Four years ago, my boyfriend and I packed all of our possessions in our car and drove from London, England to Barcelona, Spain, leaving behind our jobs, friends and family.
We didn’t know a soul in the city and neither of us had jobs, but we were hungry for adventure and in search of better quality of life.
Barcelona is a fabulous city combining historical architecture with beaches and mountains, but even the most amazing place in the world can be dull without friends to enjoy it with. My boyfriend was lucky enough to get a job within weeks of arriving so I was left alone to hustle, make friends and find a job.
My experiences in these first few weeks taught me three valuable lessons in life which have since helped me enormously in running my own marketing consultancy.
Lesson 1: Fake it til you make it!
I’d heard of networking groups before I moved to Spain but I had never attended a meeting. Out of desperation for someone to talk to I went along to my first event. Walking in to the crowded room that first day I was full of doubts and insecurities.
What do I say?
I wish I had someone to introduce me.
I wish I were more confident.
I decided to use the old “fake it ‘til you make it” principle and considered what a confident person would do in this situation. They’d walk up to someone with a smile, hold out their hands and introduce themselves.
How hard could that be?
I found a couple of people that looked approachable, held out my hand (trying not to smile too maniacally) and introduced myself. Within minutes I had forgotten all about being nervous. The people I spoke to were incredibly friendly and they introduced me to others in the room. I left a couple of hours later with a handful of cards from nice people and I’d had a fun time.
After that first positive experience I went to several other networking events. I soon realised that everyone was shy and nervous and so they were grateful that I approached them first.
This is something that I’ve used many times since when trying new things. I look at how the ‘experts’ do it and follow their cue. Rather than copy them I search for the underlying principles that I can apply in my own way.
Lesson 2: Feel the fear, and then carry on anyway
Even with practise, the fear of putting myself ‘out there’ hasn’t gone away, but I have learned to not let that stop me. This habit of feeling the fear (of exposure, of insecurity, etc) and carrying on anyway has helped me since in so many ways.
I used it when I quit my well paid job so that I could help my mum set up a holistic wellness centre in Barcelona; then again when I later began my own business helping entrepreneurs to market their services, and I now use it every time I’ve had to do something which takes me out of my comfort zone.
When I first started my business, “going out of my comfort zone” meant pretty much everything: reaching out to groups to offer free talks and mini workshops; asking for the sale at client meetings; and ‘going pro’ and hiring my first external support. I’ve felt nervous every time but I’ve reframed it as a positive thing, an adrenalin rush without having to go to a theme park or jump off a tall building!
Lesson 3: Don’t be too hard on yourself
Moving to a new country is difficult. Even when things were going according to plan it was still difficult. I realised that there will be times when you’re physically and emotionally exhausted but it’s important to try not to let things overcome you. The same applies when running your own business. Don’t be shy about asking for help or support, there are plenty of people who have been there before and can help.
The small amount of effort that I put in to getting to know others in the area when I first arrived, proved vital as source of support and tips on local customs and culture and later proved to be the main source of clients.
What is the big picture I want you take away from my experience? Don’t think that socialising (online or in person) is time wasted; it’s what makes a new country/being an entrepreneur feel like home.
Why don’t you?
These lessons have really helped me. I’ve settled in Barcelona, I have loads of friends, my business is growing day by day and my boyfriend is now my husband. I learned the lessons the hard way by moving abroad, but you can put them into practise in your business without having to pack your bags!
As you know nothing happens unless you take action. So, to conclude I’d like you to think about how you can apply one (or all) of the lessons to your own business. Leave your comment below or contact me directly. I wish you the very best of luck!