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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Angelica Yarde
My name is Angel Yarde. I am a designer, front-end developer, and speaker. I am the editor and designer of Studio 404 whic was founded in December 2006. In January 2014, I launched Studio 404 Paper, a paper shop which includes type-focused greeting cards, note cards, and prints. I currently reside in Celebration, Florida where I co-own a branding strategy studio, Sevenality, with my husband.
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18 Comments

  1. So…you have absolutely hit it out of the freaking park with this post. You just explained so many things I have constantly struggled to put into words. I’m so glad you mentioned that being self employed does NOT mean you are unemployed! This post was just fantastic! You are awesome!

  2. Thanks for linking to my post Angel 🙂 I totally understand what you’re saying. When I moved to San Diego a bunch of my family and friends asked me what I was going to do for a job. Did I already have something set up out there? And I responded with a blank stare and said, “….what do you think I do for a living??” Working online is VERY confusing to people who aren’t so immersed in it and doesn’t seem like it would actually pay the bills. Luckily for us, it does and it’s not only fulfilling, but FUN!

    • haha it is VERY confusing for people with traditional work and careers but it’s fulfilling and that’s all that matters. Thanks Sarah! Your post really helped me get through the frustrations I was having.

  3. This is such a great post, Angel! I’ll bet that in 10-15 years, we’ll look back on this time and laugh because at some point in the future, it’ll be so normal to be self-employed (especially in tech) and people will just get it. Until then, we can experience the joys of being enigmatic to the general public, haha.

  4. AWESOME post, as always, lady!

    I think that a lot of the 20-somethings deciding to be business owners should be just referring to themselves as freelancers. Which is totally ok!
    (and I know what you mean about the lunch… I can spend the day without eating at times. )

    • Hahaha well I get scolded all of the time for not eating and being a pregnant lady. SIGH. Yeah I think we can be put into freelancers, entrepreneurs, or solopreneurs nowadays. I read some great articles about titles and self-employment before posting but they all fall under the self-employment bracket when you have a business of your own!

  5. As a business owner, I’ve never encountered someone asking (or trying to get out of me) how much I earn but I hear from others that this happens a lot.. strange.

    What I find really hard is talking to others who have a stereotypical day job and a boss, about my business. I struggle to explain what I do even though it’s really simple – I make jewellery. But when I say that, people stare at me expecting more.. and I find it hard explaining what I do day to day because a lot of people just can’t relate. I think it’s hard for people with stereotypical day jobs to understand what it’s like being your own boss. The assumption is, I think, that you can lounge around and do as you please.

    Luckily I’m surrounded by designer-makers and other creative types, so I don’t tend to encounter these problems too much.

  6. “This country is built on the spirit of entrepreneurship.” YES! Yes, yes! It’s so funny that not everyone gets it. That everyone I told I was moving back home after college and going to run my own business just kind of stared at me, including several of my professors. For the love of all that is good in this world, that’s what this country was founded on!

    Loved this article, girl!

    • I’m not sure why entrepreneurship is so frowned upon. I don’t think a lot of people are involved with small businesses so I guess they don’t understand how owning a small business works. It can be frustrating for sure! Shame on your professors for giving you that reaction.

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