It seems like a natural progression to move a growing small business to a large market, though it's not without its challenges. For example, where to base my office, and myself after 18 months away and never having had to rent commercial space here before? Fortunately Adelaide is a networked place for locals, of old school friends, clients, outback travellers and regional passers by, so it didn't take long for me to take up an old school friend's offer of renting out a room in her city office. There's some benefit to 20th high school reunions or the connection set up between our school friends might never have happened.
Josie is a conveyancer, and the first person I sat next to on day one of year 5 in my new school, St Dominics, back in 1985. And she's still helping me out! My office is a bit of a concrete block, no windows and precarously close to an overworked printer and photocopier, but despite this, I have flexible and reasonable rent terms and it's good to experience working in a city again.
Earlier this year I had to say goodbye to my friends in both Quorn and Port Augusta, my neighbors who watched my chooks while I was away, the kids who played chase in my yard, and the new housemates I lived with in Port in the late part of 2012. A trip to Tassie to see my folks and one hot summer in Port weathering out blustery winds with briny smells and I knew it was time to head south and try my luck in the 'big smoke'. It was good to say goodbye on my own terms this time. I took it slowly, and while putting all my goods in storage where they remain for now, felt exhausted with the thought of moving and packing again after these past few experimental years.
Business has been good in the past 12 months; I've had to tender for jobs I didn't get and learn the hard way not to give away too much of my intellectual property for free. I learnt that the less your client is clear about a job they think they want you to do, the more wary and carefully I need to tread to get them to define it so I can price the job within reason. Ive also learnt to rely on others to get work, and to sell myself in every meetng - you have to when that is your only income. Letting people know what you do and how you do it without being pushy, is a basic survival technique for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Starting a consulting firm in a small place has had its advantages. I've been able to experiment and take risks without too high a cost to my business. Ive learnt what it is I actually offer and can now talk about it in a really simple way. That's taken me a year to work out! In a place where people talk and share knowledge, it goes around fast, what services I provide. I got project opportunities through a regional networking group called the Loose Collective - a group of consultants and contractors in graphic design, events, community development, PR and planning. We caught up every few months for lunch and to encourage regional councils to use local professionals for local projects instead of bringing in consultants from Adel or Sydney - which was happening a lot!
Being the outsider though, also has it's advantages - small town businesses and organisations don't always want someone who knows their business, but can bring a different perspective and some new approaches.