The Twenty-Something Entrepreneur

The Curious Case of the Twenty-Something Entrepreneur

Hello Monday! As I shared on the newsletter, I had a great weekend being surrounded by people doing amazing things in the city. Being in this industry means we encounter people who are doing all kinds of things. There are so many local startups, and agencies that it never occurs to me that others don’t have a valid understanding of what I do everyday. Owning a technical creative company, it’s probably not the easiest to classify in the “normal” boxes that others are accustomed to when it comes to careers. I feel as if I lived in a place like San Francisco or New York, there is hardly an eyelash bat at young entrepreneurs owning tech companies. However, there’s something about this area that the common man doesn’t quite understand what is going on with young adults and why some of us are abandoning the “traditional” career roles.

I Own A Real Business

It’s easy to be confused by the type of work that people who work with the web do. I think there’s often a misconception that being self-employed is the same as being unemployed. There is confusion about things like benefits and steady pay periods. When someone hasn’t really owned a business of their own, they can be extremely confused as to how people own small businesses successfully. It’s even more unbelievable when it’s a two twenty-something kids who never took a course in college.

Believe it or not, I do own a real business. I had to register my business with the state. I pay business taxes. I manage my hours as I would at any company. I manage my contacts with a CRM. I have profits and loss margins. I have a co-founder. I have a business plan. It seems redundant to share that information in this space but you wouldn’t believe how often I’m questioned about the state of my employment. Self-employment is a real thing and you can be successful

Every Day is Different

I’m sure many of you get questioned on what your day-to-day looks like. It’s even more ridiculous for me because no two of my days are the same. On top of that, being pregnant means everyone believes in a few months, I’ll be a lovely stay-at-home mom who watches Netflix and posts yoga pictures on Instagram all day. I try not to roll my eyes at these assumptions but really, I wish I could just hang out at home all day and still pay all of my bills.

Unfortunately, I’m often in meetings throughout the day all over central Florida. My desk is covered in notes, invoices, receipts, meeting agendas, and mock-ups that I reference all throughout the day. I get dressed everyday. I never remember to eat lunch on time. I have projects booked through the end of the year. I have projects booked after my very, very short maternity leave. I like what I do. I like being busy, which is why I left the 9-5 world in the first place. No two days of mine are alike. I’m always working on something different which is why I love what I do.

Measuring My Success

So unfortunately, measuring my success is my job and not the job of my peers, friends, or family. It’s up to my husband and I to know when we’re doing well and when we’re face planting. Obviously, I’m not the Scrooge McDuck of branding, but we’re doing pretty great for two people who have been self-taught in everything we do. I’m not sure what it is about self-employment that makes others feel entitled to know what your income is but it’s really no one’s business. I do love when entrepreneurs share their income reports publicly because it becomes visible that you can make money doing non-traditional work. However, no one owes that information to anyone other than the government.

I feel most successful when I get recurring work from my clients. I feel successful when I get emails that praise what we do. When I’m at an event and people are sharing their thoughts on something I’ve talked about or shared on my blog, I feel like I’m giving back to my industry. Yes, it’s amazing to be financially in a good place and have a billing rate that I’m comfortable with. However, I don’t really care how other people decide to measure my success. When I’m failing, you’ll definitely be aware!

Explaining Self-Employment

Honestly, you really don’t owe and explanation to anyone who isn’t involved with your business about what you do everyday. You will get the same questions over and over from the same people. I actually do enjoy educating others on branding, design, and how a twenty-four year-old doesn’t report to manager for work. Self-employment isn’t something new. This country is built on the spirit of entrepreneurship. I think the confusion comes from the fact that there isn’t a tangible product or established service that the general consensus is familiar with.

I try to familiarize what I do to other small businesses around me or other small business owners. These are the people who own our local restaurants, boutiques, cleaning services, etc. Everyone knows someone who works for themselves. Working with the web or design is no different. You put in the hours, provide a service, and make money. Don’t allow others to make you feel like what you do isn’t a real thing. The twenty-something tech entrepreneur is no longer a rare thing so embrace it!

What are your struggles with owning a business? How do you deal with educating people on what you do?

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Let’s Talk Business: Get Local

LTB_Local

Happy Tuesday! I’ve been living in central Florida for over five years now and getting connected to the community around me has helped my business and my blog. When I started designing, everything was online strictly for me. I didn’t have a license as a 15 year-old so I made connections with people online and ran my business that way. My business is totally different today. Most of our clients are local and I prefer it that way. So today, I’m going to chat about getting local as a designer and branding consultant and how it’s really helped me.

Stepping Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Earlier this year, I talked about creating challenges for creatives and for those who started our businesses online, networking locally falls under that category. I’m not an introvert but I started working in design as a teenager. It was intimidating to be a 19 year-old, living in a new city, newly married, and having to jump into networking for myself. To be fair, I did attend networking events when I worked with mom for her business so I had an idea of how things went. No two industries are the same when it comes to networking and that was challenging!

One of the things that helped me was starting small. I connected with a few entrepreneurs at the church we chose to attend, who would later become some of my closest friends and clients! We just talked about things and over the months, I was asked to do some work for them. I’ve been working with them on design and brand management ever since. If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to networking, here are some things that can help you out.

  • Talk to your friends and family! Getting to work with local clients usually starts within your social circle. Talk to your friends and family about their businesses or work place. It’s no harm to ask if they need any work done when you’re being genuine.
  • Be visible. Don’t be afraid to talk about your business when meeting new people. If you’re at a party and the topic of careers come up, share some insight on what you do. You’d be surprised at who would be interested.
  • It’s ok to start small. It is easy to get overwhelmed seeing all of the networking events happening in creative industries online. You don’t have to start your own event to connect with others. Carry business cards and that is more than enough to get started.

Attending Industry Events

I didn’t attend my first industry events until I’d been a creative entrepreneur for over seven years. You definitely don’t have to wait that long to get connected! I’ve met so many students and graduates and local events and it’s so fun to get to know other designers. My business relationships have gotten so much better since going to local events. Even though I don’t live near downtown Orlando, making the time to drive out there has helped me so much. In fact, this week, we have four events on the calendar.

Going to your first event can be terrifying! Don’t worry, I have some tips on what you can do to get out there and make the most of each event.

  • Take a friend! I usually attend events with my business partner/husband so it’s easy for me to feel comfortable. I always have someone to rely on if I feel overwhelmed and we reach twice as many people separately. Having a friend also helps you out if you attend something that might have been a bad choice. We’ve definitely done that once or twice and having each other got us through the night!
  • Connect with the speaker/organizer. I know speakers and organizers seem unreachable during events but they are usually some of your most important contacts. They usually know the most people in the room and they love getting feedback from how events are going.
  • Be genuine. One of the biggest issues at events is being overly-networky. In our industry, it’s a bit more about genuine relationships other than just connecting to get business. I really enjoy knowing other designers and developers in the city. We always help each other out when it comes to work. I often recommend others for jobs that I can’t do. We’re not very competitive in my area and it makes it so much easier to connect.
  • Be prepared. There are often potential clients at industry events. I’ve met a couple of our clients just for chatting over coffee or sitting next to each other. You should always be “on” without being too over the top. Be prepared to answer questions about your business process, have business cards, and be sure to follow up on leads the very next day. Sometimes clients are shopping around and that’s ok! You still want to make an effort to reach out and keep your connections active.

Be Visible

Once you start connecting with clients and industry partners locally, you want to be sure to keep it up! If I’d known I would have so much fun at conferences and events, I would have started attending them years ago. Since we consistently make an effort to show up, we often get introduced to new people and it allows us to deepen our relationships with other. I also try to connect with people I meet via social media often just to support them or to see how they’re doing. You never know what kind of relationships you may make by being visible. They aren’t always good but you learn quickly! Often the bad seeds have interacted with several people and it’s easy to spot them out. The more you put yourself out there is the more you become comfortable with it! Here are some ideas to help you stay visible locally.

  • Try new events! If you have been to the same meetup or event a few times, try something new. Try taking someone out for coffee just to chat or see something in a different area. You never want to do too much of the same thing or it gets boring quickly.
  • Use social media. Connect with people all of the time via social media. I love it when people reach out to me via Twitter after meeting them. It just makes me feel like they are interested in what I said or they felt we connected. It’s almost like dating lol!
  • Don’t overwhelm yourself. You should definitely know your limits and stay within them. The moment you commit to too much is the moment you find yourself burned out.

How has connecting locally affected your business? What’s stopping you?

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