After attending our Newcastle Startup Week festival in May 2018, Jon Waite used the knowledge, insights and contacts he gained to make the leap into full-time self employment in September 2018 with his digital marketing and advertising business Advertise1 which is now based at PROTO: The Emerging Centre for Technology in Gateshead.
1. Hi Jon, can you please give us a brief overview of your business?
Advertise1 focuses on empowering independent businesses and sole traders with managing their current online advertising and digital marketing. Advertise1 offers current and potential clients a product, a service and/or technical support.
The products offered are website builds, help with setting up social media pages, photography and design. The services offered are email/web hosting, social media management and Google advertising (including Search Engine Optimisation). The training offered is about self-managing websites, social media and/or any third party software.
2. Who is your target audience and how do you help them?
Our target audience is people who are starting a business and are looking to improve their presence online using in-house resources. We also focus on existing small business owners who are looking for professional consultation on which resources to adopt in order to effectively advertise or market their business in-house. We listen to the needs of business owners and advise on appropriate products or services with an offer of relevant training.
3. When was the business established, how many people are in your team & where are they based?
The idea of Advertise1 came about in April 2015, when I was doing a few free projects for family and friends whilst also working a day job as a creative web developer and technical support for a small company in Keswick, Cumbria. A few months later, in April 2017, I started to receive paid work from friends, then friends of friends and then registered as a self-employed sole trader. Whilst running my company and sorting out my business fundamentals, I was working for a creative agency in Newcastle to build up my skills and to keep a steady income coming in.
In September 2018, I left full time employment and made the shift to working full-time on my own business. I waited a few weeks to announce it ‘to the world’, which happened on October 2018. In November, I moved my business into the co-working space at PROTO: The Emerging Centre for Technology in Gateshead. I am now planning to build up a team this year and am currently in the process of hosting interviews.
4. What motivated or inspired you to start the business?
Someone else asked me the exact question today! When I was working in the industry I felt that I was overworked and underpaid. At the same time, I had creative ideas which I thought could make a real difference to other people and which would generate enough income for me to make a living.
I also didn’t like the 9-5 hour window that industry work tends to provide. I value quality work and prefer to focus on big jobs in the evenings, when I have completed the day-to-day support queries and little jobs during the day and when I can enjoy more quiet time.
I don’t regret starting off my own business one bit!
5. Where did you go for help or advice when you first started out?
I am going to break this down into two sections.
When I started doing my business part-time, I was living in Cumbria. I started my business using advice from family or friends who had already started their own business. I also used information on the internet using online guides and YouTube videos.
When I moved back to Newcastle, I met a man called Richard Carter, who owns Peacock Carter creative agency. He gave me the invaluable advice to attend WordPress North East which was taking place at the Campus North co-working space. The monthly workshop was really beneficial to me and my business and I started attending more events in the region using Meetup and Eventbrite.
In early 2018, I made the decision to take a week off work and purchase a ticket for Newcastle Startup Week, where the majority of my unanswered questions were answered over the 5 days.
Any other advice since then has been from people who I have got to know from these events and other networks.
6. We think the North East of England is a great place to start or grow a business. Do you agree & if so, why?
I fully agree that the North East of England is a great place for my business to expand. I feel that I have connected to the right people and resources in the region which will help me build up my business. I also love the social aspect of the city when I am not working.
The amount of events which are available for people like myself to attend helps me meet new people, or develop my portfolio. The North East also features a cluster of cities (Sunderland, Middlesborough, Darlington, Durham & Newcastle) which are all very close to each other so I think there is something for everyone without travelling too far.
7. Have you had any funding or investment to date & if so, where from? (e.g. Angel Investors, VCs, Grants, Loans).
Yes, I took out a small Startup Loan from Transmit Startups which helped me kit out the fundamentals of the business. This included a new laptop, any kit for my office space at Gateshead and any advertising material to help me promote the business. I have looked at other funding options for future avenues and think there might be something suitable for when Advertise1 scales from a self-employed sole trader to a private limited company.
8. How would you like to see the business develop over the coming months & years?
So far I feel that I am literally living by the day, getting enough work done to pay for each month’s bills whilst allowing myself to have a little bit of a social life. When I was working for an employer and trying to build up Advertise1 at the same time, I didn’t have as much of a social life like that. Over the next few months I am hoping to secure more long-term support retainers so that I have more guaranteed money coming in each month. If things look really good by end of the year then I might consider a little office for a small team in 2020 as I am currently in a shared working space.
9. What advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business?
Do your research before jumping into starting your own business as it can be risky. I built up a little portfolio of customers before making the shift to full-time self employment and I am now getting enough work to sustain myself since going full time in October 2018.
My next piece of advice is to enjoy what you do and control the right amount of work coming in. You want to have some work-life balance but you’ll also want to know how many clients you need to pay your bills.
I would also recommend anyone to try working away from home. There are various free hot desking spaces available in the region including PROTO, where I work now. Working at these spaces can help you network with like-minded people. I also found that when I was working from home, I would get less done and would get bored of just being in my own flat.
10. What business book, video or podcast would you recommend?
This is coming from someone who doesn’t read many books, however I have taken some snippets out of the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. There is also a little book of phrases called GET SH*T DONE by Lauris Liberts, which is good for just reminding yourself that you are not on your own.
Want to know more?
You can also come & hear Jon share some practical tips & advice on the ‘Digital/Marketing for Startups’ panel on Day 2 (‘Getting Started’) of Newcastle Startup Week 2019 on 14th May.