspect of working on your own that many people have to combat is loneliness. Although people crave a better work-life balance, the shock of going from an organisation where you have a lot of people around you, to working on your own can have the reverse effect of what you had hoped would be.
“I am really lucky in that I work in a town so I’m around people and can go out for coffee or a walk to get a break, and I am also the co-founder of the local WiRE (Women in Rural Enterprise) group.
“This was originally established to combat loneliness among farming women who had set-up their own business but there are now several groups across the country that provide events and networking in person and online to help people meet others.
“There are so many networks out there to get involved with and it’s worthwhile pursuing. They are a great way to learn and meet like-minded people and encourage you to maintain that all-important work-life balance which can be hard when you are working for yourself but is vital.”
Megan explains that the countryside provides so many opportunities among a hugely supportive community. “I am lucky in that there is not a huge amount of competition in my line of work but people are always very supportive of each other. It’s a great sector to work in and there is plenty of work out there for others to embrace and for people to make work for them.”
Farm diversification, diversification ideas, rural business, rural business ideas