Steve Ashby, the Founder of Businessmentals speaks about how his company helps freelances succeed
What is Businessmentals all about?
Simply put, Businessmentals exists to help freelancers around the world become more productive, professional and profitable. And we have a “counter-trend” philosophy. Everyone is blindly moving like lemmings towards subscription models. So we go in the opposite direction, to one-time payments. Everyone is marketing apps as though they are the universal panacea. They aren’t and so we don’t have apps.
What sort of products and services does the company offer?
Business templates, processes, on-line workshops, webinars, podcasts and an amazing Facebook community called Freelance Mavericks. And our website (www.businessmentals.com) is designed to be highly entertaining, informative and interactive. We would feel like we failed if you go there and don’t pick up something of value, or have a laugh. And everything is constructed and priced with the freelancer budget firmly in front of our minds.
How does the company work with freelancers?
Either direct contact (in the UAE), or remotely through our groups, programmes and website. We encourage high interaction, energy and fun. Our key words are Fresh, Engaging, Reliable, Entertaining and Smart. They inform everything we do. We need to have these guiding stars in order to act consistently with our community which is scattered around the world.
Which markets do you currently focus upon?
We focus on UAE and UK. We’re aware of a massive groundswell of freelancing and small business start-ups kicking off in Saudi Arabia, so we’ll be making our services available there very soon. Having worked there before, I know that getting the right advice and forging the right partnerships is essential for operating in KSA. We’re making excellent progress.
Please tell us about your start-up story.
I spent 35 years in business, mainly dealing with “things not going well” and working with the people involved to “make them go better”. Three years ago I started converting those people and business solutions into products. However, while I had correctly determined the target audience needs, I didn’t correctly judge their awareness of that need.
Nor their willingness to pay what I was expecting for the solutions. Seven months ago I realised that we needed to throw that model out the window and start with a clean sheet of paper. The result of that complete sea change is the new Businessmentals.
It was painful. I had to accept and acknowledge that I had spent a lot of money on the wrong things, employed the wrong people, and scuttled down the wrong rabbit holes. But I decided to forgive myself on the basis that I had suffered from thinking I was a perfectly stable genius. I’m not. I’m unstable.
Now that I am putting the advice I’ve been giving to others for years into practice in my own business, we are charging ahead into 2018. We have the right focus, the right values and mission and a burning desire to be of service to the millions of freelancers around the world for whom no-one provides practical advice and assistance at scale. We even have our own lexicon. We talk about IRTU (Instantly Ready To Use) and QROI (quick Return On Investment).
Did you come across any challenges when starting up?
The first and biggest challenge we faced was picking the right people to work with. It’s a matter of trial and error. It’s not just the quality of work that’s important, it’s the similarity of thought, the ability to communicate the indefinable essence of our business, and the ability of the other person to “get” it.
The second challenge was to admit that I couldn’t do everything myself, and that other people were far better than me at a lot of things. That was very hard. As luck would have it, I’m now surrounded by a fantastic group of people who show me constantly how much better they are at doing their jobs than I would have been.
My skills are thinking of things other people don’t think about, and then totally underestimating the amount of effort needed to get that great idea to reality. I am positively brilliant at that.
Any other info you would like to add.
This doesn’t feel like work. It feels more like a mission. Building this business in order to help freelancers around the world is a real Call To Action. The honourable profession of freelancing is undergoing rapid seismic change of magnitude 7 on the earthquake scale. The number of new freelancers entering the market is exploding all round the world. Therefore competition is becoming extremely fierce and the ability to stand out in this new world is essential.
And at the same time, the number of potential clients large and small, is remaining static or even shrinking. It’s a perfect storm. More and more freelancers competing for a piece of a shrinking pie. Just look at the Carillion collapse. I saw an estimate in the Guardian that 43,000 jobs in the creative sector will be directly affected – read “lost”. And many of those creatives will join the exponentially expanding freelance army.
That’s why we take a “whole view” of what it takes to be a profitable freelancer. We focus not just on How to do the things you need to do, but Who you need to be in order to manage the stress, the loneliness, the pressure of conflicting priorities.
I can honestly say, it’s the most fun I have had in my entire business life.