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.


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