Today I’m excited to introduce a new series I’ve been wanting to do for AGES. So, I don’t know about you, but I would LOVE to be self-employed one day. I find myself on the path towards building my own business, but still asking a LOT of questions and wondering how the heck other self-employed ladies do it. So in honor of Happy Week, today we’re kickin’ it in hustler gear with a fancypants new series called Be Your Own Boss. I hope it makes you feel empowered, educated, and fulfilled by your purpose in life.
Today I am sharing an interview with Allison from the ragingly popular DIY (and aptly named for this series) blog, Dream A Little Bigger. She was one of the first blogs I’d EVER discovered and I have seen her readership grow and grow. Prior to her current boss-lady role, she worked in the marketing department of several real estate companies. After being moved to part time and then, shortly after, being laid off, Allison had to decide what was next. Today, Allison is a full time blogger, crafter and designer extraordinaire. She’s sharing her story, from how she began her journey as a self-employed woman to obstacles she has to overcome on a daily basis. Want to become your own boss or a full time blogger? Then listen up!
What was your process to self-employment like?
In a way my process was gradual since I went from full-time to part-time to unemployed. The process lasted just a few months but by the time I was let go, I was able to make my mortgage payment, car payment and all of that good stuff with my new stream of income.
As far as starting to blog for a living, it seems like it was a much longer process. I started my blog in February 2012 with 1 post. I had maybe 4 the next month and 10 the month after. Each month my readership and page hits grew. I didn’t try to monetize my blog for 10 months (earning money off of page hits through ads, earning a commission through affiliate links, etc) Basically that first 10 months I was putting in the time, the effort, costs for maintaining a website and the crafts supplies for tutorials for absolutely no financial return. It was an investment and a gamble that wound up paying off.
What made you decide that switching to self-employment was right for you?
When they docked my hours to part-time I only went in to work 2-3 days a week so I had a lot of time being at home. I’d applied, interviewed and been offered a handful of jobs but none of them felt like a good fit. And considering I’d spent the last 4 years in jobs that I was pretty unhappy in, I didn’t want to continue a bad cycle.
Besides, I’d been planning on being self employed since my freshman year in college. It’s the whole reason why I studied graphic design because it seemed like the best option to roll over into a home based business. So when I went part time, even though I didn’t technically feel ready for the jump, I started using what little savings I had accrued (I was only 25 at the time) and put them into forming a business.
I had no clue the cost of being self employed would be so high. I had to get with an attorney to form an LLC to protect my home and assets. I needed a better computer and peripherals and a decent set up in my home office for more efficiency. It just felt like a huge suck on my finances but I knew it had to be done.
I went after clients with gusto and when they finally just eliminated my job completely, I was making up the difference in my income through my freelance services within about 6 months.
What exactly do you do now? How long since you started?
At this point I’ve eliminated most of my graphic design services in order to try to work up my blog into my main source of income. I also offer services like demonstrating products at craft stores, writing for other blogs, painting shoes for customers…Basically anything crafty and creative I’ll take on.
Since I never even kind of liked graphic design this is such an amazing feeling. Graphics was just a means to an end (in fact I’ve recently hired the lovely Melyssa to do my graphic design for me – ha!).
Besides my blogging endeavor, I still maintain a strong administrative services company, which is technical and not creative at all. It’s a good balance for my venture into craft blogging as a living.
Overall, I have been self employed for 8-9 years and blogging for 18 months (though I’ve only been able to pay the mortgage with blogging for about 6 months).
What were your biggest fears about self-employment?
Medical insurance. I have a lot of medical problems and without health insurance, I’d have to figure up how to pony up almost $3000 a month for my medication alone. And losing credible coverage meant that my pre-existing health problems wouldn’t be covered by future insurance companies. Paying out of pocket for my current health problems just flat out isn’t doable.
After being let go, I maintained my Cobra health insurance as long as I could though I had to pay through the nose for it (and often get my father’s help to make the almost $400 a month payment) and found other options to keep covered after my Cobra ran out. If you have any sort of illness or plan on your family getting pregnant soon - I can’t stress enough, figure out your options for health insurance before tackling self employment.
It also isn’t a bad idea to see if you have someone’s support if things go totally wrong. For instance, one year I lost my finger and the bills for surgeries and reattachment and hospital visits and physical therapy were INSANE. If my dad hadn’t been able to help me pay down the thousands of unexpected dollars that I had to come up with that year, things would have been so bad for me. In the event that he couldn’t help me, and sometimes people can’t even though they really want to, I have a contact with a loan officer at my bank so that I can get quick access to borrowed funds if I need to in an emergency.
What are your favorite things about being self-employed?
I mentioned before that I’m a sickly gal. Even when an employer knows the deal, they can still be a jerk when you need a lot of sick leave. If I get sick, I take my laptop or my tablet to bed and keep on working. It’s amazing how much better you can feel lying in bed even if you’re still tagging up old posts or hitting up companies for collaboration.
Also, my family is 3-12 hours away by car. Since I work for myself I can schedule my own hours and vacation time. This means if I feel like driving my nephews to see my parents on spring break on a whim, I can get everything set to be there in 24 hours. But this is only doable because I complete all of my work at least 2 weeks in advance. For instance, if I wanted to go NOW, I would have most of my blogging work completed through the next two weeks. And since I have a laptop, smartphone and maintain all of my files on portable external hard drives, I can quite literally work from anywhere with just as much notice as it takes to get my bags packed. I do take advantage of this regularly.
What are the challenges of self-employment? How do you overcome them?
Getting paid regularly is a pain in the neck. Even if you have a big time business as a steady customer getting them to send you your money is like pulling teeth. One year I went through all of my savings because I had a lot of health problems and surgery. It was only when I had no safety net that I realized that some customers were taking 1-2 months to pay their bills. All of the sudden I needed that money NOW and I was having to wait for it.
Tax time is always a challenge, too. I have to come up with a few thousand dollars every April to pay my taxes. But I don’t know for a fact how much exactly I need to get together until I have my taxes done (I can make roughly the same amount 2 years in a row but actually owe a totally different amount both years). And since they’re business taxes I can’t just run into the tax place on the corner for a couple of bucks to get filed. Luckily my dad learned to help me with self filing because paying an accountant was several hundred dollars on top of the tax fees. At any rate, I start to wig a little bit every year come February and even though it’s months away, my chest is getting tight just writing about it!
Last of all, I’ve been told by a bazillion people that I work harder for my money than any of them. When you go to a 9-5 job there is stability and comfort there. You’re in at 9 and you’re driving home shortly after 5. Every two weeks you deposit your paycheck. Wash, rinse, repeat.
By comparison, I sit down in my office around 7:30-ish and I finally go make supper around 6. Most weeks I work around 60-70 hours. Some months I get absolutely no customer payments coming in and some months it’s a deluge of income all at once that I have to space out and make last.
What’s your best piece of advice for self-employment seekers?
Even if you don’t have the ability to be self employed right now, start to plan for it if you want it. You WILL need savings to fall back on when business falls short.
Be flexible. Sometimes you might have to do work you don’t really like to fill in the time and create the income you need.
Research what being self employed in your chosen field will mean for you. For instance, if you want to open a home based bakery, first find out if it is even legal in your area, allowed by your HOA policies, what kind of certificates or legal filings you will need to hold in order to start that business and a legal entity (like an LLC) to help protect you if, say, someone gets sick off of your chocolate cake. Do not just start baking pies out of your kitchen, hoping for the best. If you want to be self employed, you are your own business and you need to act like it.
WOOOO Thank you Allison! Can you tell she is a total go-getter? I love her logical, practical advice and topics to consider before making the plunge. Have you considered becoming your own boss? What’s stopping you from doing so? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Are you a completely self-employed woman? Got an inspiring story to tell or unique tips to share?
Get in touch with me about being part of this new series!