As part of my Small Business Interview series, I had the pleasure of chatting recently to Kate Amann. Kate is a self-employed “Developer, Writer and Digital MacGyver”, whose work involves web development, a lot of consultancy and tech support.
Kate works mostly with small businesses. Her aim is to make people feel as comfortable as possible with their websites, and with asking about the technical stuff they don’t understand! Something that so many people need.
She’s here whether you need a website, a content plan, or a digital solution you can’t quite put your finger on. Navigating the digital world can be intimidating, and Kate’s focus is on simplifying this process for her clients.
Let’s dive into the interview and hear all about Kate’s journey as a small business owner!
Why do you do what you do?
I’ve worked in digital content for over a decade, mostly because when I wanted to go into print publishing, I was encouraged by people already in publishing to go the digital direction because print was going to get harder and harder. So, for better or worse, that’s the way I went. I left my last job for a company in 2015 when I finally got fed up enough of the stifling culture of where I was to take a big overland trip I’d wanted to do forever.
Towards the end of that trip, I was running out of money and I had already done bits of freelancing here and there, so I emailed everyone I knew with small businesses to see if anyone needed help with anything. That’s how I started on my own, and I kind of just kept going. I think I’ve stuck with it because it provides so much freedom.
What are you most proud of?
That I’ve managed to support myself as self-employed for going on 5 years, especially when I never really had a specific plan to go this direction.
What keeps you up at night?
I worry about disappointing people or letting them down, particularly when I have a development problem I can’t work out. Plus all the usual stuff: money, things that need fixing in the flat and in the world, whether or not I said something stupid that day.
What was the best business decision you ever made?
Probably to just be myself and communicate and present myself in a way that didn’t feel like ‘acting’ professionally. You can be professional without being a cardboard cutout of what someone else defines as professional.
One of the whole points of sticking with working for myself was so that I wouldn’t have to subscribe to any of the things about workplace culture that I found frustrating or unfair. Being self-employed is stressful in plenty of ways, but deciding to just be myself and be honest with people as much as possible makes work a lot easier and more enjoyable.
And the worst?
Probably not saying ‘no’ to things. At the start, you kind of have to say yes to a few things you may not be thrilled about to pay the bills, but it took me a little too long to realise I could start saying no to what wasn’t a good fit for me.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever got?
For life in general, my college professor and good friend to this day told me once at a department barbecue, look out for yourself, because no one will ever do it as well as you can. This was probably 15 years ago, but I have found it to be true over and over again.
And for self-employment, in kind of a similar vein, my Creative Edinburgh mentor told me how important it was to be a good boss to myself, which includes looking at problems objectively, being supportive, making sure I get what I need from the work, giving myself enough time, and rewarding myself for success. This can be very difficult, but she was so right.
How do you attract new clients or customers?
It all comes through word of mouth or friends who pass their clients on. I’ve got loads of clients through yourself actually! Working in Hill Street Design House for 3 years also connected me with lots of other creative businesses, and we were always recommending each other to clients, so that was an extra helpful perk.
What do you enjoy most about your marketing?
I don’t really do any active marketing – I have a website but it hasn’t been updated since I built it 4 years ago because I spend all my time on everyone else’s sites! I don’t do social media. I’m not a big networker – I do love going to Creative Mornings but I’m not great at chatting to people I don’t know already. I mainly just try to do my job well and that seems to be all the marketing I need, which is great!
How do you relax?
In ye-olde pre-coronavirus times, swing dancing was top on the list. I also love cooking, making things and being outdoors, particularly near the sea, but up hills or in the woods or anywhere really. In general, I just try to spend as much time with friends and away from screens as possible when not working. And I read a lot.
What’s something you dream of doing?
Having a dog! I’d like to do a lot more slow/overland travel. I’ve never been anywhere in South America, so anywhere there is high on the list, as well as Iran. And maybe own a house up north near the sea somewhere.
I’ll be doing a part-time MSc in Gastronomy at Queen Margaret University starting in September. I’m really excited about it. I’ve always been interested in food and I’m hoping it leads to some cool new things.
Where to find Kate Amann Online
You can find Kate here on LinkedIn, to find out more about her work and current clients. Or get in touch via her website. She also blogs over at Getting Where? – check it out to explore her great travel content!