Craig from StrayGoat Writing Services responded to my request for small business owners to showcase themselves and their businesses on my blog to provide insight, advice and inspiration for others who are starting up/thinking of starting up their own small businesses – including me!
The idea originally formed because I was fascinated by people’s stories and reasons for setting up their own businesses and I wanted to learn as much as I could in order to educate myself for the benefit of my own business.
I wanted to find a way to ask the questions I wanted the answers to but I realised that if I was interested surely others were interested in the answers too! In addition, I wanted the businesses willing to share their stories to get something in return so I devised the ‘Small Business Showcase’ blog series which will give each small business featured promotion across social media. Win-win for everyone!
The same 10 questions were posed to all small businesses via questionnaire – here are Craig’s replies:
1) How would you summarise the service(s)/product(s) your business offers?
I help businesses to provide user-focused documentation, so that their customers can get the help they need, whenever they need it. This is usually in the form of online help systems, help centre articles, and user guides.
I also help businesses promote their products and services, by explaining how they work in terms that their customers understand. It’s all about making the information more accessible.
2) How long have you been a small business owner?
Since 2010, although my business changed in 2012. The first two years I ran the business as a copywriting company and did that part-time alongside a permanent job.
3) What inspired you to set up your business?
I’d been working at the same company as a technical writer for 15 years. There was little scope for career progression or variety in the work and, when the company started to become more corporate, I knew it was time for a change. So I’d say it was a mix of boredom, frustration, and the need for change.
4) What platforms/strategies do you use to promote your business?
I don’t promote my business as much as I probably should. I write blog posts about tech comm stuff and comment on LinkedIn and Twitter. I sometimes write for the ISTC magazine and am active on several forums. I’m reasonably well-known in tech comm circles, I think.
5) What do you consider your greatest business achievement so far?
Oh, it has to be keeping it going while not going down the contracting route. Most of the ‘freelance’ technical writers I know work on contracts through agencies. That’s very much the norm, but it is too much like being an employee for my liking, often with 9-5 working hours and less flexibility than I had as an employee.
6) What do you consider your greatest business challenges?
Getting more clients and especially local clients. There’s not a huge demand for technical writing and a lot of the work is focused in the South East. I’m not looking to relocate or live away from home (wife and dogs wouldn’t be happy with that), so it can be difficult. A lot of my work can be done remotely, but sometimes businesses just aren’t ready to take that leap of faith. Or sometimes they are, but I don’t think their particular job can actually be done remotely. That tends to happen with the more industrial stuff that really has to be seen on site.
7) What resources/training have been most beneficial to your business so far?
I’d have to say the various online communities of technical writers, copywriters, and other communications people and also LinkedIn. Lots of people have been there, done that and most of them are happy to offer advice. I’ve not met many technical writers who aren’t helpful – it comes with the job.
8) What advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting their own business?
If you can, test the water first by running it alongside a regular job. Freelancing isn’t for everyone – there’s a lot of uncertainty and frustration that you don’t experience as an employee, and freelance work can dominate your thoughts all of the time.
I’d also recommend people to look at the cost benefits of having an accountant. I was a sole trader for the first few years and could have saved myself some money with an accountant and going down the limited company route.
9) What are your future plans for your business?
I don’t tend to make plans as life has a way of messing them up! I’ve no interest in developing it into an agency. Probably the way forward is to work more collaboratively with other freelancers or with agencies.
10) Are there any other small businesses you would like to give a shout out to who have been an inspiration/support to you?
Cherryleaf, Emma Trickett-Daker, Silver Cloud Accounting, and all the freelancers I natter with on Twitter, LinkedIn, and the various Slacks – they know who they are.