So, What Do You Do?

I dread this question.

Why? I’m not quite sure. Maybe it’s the fact that my elders are still wishing I’d get a “real job”. Or maybe it’s because I have a habit of constantly evolving my business to be juuuust right. Or maybe it’s because I just don’t like being put on the spot. Either way, I hate this question.

Luckily for me, I stumbled across a fantastic infographic last week while I was awaiting a flight home, and it sums the “what do you do” question up P-E-R-F-E-C-T-L-Y.

So what is My Digital Ally, and what do I do? I am a digital marketer, and my business is dedicated to helping small business owners market their business online with confidence. For those that are visually, inclined (like myself), here’s the infographic from Pixaal.com:

what-is-digital-marketing-infographic

Lessons Learned: First Months as a Young Trep (Part Dos!)

{This is the second post in the ‘Lessons Learned as a Young Trep’ blog series. Check out my first post, here!}

Young Trep Lesson #3: I’m not alone, after all.

By nature, I’m not the most outgoing person. As the years after high school and college fly by, making friends has become a greater feat. One of the hardest (albeit seemingly silly) mental obstacles I had to tackle when choosing to launch my own entrepreneurial career was the fact that I would no longer have work buddies to gab with throughout the day. Basically, that “safe place” to find friends was no longer there. I was all alone working in the spare bedroom of my colonial (except for my pooch). She doesn’t talk back, unfortunately.

Little did I know that with just a short email, I could rekindle conversation with an old college friend who is also in the first year of her new digital marketing business. With two fledgling businesses on the rise, Cristina and I had a lot to talk about.  And since that initial email we’ve been in touch almost every week. To my surprise, when I posted a link to the launch of my website on my social platforms, I received multiple messages of encouragement back from old friends and women in similar lines of work. So the lesson? Don’t be afraid to step outside the box and hit up old friends.

Young Trep Lesson #4. Keeping a (semi) strict schedule helps improve productivity.

The liberation of being my own boss comes with some serious responsibility. Could I wake up when I wanted to and work only until I got bored? Sure. But that deadline sure would creep up quickly. And I’m never good under a tight deadline. Rather, I know my personal work habits and thus, I’m forcing myself to stay true to them. I start each day at 8 o’clock, work until I am having trouble staying focused and then let myself take a break. If I feel like working from the couch, so be it! Just as long as I am waking up, showering, putting on my “work clothes” (read: real pants), and sticking to a semi-strict schedule, I am more productive.

And to be honest, I think there’s something to be said for a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I wake up each day and work hard in hopes that I’ll improve my client’s bottom line, I will! Consciously identifying how, when, and where I work best, I can make sure that each day is chock-full of productivity.

Lessons Learned: First Months as a Young Trep

This past week, I hit the two-month mark since I left the secure little bubble of agency life and ventured out on my own as a young trep. Some days fly by with creative progress, while other moments I’m left wondering what the hell I was thinking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very pleased that I can write this blog post from Rojo’s Roastery. I’m very pleased that I don’t have that everlasting lump in my throat, waiting on client requests. I’m very pleased that I’m making a difference to even just a few business owners in this great big world.

So what have these past few months taught me as a fledgling entrepreneur? Indulge me as I get a little self-reflective:

1. Don’t undervalue yourself.

When I received my first RFP – well, it was more like a ‘Hey, let’s do work together’, I had to think fast. What was my work worth? I had only ever thought of my professional value in terms of a salary. I would bet that most others think this way, too. In one evening’s time I was forced to truly evaluate what my work was worth, and convince myself that I could really ask for the money, too. I had a little business coaching from a close source (aka – mom!). I called in a bit of a panic. She gave me one single piece of advice that is appropriate for all newly coined entrepreneurs: Don’t undervalue your work.

As a business owner, you’ve got a lot to consider when setting your price. It’s not as simple as dividing your previous salary by the weeks, days, or hours you’ll be spending on this new project. You’ve got overhead. Your tax rate will increase. You need to get health insurance. If your computer craps out on you, there is no IT guy to hand it over to. It’s all you – so you’ve got to take into account a lot more than just your salaried paycheck.

My first deal closed in all of 30 minutes via telephone. It was quick, to the point, and oddly comfortable. When it came time to give a price for the work proposed, I received a simple “Okay, sounds good”. I didn’t have to negotiate my rate. No ifs, ands, or buts! It seemed too easy! So what’s the lesson?

Do your research. See what competitors are charging. Don’t undervalue yourself – particularly if you are young.

2. Fake it till you make it? Not really.

This leads me to my next lesson. Just because I am under 25, I will not constantly apologize for it. I will not pretend to be older, have more years of  experience, or otherwise bull**** my way to the top. In one particular moment of insecurity, I stumbled upon an article at Entrepreneur.com. How to Turn Your Youth Into Your Ultimate Asset is a fantastic read for any young trep feeling the pressure of those with more gray. The article’s author, Adam Toren, suggests re-framing your youth into a positive asset, rather than something to apologize for – or otherwise hide.

In the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with business owners from all walks of life. The one thing they had in common? They were old enough to be my parents. When the initial ‘tell me about yourself’ conversation ensued, I made the conscious effort to speak positively of my age, background, and experience. And guess what? It worked! I felt more confident and ended the conversations with deals in hand!

Stay tuned – two more lessons are coming up soon!

3. I’m not alone, after all.

4. Keeping a (semi) strict schedule helps improve productivity.

 

Real Life: Starting a Business

For months on end I battled my brain, wallet, and insecurity.

Taking the leap to leave my job at a leading search marketing firm and starting off on my own seemed like the best and worst idea I’ve ever had. For a while I managed to block the idea out of my brain, convince myself that I enjoyed the comfort of a bi-weekly paycheck enough to outweigh the monotony of account management, and count down to Friday starting 8am Monday.

But then, the thought would sneak back in – usually at the most inopportune moments. Like while on a client call at 5:45 on a Thursday night. Or a sunday afternoon when I look to my phone and find URGENT(!) all over. Shouldn’t I be doing something more?!

I had gone through the normal stages of job/life questioning, too. I spent far too many hours on LinkedIn. I went on a few job interviews in the Big Apple. When strong offers came my way, it should have swayed me to make the move. But for some reason,that increase in salary didn’t convince me. Why? Well, that’s what I’ve been pondering.

First, I think, is that I had the luxury of working from home. So even the most trying days could end and within 30 seconds, I was downstairs and chopping my frustrations away on the cutting board. That sure beat a 2+ hour commute in and out of Manhattan everyday. Second, and I think more importantly, is that each new job opportunity that I was presented with was missing something – an entrepreneurial outlet.

I come from a long line of entrepreneurs. A golf club. A car wash. A corrugated box manufacturer. An accounting firm. A gift box company. A consulting practice. A computer school. Yep, all that in just a quarter century. I suppose it’s fitting that a mere few years in Corporate America left me looking for more.

So here I am. My first few weeks into being a full-fledged entrepreneur, I can confidently say that I am happier, more fulfilled, and well… a little freaked out about what’s on the horizon.

I hope it looks a little something like this:

New Entrepreneurial Horizons