Editor’s Letter: Life & Business Lessons on My 26th BirthdayBy Angelica Malin
I spend my life making lists. Lists of great restaurants. Lists of yoga classes. Lists of things to do. Lists of things that make me happy. Lists of things that make me sad. Lists upon lists. And, yet, when I come to writing a list of things I’ve learnt over the last few years of running About Time Magazine, my mind goes totally blank.
The truth is, when running your own business, sometimes things are such a whirlwind – a rush of emotion, momentum, controlled chaos, excitement – that you rarely get time to look back and reflect. I went through a stage of being addicted to steam rooms. Not swimming. Not working out. Just sitting in steam rooms. I took out a Fitness First membership just for the sake of sitting in their steam room in Baker Street; I would lie, for what seemed an eternity, trying to get my thoughts together, allowing the steam to flush out the day, and breathing in the (slightly stale) scent of tomorrow. If you would have told me in 3 years, we would be reaching thousands of people around the world, every day, with 100 writers worldwide, I would say you’re mad. When I had fully dehydrated myself, I would emerge – refreshed, focused and slightly woozy. It’s important, you know, to do things for you.
I think that’s my first life lesson from running your own business. Forget your company, your app, your website – the primary product, of any business, is you. Because you’re the fuel that keeps it going, the coal on the fire in tough times and the only thing that will be left if it fizzles – and looking after yourself is the key to any business. Forget working harder, later, longer, I’ve actually come to see that the kindest thing you can do for yourself is often to give yourself the day off. Heck, even the week off. Switch off your phone, turn on that out-of-office, put on your fluffiest slippers, bake some cookies and binge on Netflix. Learning to be kind to yourself, creating a space of reflection and quiet, is what will give your business focus, strength and resilience.
What else have I learnt? Well, firstly, that your age really means nothing when it comes to business. Age is a lie we’re told to keep us small: you can run a company at any age, any stage of your career, any moment in time. It’s just mentality. I knew, honestly, very little about the digital space when I launched About Time – I just knew I loved writing, wanted to eat avocado on toast for a living and couldn’t keep getting fired, so had no choice but to work for myself. Did I know how to run a business? No. How to build a team? Nope. How to do a tax return? Fuck, no.
But you learn on the job – that’s the real beauty of it. You learn through your mistakes, your challenges, your failures. And you also learn to hire an accountant. You learn what works, what doesn’t work, and through this process, your business reveals itself to you. And you come out on the other side, thinking “Jesus, what a ride”, but it’s the challenge of heading into something new and unknown that is the beauty of entrepreneurship. Let me be honest with you for a moment: I never had a business plan. I wouldn’t even know how to write one. In our world, everything moves so quickly that they’re dated before they’re written. Don’t let planning stop you following your dreams – the best advice I have ever been given is just to start. It doesn’t matter where you are right now: just start.
And what else do I now know? That one of the best things you can do in your start-up years is surround yourself with other like-minded entrepreneurs. Fill your life with people are proud of your success – positive, encouraging, tough – and not those that bring you down. You will have days when you think “what am I doing, no-one cares about my business” and you need other people that have taken a similar leap of faith to remind you that everyone has those days. And, also, you’re going to need pals who can have coffee with you half-way through the day, or who can skip out of the office in a moment’s notice. Find your tribe, they will keep you sane.
And, please, for Christ’s sake, don’t let your sex hold you back. We sometimes tell ourselves lies for fear of taking risks; it’s easier to make up an excuse why something won’t work, rather than trying. I’m here to tell you that being a woman is no barrier to entrepreneurship. Women are wonderful creatures – emotionally intelligent, organised, in-tune with human nature, powerful, capable. The secret is out: women are brilliant entrepreneurs, and don’t let the fear of being a woman in a “man’s world” stop you from following your passions. Ladies, we got you.
Other tips for budding entrepreneurs:
– Get a Gratitude Journal by KikkiK. Sounds corny, but when times are tough, being grateful for the people around you, and things that are working is crucial.
– Also a daily planner – they are so amazing for structuring your day and giving you focus. I love the CEO of My Own Life Planner by Ella Iconic – see here.
– Find a form of exercise you actually love. We’re very anti “should” here at About Time, so you won’t be finding me in the gym any time soon, but a bit of yoga flow at triyoga always helps me clear my mind.
– If you’re scared of working alone for your first months, invest in a co-working space. They are often reasonable and will help you feel inspired with like-minded individuals. We started at Work.Life in Camden before we moved into own space and it’s fab.
– If you find yourself often comparing yourself and your business to other people in the same industry, start to be mindful of how and where you’re consuming information. For me, that meant taking a month off Instagram and being more aware of how other accounts were making me feel.
– Don’t be scared of asking for advice. Deliciously Ella said to me that “you always need to be the dumbest person in the room” and that really stuck with me. Forever learning, growing and changing – sometimes you have to learn what your business wants to be, not what you want it to be.
– Find an out-of-office space you really love for days when you need to think outside of the box. We love brainstorming content in Cowshed in Primrose Hill (killer coconut milk lattes) and find the break from the office really helps our creativity. Similarly, a breakfast spot you love is great for boosting team morale. 26 Grains in Neal’s Yard never fails us – a bowl of banana and cacao porridge with nut butter and date syrup is a recipe for good.
It’s my 26th birthday today, and I can only think how incredibly lucky I am to have stumbled on this amazing, wild, chaotic adventure. It’s the beauty of running your own business – you never know where it will take you. There are days that feature crushing blows, and days that are so exciting, you’re practically levitating over your desk. It’s a life of high and lows, ups and downs, successes and failures, never knowing what the day will bring – but I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you’re thinking about launching your own business, I say this: do it. You have nothing to lose because, after it all, time really is how you spend your love.