From Law to Portfolio Career

“There have been times when I've truly felt like giving up.”

Image of Lisa Richardson
From Law to Portfolio Career

Keen to stay busy after losing her job, Lisa Richardson gave her a friend a hand at home. Little did she know that this would be the beginnings of a new career. Here's how she's launched her own business, regained control over her time, and found work she's proud of.

What work were you doing previously?

I was a commercial property lawyer within a local firm of solicitors.

I went on maternity leave and shortly after I returned to work I was made redundant. At the time the economy was in recession and there was insufficient work for me.

What are you doing now?

I run a domestic cleaning company, a commercial cleaning company and a decluttering / design business.

I also write articles on my experiences and journey from redundancy to running a business.

How did you feel in your work before you decided to make the change?

I was relatively happy in my role as a lawyer.

I'd worked hard to train for the role and found the work really interesting. 

Why did you change?

After several months of job hunting after my redundancy, it became apparent that there were very few suitable roles available within property law.

Despite many applications, I was unable to find work. I'd also applied for various other roles, none of which came to anything.

Keen to fill my time with something, I started helping a friend re-organise and declutter her home (something I had done in my own home for years). After a little while she suggested I might like to consider setting up a business offering that at a service.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

There was a series of events that seemed to be pushing me towards setting up my own business. 

I'd not been successful in finding work. I was helping my friend with organising her home and she felt there was a real opportunity to start a small business. As time went on I started to consider the idea seriously.

Once I'd opened my mind to the possibility and started exploring it, help and resources seemed to come my way. 

We had friends able to build a website, provide advertising material, and produce a logo. I also took a free course which provided guidance aimed at women setting up and running small businesses. After attending this course I think I really felt I had nothing to lose. My husband was keen to give it a go too.

How did you choose your new career?

I felt more like it chose me, or at least that a series of events led me to it. 

I'd never consciously looked at starting a business, or thought about what that could be.

Are you happy with the change?

Completely.

It has been challenging on many occasions and in many ways. There have been times when I've truly felt like giving up. 

However, my husband and I are really proud of the business model we've created. We've stayed true to our beliefs and ethos in terms of the service we provide to our clients and the way we look after our staff. 

We've been able to have more time with our children than might have been the case if we were working for other people. 

I'm now even more excited with the changes that lie ahead and the new developments I am working on.

What do you miss and what don't you miss?

I miss my old firm a little, particularly working as part of a large group as opposed to working at home on my own.

I miss having every evening free too. However, it's not a huge issue. 

I certainly don't miss getting home after 6 p.m. each day, not always able to take children to school, not making it to assemblies, sports days, etc. 

I also don't miss not being able to shape my own destiny.

How did you go about making the shift?

Following my redundancy, I spent time planning logos, websites, looking at competitors to see how they worked, planning marketing, etc. 

I also carried on applying for roles as we needed some money coming in to support us in the meantime. I managed to secure a full-time role as a residential conveyancer, so ended up working 9–5 and then building the business on lunch breaks and in the evenings.

My husband worked on the business during the day, carrying out any appointments.

What didn't go well? What wrong turns did you take?

We took every appointment we were offered to start with, sometimes travelling so far away that we made no money from the work. 

We didn't look carefully at costings for some time and also didn't really have complete confidence in our way of working.

How did you handle your finances to make your shift possible?

We've been quite careful and gradual in building the business up.

We were fortunate in that we didn't have huge overheads to worry about. No premises to rent or huge equipment to purchase.

We struggled with managing our personal finances, with only me working 9-5 to begin with. As a result did get ourselves into some debt early on.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

The unknown.

Entering into a completely new area of work and suddenly becoming an employer are tricky to get to grips with. I had some experience in areas such as marketing and accounts but only a little. We didn't know what we didn't know. What do I need to do as an employer? What insurance do I need? Those were the hardest parts to deal with.

What help did you get?       

Taking a course on setting up a small business was invaluable in terms of areas to consider when getting started.

We looked at marketing and accounts, logo ideas, all briefly but enough to get me on the right track and give me an idea of what we needed to consider.

What resources would you recommend to others?

Your friends and family.

Your inner circle will most likely have a wealth of information to share. Many of them will be able to help with various services and advice, and they're also great at publicising your business.

Look out for groups on business support and networking on Facebook and LinkedIn. Those are very useful.

Also, research other businesses doing what you want to offer, to see how they work.

What have you learnt in the process?

So much!

It's been amazing to see what we're capable of, especially starting with nothing. We've had to get involved in employment, marketing, accounts, social media, time management... It's been a huge learning curve and I'm still learning.

However, I know more about what's possible now, and I have a better idea of where to go to get the help I need for future ideas!

What would you advise others to do in the same situation?

Don't feel you have to know everything on day one. You won't. Have a plan, a rough one.

Ideally, get the new business running on the side while you remain in full-time employment, then at least you'll have money coming in while you're getting started.

Tap into close friends and family - let them know what you are doing, get their thoughts.

To find out more about Lisa's career change, visit businessbeyondspotless.co.uk

What lessons could you take from Lisa's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.

Plus, if you know someone who's made a successful shift into work they love, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at hello@careershifters.org. and you could win a £25 / $35 voucher in our monthly draw.