I first met Tina via twitter and Linkedin, when I was invited to be involved in the first MicroBizMattersDay in January 2016. Tina, along with Tony Robinson (who will be a Featured Freelancer in the coming months) are the unofficial Queen and King of micro businesses, in my opinion. Based in Scarborough, Tina has a wealth of experience that she puts to good use by bringing businesses together and supporting initiatives all over the country the drive the UK micro business economy. I’m delighted to say that this is the story of Tina’s freelancing journey…
What is your name, where are you based, and what do you do?
I am Tina Boden. My home & office base is in Scarborough, North Yorkshire but I can be found working in many different places. What do I do? An interesting question with many answers but in a nutshell; I am The Tiny Troubleshooter, my freelance business, Co-Founder of Enterprise Rockers and the #MicroBizMatters Movement, Collaborator, Speaker, Writer & Giver of Time. I have recently gone full circle from my BTEC Qualification in Hotel, Catering and Institutional Operations, that I got 31 years ago, and am also now The B & B Keeper – offering relief management services to B & B owners who want or need a break from their business for holiday or otherwise.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I have been self-employed for over 28 years, I was 21 when I bought my first business with my Mum, before that I worked for my parents in their business. I had a brief employed period at the end of my 30’s when I sold a retail business. This was short lived and resulted in me starting a freelancing business about 8 years ago. I wanted to share the wealth of experience I had built running businesses in the property letting and management, property development, hospitality and retail sectors. I had also built up a lot of charity and social enterprise knowledge as part of the voluntary work I had done and continue to do. I deliver micro business strategic support, coaching those starting out and keeping going in business and delivering workshops around most things relating to the customer facing aspects of micro business, charity and social enterprise. If my skills allow me to do something outside of this I will, freelancing can be hard and sometimes we have to make money through a little diversification.
What support did you have from family and friends? Did anyone advise you against becoming freelance?
My parents thought the idea of me getting an employed job was a ridiculous idea. They were quite happy when I said I was going back to being self-employed though my Dad was never quite sure what I did as a freelancer so I rebranded as The Tiny Troubleshooter a few years ago so it made more sense to him. He knew what a Troubleshooter was! There are occasions when Mr B would prefer I was a little less entrepreneurial I am sure, it’s those eye rolling moments that give it away, but he rarely says anything, he is very supportive. My eldest son is himself self employed, both the boys have grown up with it around them; Grandma and Grandad on both sides, my brother and brother-in-law and their wives – all self employed.
Did you use any professional support resources in starting your freelance business?
No, I was delivering the professional support to others based on years of experience. I do have a lot of #MicroBizMates who I turned to for a chat and advice, and still do, if needed though.
How would you describe your clients or customers?
Micro business owners, freelancers and self employed people who need advice and support whether just a regular chat remotely – technology means I can support people where ever they are in the world – or those that what in depth strategic help to develop, flourish or exit their business. I also coach Charity and Social Enterprise Managers and and CEO’s who run micro organisations. Often my clients do not want people to know I am giving them support so it can be hard to say ‘it’s thanks to me that this has been achieved’!
Why do your clients/customers select you over your competitors?
When Tony Robinson OBE and I co-founded Enterprise Rockers in January 2012, that now works solely to promote the #MicroBizMatters movement, we had quite a lot of publicity.
Micro business owners came to understand that I was passionate about my subject and had had a lot of experience building micro businesses in different sectors. Because of the campaigning I do as part of the #MicroBizMatters Movement I have come to realise many potential clients feel that my fees might be more expensive than they can afford – trust me they are not and it is always worth asking someone what they charge rather than presuming.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
Being self-employed full stop is hard work, all the businesses I have had have been the same. Your own business is like another family member, it is always there especially in the hard times – keeping you awake, being discussed at the dinner table, and coming on holiday with you.
Because my freelancing is only part of what I do the hours I work on that are maybe less than they could be but I very rarely have a day off. When you love what you do, most of the time, whether paid or voluntary, you just have to learn to adjust and ditch the 9 to 5 5 days a week concept – if that is what you want do not become a freelancer or start up in business.
What app or website could you not run your business without, and why?
Dropbox, I store everything in it whether for my own business or documents I share with clients. In fact anything Cloud based is really important because I move around so much and what to be able to access things wherever I am whenever I am. I also get twitchy if I do not have a decent internet connection for any length of time. I work wherever I am and like to have connectivity even if I choose not to use it. I am not constantly checking emails, it is all about time management, but I like to know I can if I want to. I do love the fact that in Europe now we can use our mobile calls and data for the same price.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a freelance business, specifically in your field?
If the passion is in doubt – don’t do it! You have to be driven by passion to keep going, if you are driven by money you are going to be seriously disappointed. In the ‘business advice’ field you also have to understand you are up against a lot of competition. I have had years and years of experience in many different sectors yet people will choose ‘Advisors’ who have never run a business, ex business bank managers for example, why would you ?
What are the most notable things you have learnt since starting your business; either about running a business or about yourself?
It’s all about adaptability. You have to learn to adapt quickly to customers needs, to change in legislation, to a new social media platform – the list is long and ever changing. If you don’t adapt and stay ahead of the game someone else will come along and step in – don’t forget how many new people start out in business in the UK every year and there are only so many customers to go round.
What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
Being my own boss, having the choice of working when and where you want to in many cases, not having to conform to the norm. It is this that allows me to give back 20% of my time to charities and good causes and that is something that is so important to me.
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
The fluctuating income – its like feast or famine! You need to ensure you have really good terms and conditions when you engage with clients because not only can the income source fluctuate but the way people pay can differ a lot.
What is your ultimate professional goal as a freelancer?
To continue working for as long as I physically can, I think unemployable and unretireable are probably great ways to describe me. It is important however that I develop a remote support delivery model so that I can work wherever I am in the world. Mr B and I are keen to spend Winter in the mountains and Summer in the sun in semi-retirement.
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
That there were so many other great freelancers out there that you can collaborate with to create the #PowerOfPlenty and offer a service that any corporate organisation would be proud to deliver while you still keep your own identity
To get in touch with Tina, visit:
…..and, of course, in the Freelance Heroes Facebook Group.