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Covid was turning point for Aberdeen web designer Sarah McBain

She told us she's just a 'big old nerd' who's happy to work from home.

Sarah McBain, of Razorbill Web Design. Image: DCT Media
Sarah McBain, of Razorbill Web Design. Image: DCT Media

Every Monday, we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Sarah McBain, owner of digital marketing and IT business Razorbill Web Design in Aberdeen.

How and why did you start in business?

I was made redundant just after Covid. I’d worked as an office manager for years so, surprisingly, found I actually preferred working from home rather than in the workplace.

Before redundancy I’d been studying computing at The Open University.

This is where I discovered my love of web design. While I was studying, I redesigned the company website and also built some sites for friends in my spare time.

It made sense to start my own business, Razorbill Web Design, doing something I love and have a talent for.

How did you get to where you are today?

By being a big old nerd. I’ve studied a lot and learned a lot just by having a go at stuff.

I’ve made a huge effort to meet people and make good connections, and these people have helped me at every turn.

Who helped you?

Business Gateway were fantastic. I didn’t have a clue at the start, so my business advisor helped me formulate a plan and I attended every business workshop going.

My clients and the people I meet at business networking events also help me get my business “out there”.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?

Just start. Stop thinking about whether your own website is perfect, whether everything is in place, or whether you have enough knowledge. Just start your business and figure it all out as you go.

The second-best piece of advice – meet people and make connections. I was at a Federation of Small Businesses networking event last week, I spoke to someone and now I’m doing this small business focus in the P&J.

What is your biggest mistake?

I worked for my first client without a contract and with no deposit. She emailed me just before launch saying she couldn’t afford to pay me – big lesson learned.

But I’m glad it happened right at the start as it made me write a solid contract and be firm about collecting deposits.

What is your greatest achievement?

I’m only a year in and I can afford to pay my monthly bills, so that’s nice.

How are you managing rapidly rising costs and how could the government help?

It’s just me and my computer, so the business isn’t really affected by rising costs.

Obviously, all my bills are higher – the same as everyone else – but I’m fortunate to be able to cover that for now. The cost of fuel is depressing, so fuel duty could be controlled better. I want to try networking in other cities but travel just isn’t affordable right now.

What do you still hope to achieve?

I’d like to have a larger client base and get the chance to work on bigger projects.

I’ve ideas and solutions floating around in my head. It would be great to land some exciting projects that see these ideas come together.

As a side project, I run Femmepreneurs Aberdeen. I’ve started designing a Femmepreneurs website to promote local women-owned businesses, including a blog for women to talk about the unique challenges we face as business owners.

Sarah McBain
Sarah used to be an office manager. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

What do you do to relax?

I like to watch the dolphins or browse around second-hand shops, with maybe the odd coffee or brunch stop.

What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on TV?

I’ve recently started watching The Sopranos again, so that’ll keep me busy for a while. It was one of my favourite TV shows at the time of airing.

Due to current world events – I’m also a news nerd – I’ve been reading about just war theory and moral philosophy. It’s such a huge topic and I’m quite new to it, so I think there’s a lot of mileage to keep me occupied there.

What do you waste your money on?

I’ve just started a business, so I haven’t had much money to waste over the past year.

When I do have cash, I like to book trips abroad and eat out in restaurants more. Aberdeen has a great food scene but it’s a lot pricier than it used to be.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

I have a morning routine that I’ve kept since the first lockdown. I get up, grab myself a coffee and go out for some fresh air. The view usually includes sheep and cows. Getting out for half an hour in the morning keeps me sane.

What do you drive and dream of driving?

I just ditched my old raft of a car for an upgrade, so I currently have a Hyundai i30.

I’m not one for flashy cars – there are far better things to spend money on, like travel and experiences.