July 1, 2011 was my last official day at my former job. It gave me a steady paycheck, good benefits and the stability that comes with a regular job. The problem was that the longish commute was cutting into my time as the mother of a kindergartener and toddler. I found myself racing to get to work in the morning and then to the bus stop in the afternoons on most days. At work, I wasn’t doing as much of the copywriting and creative work I craved. While I freelanced at night, I couldn’t start this work until my boys were in bed for the evening. To top it all off, my office was talking about moving to a location even further away from home.
In short, I started to see and feel like I needed a change. I loved my work, but I knew I could do more. I had always wanted to start my own business. Really start my own business. Not just freelance writing and designing on the side. While my accountant husband worked away during tax season, I started to write a business plan. I took advantage of a graduate level class I was taking at Southern New Hampshire University and wrote a marketing strategy. I told my husband my thoughts and my plans, and he supported me all the way. So did my boss. It was perfect really. Another Jennifer Writing Lab was born.
Now, as I start a busy week in August, I realize how happy I am about the decision I made to become self-employed. I was able to leave my job with my former employer as my biggest client. I can take on more copywriting jobs from the marketing company I’ve been working with. In the first month of working at home, I have met with some great people, wrote proposals and gained a few jobs. I have to say, I am surprised at how much I’ve accomplished considering that it’s July in Maine.
So, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on this first month working for myself. (I may need to go back to this post to remind myself where I started.)
Here are 5 things I’ve learned so far in my first month of self-employment:
- Sometimes, you’ve just got to shut up and do it. I’ve wanted to start my own business for a long time. While I’ve designed websites, hosted my own online store and done some freelance writing in the past, I’ve never been able to concentrate on these endeavors. I came to the realization that I would never find out what I could do if I didn’t go out and do it myself. I’d rather fail knowing that I tried rather than not knowing at all.
- Take advantage of your contacts. I know some really great people. They are smart. They have cool jobs. They know people. Most importantly, they know me and my work. Since I decided to work for myself, I’ve run into two former colleagues who I haven’t seen in years. I swear it was a sign. I haven’t had to look further than the people I know to get me started in my business. It’s all about quality and not quantity. I have key contacts that can help me, and I can help them back. It doesn’t get better than this.
- Remember to take things one step at a time. I have always been able to shoulder more work than most people would readily take on. This is my own doing. I get excited and like to get things done. In my first month of self-employment I have been careful to write down priorities for my day and for my week. I adjust as needed. Outside of projects, I make sure I take time out each week to do things like networking, marketing, messing with my website or blogging. Most importantly, I take time for myself. If my to do list gets too long, I cut it down. Period. I call the shots.
- Take free advice, but don’t compromise your vision. I’ve had some wonderful conversations with people, many who have started their own businesses, and have gained some valuable insight on running a business. It’s great to hear people’s perspectives and even better when you can get free advice from someone who has been where you are right now. While I have gained knowledge and information, I have also realized that I don’t always agree with the advice. As a business owner, I think you need to know what your vision is and stick to it, even if it does take some time to define it and/or sell it to others.
- Don’t shortchange yourself. I have had several people tell me this. As a blogger, copywriter and consultant, I don’t have specific rates. I put together proposals that include a cost for a project. I’m still getting used to coming up with the fees, but it’s already starting to get easier. Some of the best advice I’ve received so far has been to figure out what I want to make on a project and then add a little bit more to it. “You’ll be surprised at what you’ll get” is what I was told. If you are good at what you do, people will understand the value they are getting.
So far so good.