Monday, June 22, 2009

start your own business

it is inspiring ...
You can also read the interview right here

stylist and blogger, Chelsea of {frolic}!

1. What was the turning point in your life that made you decide to work for yourself? What were you doing before this?
I was working for a large catalog company helping the forecast planners in Inventory Management (basically the numbers end of buying). I knew I wanted to do something creative. But, I had been in business for myself back in my twenties and I wasn’t sure I really wanted to go that route again. I tried to move to a more creative part of the company but in a big corporation stuff like that takes time and involves a lot of politics and I realized it really wasn’t what I wanted. I really just wanted to create for myself, not for someone else’s vision. I had been mulling over leaving for months and then one day I just quit. I was a bit confused by myself and what I was doing, to be honest. But, after I did it loads of opportunity opened up and I had the best feeling. Not sure I’d recommend this route to everyone but it worked for me:)

2. What was your first concrete step after making that decision?
I emailed all my old contacts (and new ones) and let them know the big step I had just made, the services I was offering. I wanted to get the word out as soon as possible! Several jobs came to me as a result of it.

3. What did you find to be the most difficult thing when you decided to make your business your full time job? What one thing do you wish you had known before starting your venture?
It’s always hard giving up the security of a paycheck every two weeks + good benefits. At this point, there isn’t anything I wish I’d known for this go around. But, when I opened up a flower shop at 24 years old- boy did I learn a lot! I was very idealistic and had no idea how much money it would cost to start a teensy tiny little flower studio.

4. Who did you go to for advice? What resources were most helpful for you?
My family is very supportive. My dad is an accountant who works a lot with small businesses so he’s always been there for support. But, this time around, reading blogs and meeting other small business owners has been great. I always learn so much talking with other people who are in the same boat!

5. Being compensated fairly for a service seems to be a difficult thing for a lot of people starting out. How did you decide on pricing? Do you think you were fair to yourself in the beginning?
My prior experience owning a flower shop, helped a lot with this. I am determined not to get involved with any jobs that will cost me money and headache and not result in profit. At the same time, because of the economy, I am constantly re-thinking services to offer and how to make small price points possible. I ask people I know what they would pay for services I offer. I email other blogs and businesses whose owners I know and talk to them about their pricing structure. I think I have been fair to myself this go around. The first time? It took years before I figured it all out.

6. How did you get your name out there in the beginning? What was the most helpful marketing tool? What didn’t work at all?
Blogging. It’s the cheapest and most powerful marketing tool right now. It’s the only way I’ve marketed myself. All of my jobs are a result of my blog. When I owned a shop most of my business (and my best business) came to me by word of mouth. Well, blogging is like word of mouth on speed! If you are a small business owner, you should have a blog and be on Twitter.
The first time around, I tried out traditional advertising in print publications and that was pretty much a dismal failure.

7. There are so many small businesses out there now. How do you separate yourself from the rest of the pack?
I am constantly trying to find ways to keep my blog and my work, different and fresh. The best way I know how is to just be myself and be real. Being nice and offering consistent and personable customer service will always set you apart.

8. How do you keep things fresh? Where do you go for inspiration?
Keeping up on trends through blogs and magazines is essential- that way I know what is totally over saturated and overdone at the moment and also to notice new ideas that seem exciting to explore. I love nature, I love fabric stores (I’ve based entire photo shoots around them). The computer ceases to inspire after a while though, I have to be outside in nature, travel, meet people, shop, and just live to get the best inspiration. I can be on the computer all day and not feel inspired, I take a 15 minute break, and I get a burst of ideas!

9. What is the most challenging thing about being your own boss? What is the most rewarding (besides, of course, being your own boss)?
The most challenging thing is the responsibility of managing all aspects of my work. It can be really hard to keep up with everything. Since I do a variety of things, it can be really hard to balance them all. I love working with so many small business owners --either through my styling or through my blog. I love helping to spread the word about someone really great. The freedom is pretty spectacular too!!:)

10. What advice do you have for people who are thinking about starting their own small business who may not necessarily have a lot of prior business experience?
Do a lot of research about owning a business and talk to people. Find out if this is really something you want. Make sure you are passionate about what you are doing. Try to learn as many things as you can (photography, marketing, etc) so you don’t have to pay people to do things. Be realistic about your start-up costs. It’s always more than what you might think. If you aren’t good with numbers- do hire someone to handle that! While it’s important to try and do as much as you can, it’s also important to not overload yourself with unrealistic expectations. I think a lot of small business owners try to do so much that they lose sight of their inspirations and ideas. I’ve definitely been there! Start small and don’t try to branch out too quickly! There are a lot of great resources, programs.. and even money out there for small business owners through government programs like the SBA and non-profits like Mercy Corps and bunches of others. Also, if you work at a corporate job now, don’t expect to live the same lifestyle you do now. Being a small business owner requires a shift in thinking and expectations. Be sure and have money saved up before you make the leap. Revenue can change drastically month to month. When I decided to make the change to a creative profession, I knew I wouldn’t be earning a lot, so I scaled way back- got rid of my car, moved into a cheaper place, and started keeping better track of my money and saving.

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