This venture wasn't born out of a detailed business plan or a longtime goal to become a business owner. It started as a result of taking a chance on work that made me happy and seeing where my passions led me.
I truly believe that with the right attitude, tools and mentors, anyone can craft their dream job through consulting and freelance work.
Here's how listening to my heart led me to start my own company:
I was unfulfilled at my day job for quite some time, and it was so painfully obvious to everyone around me. Although I was always learning over the four years I worked for an internet startup and enjoying the challenges that came with being a project manager at an enterprise-level company, something was always missing. I would regularly tap my personal network and reach out to local businesses to see if they were hiring, but there was always a pattern with these smaller companies: they weren't hiring a full-time employee, couldn't afford to hire, or weren't offering enough money.
When I would ask others for advice on the freelance/consulting route, they'd talk me out of it. "You'll never be able to take a paid vacation or day off...You'll exhaust yourself...You won't make any money...You'll get burnt out."
Then, after getting married in late December of 2012 and experiencing the best seven-month stretch of my life, something hit me in January. I no longer had a massive, creative project that involved local vendors, women business owners, new faces, bringing people together and seeing unique ideas come to fruition. I realized how badly I needed to make a change in my career path, no matter how hard the finances would get hit.
2. I started surrounding myself with people who were creating their own destiny.
When an old college friend moved back to Denver, I watched her craft the life she wanted. Danielle Marie Barbeau Cook's hunger for happiness and willingness to take risks was beyond inspiring, as I saw her apply all her skills (yoga, social media, teaching, leadership) to various part-time jobs. Her perception of success was changing, and as a result, so was mine. I took her up on everything she asked me to do with her, from joining groups to taking classes to meeting her dear friends.
When I attended my first Dabble class with Danielle ("How To Land a Job at a Startup"), it was during the introductions that something clicked. Jess Lybeck asked us all to say what our current job was and what our dream job would consist of. I said an ideal gig would include being half in the community, half at my laptop, immersed in local businesses and working with women. I said I wanted to have hands-on, tangible tasks and more creative freedom.
Saying those words out loud to a room of people suddenly became my decree.
Driving home from work one evening in early February, I called The Perfect Petal to see if they were hiring. (This flower shop + boutique was a favorite spot to frequent with my mom for years, but something really resonated with me the night I had my wedding consult there. Every sight and smell awoke the "inspired" corner of my brain. I was finally willing to ditch my salary for something that made me H A P P Y.)
The lovely woman on the phone told me they were hiring for a boutique position, but it may have already been filled and to reach out to the manager. So, I poured my heart out into an email to them, and the next morning, Owner Cindy Ollig asked when we could meet.
My first chat with Cindy was amazing. Everything felt just right as we dished about our experiences, ideas and long-term goals. It became clear that this place was more than just an adorable boutique and flower shop. For 18 years, The Perfect Petal has been an incubator and launching pad for creative minds and designers, both emerging and established.
4. I quit my job and took a chance.
While there were no openings in the boutique, Cindy and I both agreed that my expertise belonged on the social marketing side of things. She agreed to bring me on part-time to help with social media and blogging, so I decided to quit my full-time job and fully immerse myself in this new venture. For the first month, I got my hands on everything I possibly could to learn about their business while trying new things.
In four weeks, I increased their Facebook likes by over 40%, started official Pinterest, Instagram and Foursquare pages and began streamlining the user experience on their website and how customers order flowers. March was the highest month in traffic since they started their blog in 2007 and boutique sales were up 30%. I would send Cindy copy for invites and flyers before she would request it, and she'd love it, and we'd roll with it.
The best part? None of what I was doing felt like work. The worst part? They couldn't afford to pay me full-time.
So, before seeking additional work from other businesses, I asked Cindy if there were other vendors she collaborated with that needed services similar to mine, but most importantly, could be cross-promoted with The Petal. So, she encouraged me to reach out to Eclectic Hive, a decor and furnishings rental house that was quickly approaching their first-year anniversary.
My first meeting with Jill took place at the warehouse they were just settling into in the RiNo district. I mean, literally, settling into. As we were discussing their bi-weekly newsletter, upcoming open house invite and social presence, people were painting, drilling, organizing and setting the most amazing vignettes. Jill's energy and enthusiasm immediately reeled me in, and by working with her, meant working with her partners at The Workshop Events.
Within five weeks of venturing out on my own, I had three paying clients and two fantastic partners in crime to keep me inspired and to work across from when working from home got lonely: Lana Frankel of Lana's Shop (who I met through Danielle) and, of course, Danielle, who was in the process of starting Wed&Flow.
6. I realized the importance of personal and business branding.
Now that I had a handful of clients, I felt the need to brand what I was doing, especially since I was interacting with many other vendors through The Petal, Hive and Workshop. I needed a more professional presence beyond my personal gmail account and had no idea how to define exactly what I was doing on the web or in person without a NAME. Good personal and business branding suddenly became vital.
Also, if I wanted to play it safe and smart, I knew I needed to set up an LLC, bank account and all that jazz.
After weeks of brainstorming a name that encompassed growth, fruition, elevating goodness, community, organic marketing, cross-promotion and cross-pollination, I finally struck gold with Pollinize Media and set up my LLC through the Colorado Secretary of State website and the IRS.
7. I found great mentors and never turned back.
Four months later, I've got 12 clients, in the process of bringing on contractors, exploring the idea of temporary office space and over-the-moon happy. And while many people say, "Gosh, I could never do that on my own," I'm actually not doing this on my own. I've surrounded myself with amazing mentors, friends and fellow business owners who inspire me and push me, The best part is, most of those people are my clients.
Choose to work for a business that provides a product, platform or service that you truly believe in and choose to work for people who are truly passionate about what they do, and...yes...I'm going to say it...you'll never work another day in your life. (You WILL put in more hours than you get paid for, so it ought to be something that revs your soul, right?)
THAT SAID, I'm SO excited to be teaching my very first Dabble class with Dafna Michaelson, called
"Up Your Consulting Game." When? 6-8 p.m. Oct. 9 Where? Galvanize
- Defining and branding your work: Learn the importance of defining and communicating your areas of expertise and simple branding tips that will go a long way.
- Contracts, rates and the art of bartering: Learn how to define your working relationships, scope of work and a rate that you deserve, while learning when to “trade” and when to move on.
- Building your network: Learn how to get out of your comfort zone, recognize hidden opportunities and utilize the power of referrals.