Summarised interview below.
What is your name and what do you do?
Hi, I’m Caroline Silver and I’m the founder of Evolve Business Consultancy.
Evolve Business Consultancy is a results-focused and commercially-minded consultancy with expertise in maximising the revenues of startups, SME’s and a range of national companies by managing key accounts, designing winning strategies and expanding client portfolios to drive growth. We excel at building and growing sustainable businesses by introducing marketing platforms, implementing strategic reviews, streamlining and enhancing operations with new technologies and creating innovative business development solutions.
How long have you been running your business/freelancing and why did you start?
I started the consultancy in 2017; the main reason being is at the time I was working in private equity working with our startup portfolio and global operations and doing a lot of global travel and I actually got ill – I was diagnosed with ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis – chronic fatigue syndrome). I couldn’t physically travel to work and needed to find a work-from-home role, and at that time employers were not allowing remote working. So, I decided to set up my own consultancy, and that’s what I’ve been doing successfully since 2017. With remote working now at the forefront, it’s fantastic for flexible work and also it supports a lot of people with disabilities like myself.
Finding clients is one of the biggest concerns for people starting out working for themselves. Where did you find your very first client or customer? Where do you mostly find them now?
So originally I thought “Oh my god, what am I going to do? I’ve got ME, need to create sustainable income and business, so I created my consultancy. I had never worked for myself, and I don’t know where to get clients!” or what to charge, but I just researched and went for it!
I initially came across PeoplePerHour, so set up my profile and very quickly my first client approached me. Since then, I occasionally pitch via these remote freelancing platforms, but most of my work comes from returning clients and word of mouth recommendations from the relationships I have built up through clients, companies I have worked for over the last 7 years and also networking.
Who would you love to have as a dream client and why?
I don’t really have a dream client but what I do enjoy is the range of businesses I work with – particularly startups and SME’s – and seeing their growth and success due to my involvement in the strategy, operations and business development of their businesses.
I’ve worked with lots of startups, where one person is managing everything at the beginning due to carefully managing their cashflow, they are trying to be everything to everyone and they support the implementation of the strategy and put it in place. On the SME side, it might be a company who’s been established for 10-20 years and just doesn’t know how to grow and get to the next level. I just love seeing the success of these sorts of companies that I work with.
What app or social media platform could you not run your business without, and why?
I picked two actually – Pipedrive and Trello. I use Pipedrive myself and have also implemented it in many companies. I think it’s a fantastic CRM, but more than that it’s easy to use and it’s reasonably priced for small businesses. I’ve got all my communications in one place and I set up reminders to track and follow up with people, and you can also set up invoicing. Trello is great for project management, for myself and for also using for client projects. They’re both quite easy systems to use and suitable for people who are not comfortable with technology.
Is working for yourself what you expected? How do you manage a healthy work-life balance?
It can be challenging – I still have ME and I still live with ME. There’s plus and minus points; the plus being I can choose who I want to work with, the time frame and my availability. For example, I make sure I switch off at 6pm latest every day and I don’t work in the evenings. This helps me conserve my energy.
I think it can be lonely working for yourself so I think you have to make an effort to network online as much as possible – which I have done from the beginning – and try and work in a way where you engage with other freelancers through various platforms.
If you can do that and maintain that, you can stay quite motivated. I like to keep motivated by consistently learning about new apps and platforms, I do a short course every month etc – that works well for me.
What has been your favourite project to date?
I have really loved every client that I work with; I’ve been quite fortunate. I don’t really have a favourite project but what has been really interesting is that recently a Creative Communications agency that I actually sourced for a client about a year ago that they didn’t choose to work with, contacted me last December, out of the blue, and asked me if I would consider working with them on strategy and a review of their business. I’ve never worked with a Creative Comms agency before so it was something different and I really enjoyed that. You can never count out those leads, and I never leave or finish a project in a negative way, so it’s quite often I get clients that come back and work with me again. It’s all about nurturing those relationships.
What is your biggest win of the last 12 months?
Expanding my global work. I’ve now got a new client in India, based in Mumbai. They approached me out of the blue – found me on LinkedIn – and I’ll be working with them on business development on the innovation side; they work in mobility in the energy industry. I’ve been working with them since the end of last year.
There’s obviously downsides to the pandemic but what it has done is show that it is quite easy to work globally; we’re all using similar apps (Pipedrive, Slack, Trello, Zoom etc) and don’t do business that much differently. The only challenge is the time difference. I’d love to continue working with global clients.
What is it about running your business/being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
Like I mentioned before, the freedom to choose my clients and the range of companies across many different industries that I can work with. You’ve really got to throw yourself into it. For me it was sink or swim; I needed to set up a business otherwise I wouldn’t be able to earn money and balance my health. I’ve grown as a person and really learned a lot.
The challenge for me is probably loneliness; I do miss going into an office and networking with my colleagues, and I also miss the client events that I did as part of my role. It’s really important to network online and keep in touch with people.
If you were given a free £1000 to spend on your business, what would you spend it on?
I’d really love to spend it on my website which has been in development for a little bit; I need to dedicate that time to getting it done as I’d love to showcase my brand more and the credibility I’ve earned along with the testimonials. It’s hard to put that time aside while trying to work and also manage my health. I have to be strict with myself and not spend weekends working on things like the website.
What is your ONE top tip or piece of advice you would offer to other freelancers/small business owners?
If you were starting your business from scratch, do a SWOT analysis in the beginning; which is what I did and it really helped me immensely. I sat back and looked at all the experiences I’ve had, the roles I’ve done, the projects I’ve delivered; and I went into detail into how I did it, what was achieved, and from that I started to create my offering. From this I looked at the areas I was most confident in and enjoyed the most, which then developed into my own brand, logo and pitch. The final thing was looking at hourly rates by benchmarking against other professionals on different platforms, and adding 30% to cover holidays and perks.
Most important thing is to think about what you enjoy and what you’re confident in, and create your business and brand from there.
And finally, is there anything you’d like to shout about right now?
Obviously. I’d like to shout out about my consultancy! I always say to people I work with that if they’re struggling with moving the business forward then please reach out. Every business I’ve worked with has had the benefit of working with my consultancy and have really seen success.