Category Archives for "Small Business"

Oct 19

How to turn your career vision into reality

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Motivation , Small Business

A first step in making a career change is to work out where you want to get to.  This is true whether you want to land your dream job, or want to start or grow your own business. But this may not be enough, on it’s own.

Create a vision of your future

Creating a vision is an important step towards your ideal future. It’s worth taking time to work out what you really really want. Sometimes that clarity can be enough to set you on the path to success.

But sometimes, identifying an ambitious goal can spark a sense of overwhelm. The gap between where you want to be and where you are now seems huge. How will you bridge the chasm?

Assess your current reality

The answer is to start with an objective assessment of where you are now. A vision of a desired future is an important element to achieving goals and can provide the pull to get you going. But it’s not enough on its own. You have to find the motivation to take action.

In her book “Rethinking Positive Thinking”, psychologist Garbriele Oettingen shares her research that indicates positive visualisation on it’s own can actually reduce your chances of success. You may feel so psychologically buoyed up by your happy thoughts that you lack the sense of urgency or internal motivation needed to actually do the work needed.

She suggests that once you have identified your end goal, you then actually face up to and imagine the reality of the obstacles or the internal stuggle that you will face along the way. Research shows that “mental contrasting” between your goal and the current situations will make it more likely that you will achieve what you want.

Creative tension leads to action

In “The Path of Least Resistance”, Robert Fritz differentiates between people who just dream about or imagine their desired future, and the creators who take action to turn their vision into reality. The gap between the vision of your dream job and the reality of what you have now provides the structural tension needed to take action.

Writing a bookSo you need to be clear about where you are now, and what are the steps you need to take right now to move towards your goal. It doesn’t matter how small your first step is – the important thing is that you take it. And you need to be aware of what might get in the way, for example fear of rejection or the distractions of social media. Then make a plan for how you will move past this obstacle if it comes up. And then you take action. And then you take a next step. Build in some time for reflection, learning and planning after each step.

For example, if you want to write a book, it’s one thing to imagine your successful book launch, and all the wonderful ideas that you will be sharing. But you also need to consider what might get in the way of you sitting down day after day to get your words on paper. And then identify some specific strategies to help you overcome the resistance, moments of self-doubt and procrastination that hit almost every successful author along the way

Small steps up a mountain

Climbing a mountainAnother example, if you’re considering self-employment after 30 years in corporate life, there may seem as though there’s a mountain to climb in terms of learning. But there are plenty of people who were in this position a few years ago. So a small step could just be to have a conversation with one or two of them.

You could book into a small business networking meeting, chat to a few people and find out what they do. Or if you feel nervous at the thought, overcome this by taking an even smaller step. You could contact the leader of a local networking group leader for a chat. They will soon let you know if pre-start ups are welcome at their events, and how to make the most of your visit.

Look back and celebrate

A final thought. It can be helpful to look back on goals you have achieved, and celebrate the steps you took that led you to where you are now. Remind yourself that goals are great, but action is awesome. You can do this!

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit

Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

Wise Owl
May 15

Use your time wisely with these productivity tips

By Felicity Dwyer | Productivity , Small Business

WorkWise week is an initiative to encourage us to think about ways to work more productively. Whether you work for yourself or are employed, here are some tips to help you work more wisely.

Clarify what really matters

The foundation of working wisely is to be crystal clear about what’s really important. If you’re freelance or run your own business, make sure you take time out on a weekly basis to review your priorities.

If you are employed and feel continually overwhelmed, you may need to sit down with your managers, and make sure you understand what you are expected to prioritise and deliver. If you’re not clear about what’s expected of you, then ask rather than making assumptions about what’s wanted.

Overcome procrastination with radical chunking

Even if you know what’s important, you may find yourself procrastinating. We all do it, and my solution is radical chunking. If you find yourself resisting writing an important email for example, then chunk it down to the simplest possible action, such as opening a new email window, writing a subject line (even if it’s just DRAFT EMAIL TO…) and typing the first few words.

Challenge your processes

If you’ve ever worked with a coach, you know they will encourage you, and also challenge you. You can self-coach by taking a step back from time to time and challenging yourself. Ask: “How can I do this more efficiently?” and write down at least three ideas for improvements.

This is helpful if you regularly find yourself bogged down in a task. Taking time to redesign a system can be more effective in the longer term than making do with an outdated way of doing things.

Make wise use of tech tools

Technology is a double edge sword. It can distract, or assist. Set boundaries around unproductive time online, and welcome in helpful tech. A To Do list app like Wunderlist or project management systems like Asana can help bring all your tasks together in one place and access on the go. But tools will only help you if you use them consistently and refer to them regularly. A half hearted switch to an online system will just add to the clutter in your life.

Embrace online accounting

online accounting

If you’re self-employed or run a small business, make this the year you embrace online accounting software. This can massively speed up time you spend on invoicing and reconciling accounts. For example, you can quickly scan in receipts when you receive them and before they mount up.

The UK government has considered making changes to self-assessment reporting. It’s not happening in the short term, but in future they may require small businesses to do their accounting online.

Email discipline for a clear inbox

If looking at your email inbox gives you that sinking feeling, then it’s time to set yourself some guidelines. Discipline yourself not to open an email unless you do something with it. I regularly reach inbox zero since developing an email processing system that works for me – once I’ve read an email it’s either filed, acted upon, deleted or marked for future action.

And on the subject of wise email etiquette, if you find yourself writing something while you’re feeling irritated, under pressure or angry, then don’t send straight away. Save it as a draft, then take a break, return to it to review and re-phrase if necessary. And double-check the “to” field. (Hands up who’s ever written an email to a colleague and inadvertently sent it to a client!)

Set yourself deadlines

We’re usually pretty efficient when we’re up against the clock. But leaving everything to the last minute can be stressful and leaves no room for contingencies. Trying setting your own deadlines, and challenge yourself against the clock. The end of the week can be a good deadline – how much can you clear before the weekend? And how good will it feel when you’ve done it?

Know your values

Finally, wisdom comes from working to your values. It’s not just about efficient use of time; it’s about valuing time itself and freeing yourself up to do what matters. Try this values exercise to work out what really matters to you. And don’t be afraid to say “no” to requests that fit neither your work priorities, nor your personal values.

What tips do you have for working more wisely? Please share in the comments below.

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit

Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

Balancing work and motherhood
Mar 24

Tips for balancing work and motherhood

By Felicity Dwyer | freelance , Productivity , Small Business


Balancing work and motherhood (or fatherhood) is quite an art, so I approached some successful working mums for tips on how they manage. I hope you enjoy the insightful and practical advice they came up with, and please add your own tips too.

Prioritise Ruthlessly

Kara Stanford from KMS Marketing says: “Know what you absolutely must do for work and family, then do those things first. Know what are the “should do’s” and do them next. Finally, know what are the “nice to do’s” and fit them in when you can.”

Kara subdivides this into work, family and “staying sane”. Her work must do’s include paid client work as a top priority. Family must do’s are: never working when she is looking after the children. And her stay sane must do’s are having at least one day at the weekend where she does no work at all.

“When I stop ruthlessly prioritising, it all falls apart…! This week, as we are on day 15 of chickenpox, I have only been able to do my “must do’s” but once we’re through it all, I’ll be able to do everything I want to again. Until then, top priorities first!”

Don’t try to multi-task

Juggling timeBarbara Graham from jewellers Stella and Dot advises ring fencing your time – don’t fall for the multitasking myth

“We are far less efficient if we try to do more than one job at a time.  Your business and parenting will both suffer and you’ll be exhausted and stressed by the feeling you are constantly underperforming in all areas of your life.  Determine when your office work hours and when your mummy hours are.  Tell your team, tell your customers, and tell your friends and family!”

Helen Cousins, decluttering consultant at Fresh Spaces agrees: “Don’t try to multi-task. It actually stops you being present and scatters your thoughts making you less effective. If you are with you children – then ‘be with’ them. If you are working – then pick one item to prioritise and then only action that one. “

Get help when you need it

“If you need to pay for childcare to give yourself some free time – DO IT!” says Barbara. “I see a lot of women who are just starting their business and not earning huge amounts who feel they need to wait until they are earning more to justify the cost of childcare.  But how can they expect their business to grow if they aren’t giving themselves the time to work on it?  Time is the most crucial investment your business needs, so if you need it, do it, and reap the rewards in years to come.”

Be comfortable with “good enough” housework

“The world won’t stop spinning just because you didn’t empty the dishwasher’. I’ve recently learnt this one myself and so far we are all still surviving”, says Helen. And Kara agrees, her must dos when the pressure is on include “cleaning just enough so that I know we won’t get ill.”  And learning consultant Maggie Piazza emphasises that “being ‘good enough’ is good enough – both at home or at work.”

Time to recharge

WalkingDoctor Lucy Boyland emphasises how important it is to take time for yourself, and do something that is neither for work or parenting. And she counsels: “Don’t feel guilty about it! I know from my experience growing up that if you’re happy (or not) as a mother, it has a huge impact on your family.”  Membership administrator Nikki Halliwell agrees “It’s important to have some me time/time out. I really enjoy my running class.” Kara’s time out must-dos include walking every day, and seeing friends at least once a week.

Be organised

“Be very organised” is the top tip from Karen Guler, MD at Envision Financial Solutions. Nikki agrees “Being organised the night before, bags packed, lunch boxes on the side, clothes ironed…”

Find a work pattern that suits you

Nikki enjoys being self-employed: “…so I can work the hours that suit family life, and she has help from her parents who live locally. Lucy works part-time, which give her a good balance between a demanding job that she loves, and her family. And speaking recently with a group of women in technical industries, I heard examples of husbands working part-time or staying at home to care for young children.

Free up your headspace!

I love all the wise words above. A tip that has helped me to stay organised and escape the multi-tasking trap is to use a to-do list app properly, and capturing EVERYTHING I need to do in one place. From a quick phone call to a new project, it all goes in the Wunderlist app (other to-do list apps are available!)  It’s on my phone so if an idea comes into my brain when not working, I can make a quite note and forget about it. The app syncs to my desktop so I can take time to review, sort and prioritise my notes when I’m next at my desk.

This approach frees up so space in my head. We can only hold a few thoughts in our working memory (the part of our mind we have access to at any one time). So by writing things down, we can stop expending energy trying to remember them, thus freeing up energy for family and friends.

What tips do you have for balancing work and parenting? Please share in the comments below.

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit

Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

Take the plunge to self employment
Oct 20

Lessons from 13 years of self employment

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Networking , Small Business

In October 2003, I took the plunge into the ocean of freelance life. I left a communications management role to became a self employed consultant, facilitator and coach.

13 years self employedIt’s been an exciting journey with twists and turns along the way. Over time my business has changed, and coaching and training now takes centre stage. I now run a management training business, and offer a career coaching service.

If you’re thinking about working for yourself, you may find these tips useful. They’re all based on my start up experience.

Plan ahead

If you are considering self employment in the future, think ahead and start planning now. Two things that helped me were saving up three months’ salary as a buffer, and setting up some freelance work before leaving employment.

Consider a part-time job

If finances are tight, consider looking for a part-time job to pay the rent. But be wary of part-time jobs with irregular hours. If you are going to work for yourself, you need to be disciplined about your time. This is easier if you have specific days in your diary to focus on your business.

Have a vision of where you want to go

Be clear about where you’re heading. I went freelance in order to control the direction of my own career. I knew that I wanted to earn my living through training, facilitation and coaching. At the time, I was known primarily for my research, writing and editorial skills, and in the first year most of my income came through writing. I kept my vision in mind, and gradually increased my training and coaching work as well as gaining extra qualifications in these areas.

Be strategic in accepting work

Because I knew where I wanted to go in my freelance career, I was selective in the writing work I took on. For example I was commissioned to write a training needs analysis toolkit, and a guide to leadership development. Both of these were very much in line with my strategic direction. I turned down other projects, which would take me too far off course.

Let’s be realistic, sometimes you may need to take work just for the money. But don’t fill up your whole diary with work that distracts you from your goal, leave some time for the “Oh YES!” projects.

Get comfortable with selling

People sometimes have a negative view of sales. Perhaps you see it as pushy or just don’t see yourself as a salesperson. But as a freelancer, or small business owner, you have to be able to sell yourself and your services. Selling is only unethical if you’re trying to persuade someone to buy something they don’t want or need. Ethical selling is simply the process of listening to your potential customer, identifying if and how you can help them, and offering them the chance to work with you.

Build your network

The biggest shock for me in going freelance was losing the day to day social contact of the office. Even through I had a good social life and plenty of activities in the evenings, I found the days a bit lonely at first. It was the support of my network, mostly people I’d worked with in the past, that kept me going.

NetworkingAs well as keeping up with people you know, it’s vital to extend your network – in the real world as well as online. This is probably easier that it was 13 years ago, due to a growth in local networking groups. In most areas there is choice of friendly groups emphasising support and learning, as well as more traditional referral networks focused on generating leads.

And I know networking can be effective – the first networking event I attended in my freelance career led to £3K worth of business! Of course this doesn’t happen all the time and it’s a mistake to go networking thinking that work will fall into your lap. But you certainly open yourself to opportunities  by getting out and getting known.

In fact I’ve got so much out of networking over the years that I’m now leading my own Fabulous Women and Marvellous Men networking group!

Over to you

If you are currently in business or freelancing, what helped you in the early days? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thinking of taking the plunge?

Are you considering self-employment? A modest investment in coaching can really help you clarify what you want, so that you make the right choices for your future. Working with a coach is a positive step to getting unstuck and much clearer about your next steps. For expert help, book yourself in for a free no-obligation chat about your future.  Find out more HERE.



Sleepy Nico - Izzy
Jun 21

I found my passion in business after having a baby

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Small Business

Becoming a parent is a massive life change. So it’s not surprising that motherhood leads some women to change career too.  This was true for Angeline Braidwood, owner of Sleepy Nico baby carriers.

Angeline Braidwood

Angeline had a varied early career. She worked in marketing and publishing and as a self-employed bookseller. But becoming a mother led Angeline to discover her passion.

“When I had my first baby Amelia, I walked from Balham to Tulse Hill, using a standard baby carrier. At the end of the walk I was in agony, everything hurt, especially my shoulders.  The woman who opened the door to me wore a beautiful baby carrier. I bought one, and found people stopped me on the street to ask where I’d found it.”

I bought the company!

At that stage, Sleepy Nico was a tiny cottage industry run by two friends, and named after the founder’s son. And when the founders decided to move on, Angeline stepped in and bought the business. She took over the name, website, method and materials. “I was just so impressed that I bought the company.”

Angeline has since expanded her enterprise, and still creates an entirely British made product. She started on a micro basis, employing a couple of local seamstresses. She has now taken on a manufacturer to produce the slings on a bigger scale.

My business is like a child

Sleepy Nico“The business is like a child – growing and developing, with different needs that you have to meet. It’s an enormous learning curve, and you also keep learning and growing.”

Angeline’s enthusiasm for the business shines through, and has been essential to her success. “For me, a key to enjoying work has been to be passionate about something. Slings brought me and my child together. You just pop your child in, and off you go.”

But is hasn’t always been easy. I asked Angeline to share what she has learned so far in her business journey.

Stand up to problems and find solutions

“The biggest thing has been to stand up in the face of problems. When you work for yourself, every time something new comes up, you have to learn how to do it. I couldn’t ever go back to working in someone else’s structure.  In the workplace, you have a set place in the organisation and your work is planned in.

“At times I just lay on the floor and cried…. But every time there was a problem, I found a solution even though I wouldn’t have though of myself before as a problem-solver.”

Get organised

“Get organised before you start. Look into all the administration and legal side. Do your groundwork and research – know what you’re getting into. Write a business plan, and look into funding.

“Document everything as you go. You need documented processes as you get bigger. If you don’t do it as you go then you suddenly have to try and do it all at once.

“For example, we were working from a set of instructions written by seamstresses, not by instruction writers.  So I’ve asked a former textile instructor to write a proper set of instructions, known as the Bible“.

Be prepared to take a leap

“A year ago I took a leap and rented a studio on monthly terms at a local business centre.  Making the leap made me work harder to make the rent.”

Angeline didn’t borrow money to set up the business, but funded it from within the family. “I stretch myself a little bit financially, but not to the point where if it goes wrong I can’t shut it down. I always have enough to cover any liabilities.”

Nurture your workforce

The challenge for all small businesses in manufacturing is to find the workforce. “If you only have a couple of seamstresses and something happens, then you are stuck.”

Angeline would like to keep to the ethos of British made products.  She needs to find people with the skills needed to make a full sling to the highest of standards: “The product holds the most precious being. It’s made with care, attention and love. At the moment, every sling is checked by me, and the buck stops with me!”

One solution could be more flexible apprenticeships. Angeline can teach valuable skills, but she doesn’t work a standard 9 to 5 day, which can pose a problem for standard apprenticeship schemes.

Angeline talked about the need the let her seamstresses know about their contribution and feel a sense of pride in what they do. “I want to get people excited about working for the business.”

Ask for help and know your strengths

“Ask for help when you need it. I’ve had advice from a manufacturer and a business adviser. And get a really good accountant – mine looks into my numbers and gives advice, as figures are not my strengths.”

“Know your strengths – mine are selling, networking, and project management. And recognise when you need to delegate. For example I now work with someone on my social media. I enjoyed doing it, but you need to outsource when you need the help, or you lose your personal life and your time.”

Find your tribe

“The people I’ve met who have helped me have shared similar passions. Sleepy Nico fits into the bigger picture of baby-wearing, nurturing children. I’m part of a child-focused community, it’s lovely.

“For me, it’s about building a business around children. People call me an entrepreneur, but I always put the children first. A business is a bit like a third baby, with me looking after it. I think it’s a female way of running a business.”

For more information on Sleepy Nico carriers, visit

Are you a mother thinking of returning to work?

Contact me for a free 30 minute consultation about your next steps.

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit

Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

Julie D'Arcy at work
Mar 30

One of a Kind – a career change story

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Creativity , Small Business

Have you ever thought about changing career completely? Julie D’Arcy changed her career dramatically, and not once, but twice within a few years.

After an early career in the armed services, Julie decided to follow a long held ambition to become a teacher. And this meant getting qualified from scratch.

The path to teaching

Julie’s first step was to take an NVQ in childcare. She then took a foundation degree, whilst working as a teaching assistant, having her first child and getting married.

Julie then went on to a full BA Honours Degree. During this period, she had her second child and faced the challenge of becoming a single mum after her marriage broke up.

Julie describes herself as stubborn: “if I’m told I can’t do something, I do it!” I think most people would use words such as determined, tenacious and incredibly hardworking to describe Julie’s academic journey.  She gives a lot of credit to her grandparents, who died whilst she was studying, and talks about how she was inspired by her grandad’s attitude: “He always said life doesn’t come to you if you sit and wait for it.”

But after working so hard to achieve a 2.1 degree and qualifying as a teacher, Julie realised she didn’t want to work in a school. She loved teaching and working with the children, but not the excessive paperwork. “The pressure on teachers is ridiculous. I have two young children, why would I be a teacher and not see my own children. Teachers are so stressed. They have no work-life balance. We’re not allowed to just teach”

The creative spark

So Julie left her hard-won second career, and not without some sadness: “I do miss the teaching – I’d wanted to do it for SO long. And when I got it, it wasn’t what I’d expected.”

Painted SideboardJulie is now on her third career, and has started her own business, restoring old furniture with beautiful and unique paint finishes.

“I painted a wardrobe. Then I starting picked up bits and bobs of furniture that were being thrown out. Julie cites her stubbornness again: “A friend said “you’re not going to ask for that! so I did! I’m now a skipologist. I took a mouldy old chair and transformed it.”

Like many mid-life career changes, this one has its roots in a childhood love.

“I’ve always been arty and creative… I remember painting my bedroom at the age of twelve. My mother said it would be lot of work and told me not to, so I did it! I used a sponge, and loved it so much.”

Julie ended up displaying some of her work at a school fair and met the local mayor. “He said ‘you should think about starting your own business – it’s beautiful’. He sent me through some websites and I applied for funding.” Julie has now set up her furniture studio in Gosport, called One of a Kind.

Her work primarily comes through word of mouth and commissions, and she is working on raising awareness of her business and getting her furniture out there where people can see it.


A family venture

Running her own creative business has transformed the balance of Julie’s life and her children love being at her studio. “They like the fact they can come with me. The children have their own projects. I’m role modeling for them – it’s their business as well.”

And Julie’s teaching and learning experience is not wasted. She runs creative workshops for adults and has started to help local students with work experience. Decorative finishes are part of the syllabus on painting and decorating courses and students like the fact that they are working on real projects. “They come in knowing that they’re going to be useful.” Julie said she cried recently after receiving some “wonderful” feedback from a mother: “She said that ‘in a week with you my daughter has grown and changed so much'”

Seize the moment

It must have taken courage to make a second change. Julie explained that if she was going to do it, she had to do it before she had become accustomed to a teacher’s salary: “I made a decision, a lifestyle choice.”  And her words of wisdom for others wondering about taking the plunge: “You only get one chance at life!”

You can find out more about Julie’s furniture and workshops at the One of a Kind website.

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit

Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

Small Business Flower Shop
Feb 29

The six tribes of self-employment

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Small Business

Self-employment is now at a record high – 4.6 million people according to the latest Labour Force Survey. And the rate of growth in self-employment is particularly strong amongst women. So if you are considering a career change, going it alone is a serious option.

Self-employment and micro-business ownership is a broad field. It ranges from ambitious entrepreneurial start ups, to ad-hoc freelancing, and stops in-between.

Small Business LocksmithResearch from an RSA and Etsy project, The Power of Small, identified six “tribes of self-employment”. These ideas were published in a report called Salvation in a Start Up.

Whether you already run a business or are considering it, these categories offer food for thought. Which tribe could you be part of?


These are optimistic, mission-driven business owners. They may start small, but they are motivated to grow, and are often driven by a sense of purpose, and the desire for greater meaning, and to make a difference. Visionaries typically work long hours, and expand by taking on staff. Running a visionary business can bring both stress, but also satisfaction.


These are normally small local businesses. They offer a service or product to the local community, for example a local plumber or craftsperson.  Typically locals enjoy the control they have over their own lives, and the majority want to keep their business at the same size, and to avoid long hours or stress.


These are entrepreneurial business people, who are motivated primarily by the desire to run a profitable business, and to make the most of their own skills and talents. They may enjoy the challenge of sales. They often work long hours and enjoy doing so, and measure their success in terms of profit.


Survivors are motivated primarily by pay and security, and may have started up their business as a result of unemployment, or just to make ends meet.  They may not really think of themselves business owners, and may end up working long hours for relatively low returns.


These individuals enjoy the freedom of self-employment and are motivated by making the most of their talents, or doing something that interests them. They are likely to be self-motivated, and make extensive use of the internet for selling their goods or services. The majority of independents want to hold on to their freedom, rather than take on staff.


These are typically people who run a hobby business. Dabblers enjoy what they do, and it may be that they run their business in their spare time or post retirement. The income they make is typically quite small, and they are often not reliant on it.

And if you identify with any of these categories, please share your thoughts in the comments below.
LinkedIn on a mobile phone
Nov 30

Is your LinkedIn Profile up to scratch?

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Career development , Networking , Small Business

If your career or aspirations can in any way be described as “professional”, then you need to be on LinkedIn. And if you are on LinkedIn, your profile needs to represent you effectively.

LinkedIn is THE professional social network

Unlike other social media networks, LinkedIn is purely professional. And it’s huge, over 20 million people in the UK alone are on LinkedIn. You can use it to share what you do, and to build up credibility with endorsements and recommendations for your work.Continue reading

find a niche advice
Jul 30

How to find your perfect niche

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Career development , Small Business

Do you earn your living as an expert in your field? You may offer professional services or advice. Perhaps you’re a consultant, trainer or coach. If so, one of the most valuable thing that you can do to grow your career or business, is to commit to a niche.

People often resist choosing a niche because they think it might be limiting. But you can’t be everything to everybody. If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you may have heard this message before from a marketing perspective. And it’s also true when it comes to finding satisfying work.

Your niche is where your expertise and your purpose come together. It’s where your unique set of knowledge, skills and interests interacts with the needs of others. Here are a few questions to help you identify this sweet spot.

What difference do you want to make?

Ultimately the value of your work is in the difference you make to others. The beneficiaries of your work may be other people, it may be animals, it may be the environment. Finding something you care about will give you satisfaction at the end of your working day, and your working life.

Who are you best placed to help?

Your starting point is where you are now. What does your background and experience bring to the table? What networks and contacts do you already have? And if you want to make a break with the past, then you can look ahead to find the answer to this question. What areas interest you? Where are you prepared to put in the work needed to learn new things and make new contacts?

Who do you most enjoy working with?

Do you enjoy being with young people, older people, animals, creative people, entrepreneurial people… the list goes on. What values and ideals does your perfect client or customer hold? Who have you most enjoyed working with in the past? The people we work with are often the single biggest contributors to our happiness at work

And when you do find your niche it just feels right. It’s often something that ties together your unique mix of interests, skills and experience from various stages in your working life.

And yes, you can have more than one niche. In my coaching business,  I use my experience and skills to help mid-life career changers to work out what they want to do. I have always been fascinated by career paths, and why people do what they do. When I discovered this coaching niche, it immediately felt right. It doesn’t feel restrictive at all.

I also run a training business with a colleague. Our main niche is helping people who manage volunteers to gain skills and qualifications. I came into this field partly through my own experience of volunteering and managing volunteers in a community theatre. And it also draws on my professional background working in the voluntary sector.

Niches can be quite different. For example a part time accountant who helps sole traders with their book-keeping, and also sells quirky jewellery at craft fairs. Or niches can relate to each other. My niches are both around helping people develop their careers – but in different ways. And in last month’s blog, artist Rhian John describes how her painting and graphic design are complementary. A good niche is neither so narrow that you become blinkered, or so wide that any meaningful level of expertise is impossible.

Need some help with finding your niche? This is the type of enquiry I can help with, so please have a look my free consultation offer.

Networking for career development
Aug 14

Networking for career success

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Career development , Networking , Small Business

Meeting people face to face is one of the best ways to extend your network of professional relationships, and to find career and business opportunities. This is true even in this online era, and you will find online and offline networking complement each other powerfully.

Where to go to expand your network

There are lots of places where you can meet professional contacts. Try formal networking groups, informal events which combine socialising with opportunities to meet new people, conferences in areas of professional interest, training courses and seminars.

Set targets to help build networking confidence

If you are new to networking, it can be a bit daunting at first, to put it mildly. When I was first asked to attend events and conferences on behalf of my organisation, I didn’t find it particularly easy.  To help, I would set myself targets such as having two conversations with people I hadn’t met before, or making sure that I found and spoke to at least one person whom I’d identified in advance as being a good contact.  Then once I’d achieved my target I would tend to head for the door, usually quite exhilarated and glad I’d done it, but also somewhat relieved that it was over.

It gets easier with practice

Fast forward 15 years or so, and I feel quite differently about going to networking events. I get excited about the idea of meeting new people, look forward to the connections, insights and opportunities that might come up, and am happy to go up to people and initiate a conversation.  In fact I enjoy it so much that I now lead a networking group. So what changed?  Essentially a combination of practice, of reflection afterwards, and of coming up with strategies to make the process easier, more enjoyable and also more effective in terms of following up.

Stay in touch

Because meeting people is just the starting point, and the way you stay in touch and build connections and relationships is what will develop your network into something of real value. If you join a network with the attitude of “how can I help other people”, you will find it far more effective than if you only focus on what you want. So it’s good idea to get into the networking habit, even if you are not actively looking for a new job or career. It will allow you to approach the whole thing in a more relaxed way, gain confidence and connections, and then when you do need some help, you will have plenty of people to ask.

Networking tips video

Here are five of my top networking tips for small businesses and career changes.  I hope you enjoy this short video, and would love to hear your networking tips in the comments box below.

Since writing this article I was asked to contribute to a piece on networking for lawyers – this is an interesting article with great tips from a range of expert contributors: