I’m the Marketing Director for my Uncle’s business, Olympia Gymnastics Rock Hill, and I’m also building my own content creation and digital marketing business as a solopreneur. Whether it’s website writing, blog article writing, editorial management, social media management, or outreach, writing for a marketing purpose is my craft. I also volunteer for a few organizations locally, nationally, and internationally.
It’s not easy. I do sacrifice some personal time. I work really hard. But I still manage to juggle everything I do— maybe not well, but I’m always learning to do better. I’m well aware that I’m only 25 and very new to this whole running your own business thing. #LearningCurve
Before I explain how I manage to do it all and give you some tips on how you can do your own thing too, I think it’s important to note that I’m lucky and pretty privileged. I’m a white woman from St. Louis, Missouri with an Uncle who’s a successful entrepreneur that hired me and has taught me a lot over the past four years.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to meet some of the right people and encounter the right opportunities. I recognize not everyone has access to the resources I have. That’s why I think networking is so important— but more on that later.
So all that being said, I want to share with you how I do it all because I’m not some Renaissance woman— I’m just a scrappy young Millennial living at home with my parents building a business from the ground up while working part-time growing another startup and volunteering while still sometimes having a life.
I’m here to tell you that you can do this too. You don’t have to have all of your shit together before you start building a business.
So, these are the key things that enable me to do all that I do:
When I was in college, I was awful at time management. I was a textbook procrastinator, and I managed to get away with it all the time. I mean, I ended up graduating an entire year early but I’d still wait until the night before to finish an assignment— sometimes I’d wait until the night before to even start an assignment.
I regularly stressed myself out. And what I didn’t know at the time is that I was pretty depressed, so my energy was so drained a lot of the time that always felt like I had less time than I did.
You can’t get away with that shit as a business owner, particularly if you’re on your own like me. What I learned quickly when I took on both my own business and the gymnastics startup at the same time is that I can’t afford to play it by ear or wait until the last minute to do things (although, old habits die hard and I’m still very much a procrastinator).
I put everything into my calendar on my phone and I write down all of my assignments in a planner so I can plan when to work on them and by when to complete them.
My office hours at the gym are set: I’m there 3 days a week in the afternoon and evening. Sometimes I’m there extra for meetings or special events, but because I have that set schedule with my part-time job it makes it a lot easier to plan the rest of my business around those hours.
Some folks don’t have the luxury of set hours and that makes it really challenging to plan things on the side. My recommendation to you is to plan as much as you can but to always be flexible enough to change if need be.
Planning is different for everybody. I can generally plan out my day because I know when I’ll be in the best headspace to have meetings or write— but some days I just have bad mental days and my whole plan for the day derails. Sometimes that just means I haven’t devoted enough time to myself.
You’ve got to learn yourself and roll with the punches.
In any case, getting really good with how you use your time is important for any business owner. And it’s an ongoing process for everyone. Even those insane entrepreneurs that get up at 4 am and schedule everything in 15-minute increments had to start somewhere.
When I started my business, I was broke. The company I had just started working for full-time went under and I was (still am) owed over $4500. I had just returned from a trip to London where I was relying on said job to support my lifestyle there. And the cherry on top was that my brother had also just totalled my brand new, shiny 2017 Honda Civic.
I was hurting for cash pretty badly at the time. So I bought a web domain, a web theme, and a subscription to Canva and I got started. I couldn’t afford to hire anyone to help me, so I did absolutely everything myself from building the website to writing the content to designing my logo. The only thing I didn’t do was take the professional photos of myself.
I wouldn’t call myself a graphic designer or a web designer, but I’d say I whipped up a pretty decent brand for myself. There was certainly some learning required. For example, I didn’t know how to use WordPress as well as I do now. I taught myself for the sake of being able to build my website on my own.
There are a wealth of free (or inexpensive) tools and resources out there. Take advantage of these.
Then I got to networking. That’s where the growth started to happen.
I used to work for a guy that would preach all about how relationships were everything in business. I really liked that approach to business. He’d preach about developing relationships on social media all day long— but when it came to actual networking in real life, he was a total coward. I put together tons of research for him about local networking events to attend in his area as well as possible speaking opportunities, yet he never acted on any of it.
His business is long gone. In hindsight, I think he was afraid of being exposed as a fake so he always kept that distance between him and his audience by filtering it through the shiny world of social media.
His failure was a powerful lesson for me. I learned that networking on social media, while effective, is not sustainable on its own.
You have to actually put yourself out there. Go to physical events. Schedule one-on-one meetings IRL.
And I get it, networking can be really intimidating. Even as an extrovert I get a hearty dose of social anxiety before every meeting. But I push through it and I’m always glad that I do because the relationships I’ve formed are so invaluable.
I’ve built a network of people who support me and have brought me opportunities that I would never have had access to before. That’s one of the most fruitful benefits to networking— people with privilege, status, and power can help those who are without. Successful business people want to help other people be successful if they value their relationship.
But no matter whether you’re networking online or in real life, the key is not focusing on what you can get out of a business relationship, it’s to focus on what you can add to a business relationship.
Networking is a giver’s game. It’s also a long game. If you stick with it, opportunities will eventually come to you.
For example, last summer I met with a guy in London who was interested in my writing services. We had a meeting and then… nothing happened.
A year went by— a year of growing my business —and I ended up back in London. So I messaged the guy on LinkedIn that I was in town. We met up again and talked through his writing needs, and lo and behold, he is now a client!
You’ve got to seek out those networking opportunities. If anything, find the connectors. There are folks out there who network purely for the joy of helping other people connect. And if you come to a meeting with the intention of helping the person across from you, at some point, they’ll want to reciprocate.
You know that lame phrase “your vibe attracts your tribe”? Well, it turns out it’s true.
I have some incredible people that support me and my business. I also have role models and mentors in my life to help guide me. Having someone who knows more than you do that you can trust to ask questions and get honest feedback is incredibly valuable.
I consider my friend Shauna a mentor. Her feedback helped me shape my business when I first started, and it still does today. She’s also a marketing and business growth consultant so I feel like I get free advice all the time!
Find yourself a mentor. Everyone needs some guidance, and the fastest way to improve as a business owner is to learn from someone successful.
And always make sure to reciprocate support whenever possible. If you can’t reciprocate, then pay it forward. Support doesn’t have to always mean buying from a business, it can also mean being an advocate for them— IE sending referrals their way.
Support the businesses of people you get along with in the way you’d like to be supported. When you’re supportive of someone with no strings attached, they will almost always want to find a way to support you too.
It can be really awkward and uncomfortable to promote yourself. When you start a business, you’re really putting yourself out there. It’s a financial risk, but also a pretty big social risk.
People are going to judge you. Yes, you very well may garner some haters. But if you’re confident and you stand up for yourself and what you deserve, you will also gain some fans.
At first, I didn’t advocate what I deserved. I let clients walk all over me because I didn’t know my value and no one had ever told me I could charge more to be doing what I was doing. I just thought the only way I could get clients in the door is if I made my services more affordable and I was overly accommodating.
It can be hard— especially as a Millennial who went through an expensive college education and finished to only be able to get a minimum wage-paying job —to believe that you’re worth more. But the fact of the matter is that you’re the only person who will truly advocate for you.
Advocating for your value and holding yourself confidently makes all the difference when you’re telling a potential client how much you charge. Don’t get me wrong, your pricing can really take some tinkering. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: everything is negotiable.
Just remember that the struggle you have in determining your value and what you’re going to charge is the struggle that every business owner must deal with. But the only person who’s going to ensure you get paid properly is yourself.
Don’t let some jerk client screw you over just because you want them to think well of you at the end of a project. Those clients are almost never worth it. Find clients who take your value for what it is and never try to squeeze more out of you for less.
It’s certainly not an easy venture, but building your business alongside the rest of your life is doable. You don’t have to be a top-level executive at a company to be able to start a business. You don’t even have to have a lot of money to start a business. You really can just be some Millennial living at home with her parents.
If you’re willing to learn, improve your time management, and build a network of supporters, you’ll be well on your way to building a business you can sustain.