Listen more and accept the criticism — I started to understand my business better and my client’s needs when I started to listen more and act accordingly. It not only changed my relationship with them as it has made me feel in peace with myself.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ana Freccia.
Ana Freccia is a journalist and the founder of YourHouseLondon, an accommodation company that offers rooms in the flatshare model in London. The company was founded in 2015 after Ana had lived in 3 different countries and was planning to settle down. London was chosen for the opportunities it offered and the boom in the property market. Also, as a traveler, Ana wanted to enjoy the opportunity to be based in the center of the world to travel as much as she could, besides the myriad of choices that London offers to its residents. To have her own business was the chance to be free to travel extensively and give her the freedom to create and develop great ideas to add to the business.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up on an island in South Brazil. As a capital city, Florianopolis was always considered a gem and quite hidden compared to the big cities such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. It was always very touristy, but I remember from my childhood always seeing backpackers with their long Rastafari hair and their tents and I became curious to know how people discovered “Floripa” and never wanted to leave. When my mum told me they were traveling around the world with only one backpack and inside they had everything they needed to explore the world, I knew I wanted to do the same in my adult life.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah-ha” moment with us?
When I finished my studies, I moved to London to learn English, and then I started to explore the world, traveling to some European countries, then the Middle East and Asia. I used to work in a hotel with a very flexible schedule, so all my savings were spent in my next travels and I used to share a house with flatmates from different parts of the world. I found the house in an Iranian agency, chose some friends to live there and started to manage the rent payments, house rules and then I noticed that it could be a great idea to save money, as I didn’t pay much for my rent and I could manage a place where I could leave and return to at any time, without the need to invest a lot of money. That was when my business idea started. I was a 24 years old student, with a “business” in the UK that would give me the flexibility to travel and a place to call home at any time.
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
I’ve been working in different places and traveling around. I love to observe, to make new friends and understand local cultures. I knew a few people who wanted to open their business, but they kept working in the same job and going to the same places for years and were not open to taking risks. I believe ideas come from a need or an opportunity, a lack of something you need, or an experience you can’t find. I think first about the business and I always put myself in different perspectives to check if the place I’m visiting, looking at, or reading about could become an idea for a new business or if there is something I could add to my existing flatshare one.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
Tell your idea to some people and get feedback from them
Don’t talk, only listen.
Check if there are other people doing the same and/or something similar.
What do you do or could do differently from them?
Write down all of your ideas.
Research, read, learn.
Create a business plan with deadlines.
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
Have a consistent plan: the life-changing one and the business one. Don’t lose your focus. You will know when it’s the time for a career change and then take the plunge. It can be liberating to be on the other side.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
I have freedom, the one that no job was able to give me. I can perform my work at the time I want and from wherever part of the globe I am visiting. Therefore, I had to learn how to be an extremely organized and focused person. I was struggling with the number of tasks and a lot of new lessons so I couldn’t sleep at all or couldn’t sleep well in the first couple of years. I felt lonely many times as I have left my friends behind. I didn’t have energy and time to have fun and very slowly I could rebuild relationships and a network that help me a lot and are there for me when I need it.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
Every day is a new day and different from the previous one regarding challenges. I knew it would be tough but I also enjoy meeting my clients, to speak to them not only about the house and the problems faced when sharing a place with people you don’t know but also about what they enjoy doing in their free time and the good experiences they want to share with me. It’s much more about what makes them happy.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so, how did you overcome it?
Oh yes! It happened many times throughout the years. But then I remembered the old times when I worked for somebody else and had to follow the rules, I totally forget about it. I travel quite a lot though; I am able to take weekdays off and travel for long weekends so this freedom makes me want to face my challenges rather than give up on them and find a “real job”.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I used to access the properties without formal notice as I didn’t know how the law worked and one time a tenant was cooking wearing only underwear as he knew the other flatmates were at work. It was funny for me but a bit embarrassing for him.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Being kind to people, creating strategies for my clients to follow recycling, avoid creating more waste unnecessarily, and keeping the houses in a good state.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Listen more and accept the criticism — I started to understand my business better and my client’s needs when I started to listen more and act accordingly. It not only changed my relationship with them as it has made me feel in peace with myself.
- Learn about finance — Once you know where your money is going and how you are investing it, you sometimes realize that you can work less and get the same amount at the end. I don’t like to deal with numbers but I’ve learned the importance of it.
- Never stop learning — About the business, the market, or even something totally unrelated to your business. Doing yoga often helps with my focus, concentration, my health habits, and how to sleep better so I always can think about something to improve with a clear mind.
- Ask questions all the time — I always ask questions, for both people I know and don’t know. I used to ask people on LinkedIn for advice about my business and I got great responses. It helped me to align some ideas and learn how to implement them successfully.
- Take time for yourself every day and I really mean every day — Even if you can stop for 5 minutes to close your eyes and clear your mind.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
A “Do what your love” project. There is no happiness if you can’t spend the majority of your time and life doing something you don’t like or if you don’t believe in it.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I can’t say it’s a quote, but I always think about “one step at a time”. At times when I was desperate with so many issues and problems to solve, I used to breathe, organize my ideas, and make a plan. Then I started to solve everything, but one step a time. And I still keep using the same approach nowadays. It works 😀
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
She is so close to me that I wouldn’t deny a tea with her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.