01 Jun 5 Months as an Internet Entrepreneur – A Progress Report
The past five months have been a roller coaster of emotions ranging from extreme anxiety to extreme excitement. I went from working for an employer (remotely, at home) to working for myself (also at home). While it doesn’t sound like it, it was quite an adjustment. Instead of having a set list of tasks to complete, and a boss to answer to, my day was a blank slate. The only problem (or more accurately, the biggest problem) was that if I didn’t do the right things, I didn’t have a steady paycheck to rely on. And thus the anxiety.
I have a good eye and a keen sense of web presence and website and graphic design. I also love small businesses and entrepreneurs. And I live in Houston, Texas. So, it just made sense to start a design, development, and marketing firm. And I have my MBA, so theoretically I know what I’m doing regarding running a business. Only, theory and reality are quite far apart. But I learn quickly.
The first month was the scariest. No job = no money. I focused on the words “I don’t have a job” far too much. I spent far too little time meeting people and discussing what I could do to help them. I focused on details like my website, contracts, web hosts, accounting software, etc. way too much. Even without a client. But like I said, I learn quickly.
Towards the end of January I landed my first client; an exotic car dealer in Houston in desperate need of new branding and a new website. Truth be told, I undersold myself. The project creep and my interest in overdelivering meant I charged way too little for a lot of work. But that’s how things go. You live and you learn, they say. And that I did.
My next client wasn’t landed until early March. This time I was better prepared. I understood what I was capable of, the value I could bring to this company, and what that was worth. I charged what I believed to be fair, and the client was very satisfied. I also made sure that the scope of the project was well understood, and that more work would be charged extra. We expanded the project multiple times, and each time I charged a fair but profitable amount. It felt great to be able to earn money from my own business exercising my skill set.
In between these clients I also created 2 other businesses, both of which are earning a decent amount of money. The first is a health education company. With my web skills and my wife Farah’s medical knowledge (she’s a physician), we put together a company branded with her (and more accurately, her father’s) last name. Farah designed the first product for the company, a study plan for a physician licensing exam, and with my help we created a site to sell it. I continue to revise my advertising for the product, and it alone earns about 1/3 of the income from the job I left in December.
There have been other clients, projects small and large. I’m still revising my business processes. I’ve developed intermediary steps between meeting someone and taking them on as a client that help me more accurately determine the scope of the project. I create estimates based on the project scope, rather than some arbitrarily created “package.” It seems to serve both myself and my clients better, and it seems fairer. It also protects me from that dreaded project creep.
The most important thing I’ve learned in the last 5 months is that the traditional route, often touted as the safe route, is the least safe route of all. You can work hard and perform well, and at the whim of a company’s performance or even silly office politics, you can find yourself not climbing the ladder as you thought you would, or worse, without a job. I’m still diversifying my income and developing multiple streams, but the exciting thing is that if I have an idea that I think could be successful, I now have the time and bandwidth to try it.
Oh, and even if my business only stayed consistent for the rest of the year and didn’t grow (which I certainly don’t expect), I’d still make more than I made at my previous job; AND have the freedom and flexibility to travel for more than 2 weeks a year, and spend time with my baby boy each day.
The anxiety is gone now. Each day I wake up with a plan of things to accomplish. I spend time each week dedicated to social media, client outreach, client nurturing, skill development, and product development. I’m still haven’t completely mastered the best uses of my time, but I’m getting better. And it’s a lot more exciting doing work that will directly result in more money in your pocket than working for someone else ever was.
5 months in, and I don’t think I could ever go back. This. Is. Fun!