Interviewed by: Justyna Kedra (firstname.lastname@example.org)
BASED IN: NEW YORK
When did you realize you wanted to be self-employed? Did you take your time in taking the step or did you just go for it?
I realized I wanted to be work for myself after having consecutive experiences of working under someone who did not treat me with respect or professionalism. It affected my health, happiness, and general state of well-being to spend so much of my time with an abusive manager. In my last full-time role, I knew layoffs were eminent and, when they happened, I realized I was immensely relieved and actually ecstatic even though I was out of a job. At that moment, I decided to devote myself 100% to building my own freelance business.
Do you come from a family of people who are self employed? How did this affect your career so far?
There are no entrepreneurs in my immediate family. When I made the decision to pursue self-employment, were my parents were worried? Absolutely. It was a risky leap they didn't expect. I received forwarded emails of job descriptions and gentle coaxing to look into this or that company but I stood my ground. When they began to see how my hard work was paying off they finally understood my vision. Now my parents fully support this crazy freelance career of mine and that means a lot.
As an entrepreneur you have to wear many hats. Which two components of a business are the most important?
Networking and having a passion for learning have been the most important aspects of growing my business. I try to get myself to an event, conference, or seminar at least once a week. I'm always meeting great contacts that way who either impart useful advice, help me overcome a problem I haven't been able to fix myself, or lead me to a great client or opportunity. Just being friendly and open to conversation with strangers can result in wonderful happenings. My passion for learning has also been invaluable to my business. Every time I'm faced with a project I haven't done before, I feel very confident I can complete it successfully because I have developed a strong ability to pick things up quickly. I've gained a reputation for being a "jill of all trades" freelancer because I have experience in so many areas - writing, photography, fashion styling, marketing, event planning - and that's because I keep challenging myself to work on diverse projects. Being a fast learner is a muscle you can exercise and grow by pushing your limits and branching out.
How important was having a mentor. Would you say having a strong network is important for your business?
I've been blessed with having many supportive and badass women in my life. I am a part of a Facebook group for women entrepreneurs and every one of them truly inspires me. I work with another entrepreneur who has grown into a business mentor and friend. She took me under her wing as an apprentice and trained me to be a stylist. I go to her with all of my questions and whenever I need advice on a situation in my work I haven't encountered before. Being surrounded by supportive professionals who understand the world of entrepreneurship is one of the most important components to sticking to your original mission and growing.
What is the most important thing to consider before going on your own?
Being a freelancer can sound really sexy and glamorous: you're your own boss, you can choose your jobs, make your own schedule. The reality is, it is a lot of hard work and often more work than a typical full-time job. You are CEO, HR, Creative Director, Accounts Receivable, and PR. It's up to you to create and sustain your business and keep those paychecks coming in. You can choose your jobs but for a long time you are going to be saying yes to every job because you need the money, the contacts, the experience, the portfolio material. You can make your own schedule but your schedule is likely going to be 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at the start because you need to keep working, making connections, and getting your name out there. That said, it is unbelievably rewarding work. You are manifesting your dreams, pursuing your passion, and your creative work has your name on it and is going towards reaching your goals, no one else's. Therefore, you must consider this: are you willing and prepared to do the work and make the sacrifices in order to achieve your professional independence?
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to minor in Business or Marketing in college. I studied English and Art and had to learn everything about business on my own through reading innumerable books and articles on the subject and picking the brain of anyone who would talk to me. No one ever recommended I take a business course in college and it's the one thing I think every student would benefit from. The skills you learn in a business class are applicable to any kind of role and, most of all, if you decide to work for yourself.