The Cost of Building My Business
In 2012, I walked away from a local college as a B student in the nursing program. I was doing pretty well in the program overall. By the end of it, I would have had a degree in a profession that I could take anywhere in the world, really, and find a job that paid enough for me to live independently as the single mom that I was.
So, why did I walk away?
Because it wasn’t what I wanted for my life. It didn’t align with my vision or goals, other than the goal to pay my bills. I needed more in my life than what I could get with a paycheck, not that I fully understood that at the time.
Finding Your Passion
Finding your passion isn’t as glorious as the movies make it out to be. It takes work and time and a willingness to fail, and we aren’t taught to fail. It’s pretty counterintuitive—like trying to relax your way through a contraction while giving birth (definitely not easy).
To figure out what my passion is meant failing a lot. They weren’t spectacular fails, but they never really felt like successes, for sure. It meant going through a series of jobs in a few different industries.
My first two semesters of college, I was an English major. I really wanted to be a writer in some capacity, whether that was an author or journalist or something else. I didn’t know what that would look like exactly, and so I did some research.
What I discovered was that most writers ended up being something other than a writer. They became teachers and tutors, administrative assistants, and other things to pay the bills. I didn’t want such financial insecurity, which is why I switched to health science and nursing.
After walking away from nursing, I didn’t have a direction. I clearly knew what wasn’t right for me, but I still hadn’t found that thing, that indescribable something that made me eager to get to work. Through a friend and online searching, I discovered freelance writing. By August of 2012, I began as a freelance writer.
In November of 2014, I quit my job. It might be one of the most terrifying things I had ever done before. At this point, I was no longer a single mom; I was married to somebody who believed in me even when I didn’t. He still does.
So, I started freelancing full-time, just me and my computer. I was on job sites like Upwork, which wasn’t Upwork at that point. I scoured the listings there and on Craigslist, and I kept my eyes open on Facebook in groups, looking for an opportunity where someone needed a blogger.
By the end of the year, I was pretty frustrated. I hadn’t seen much growth in months. Most of the listings were people who pretty much wanted someone to work for free. I couldn’t make a living doing that. It finally dawned on me, though, that there are successful copywriters and content marketers out there who charge way more than I ever would and they’re busy. They’re turning customers away frequently.
What made them different? What was I missing?
Building A Business
I finally realized that what they had was a different title. They were copywriters and content marketers, sure. But, they were business owners. They weren’t freelancers, for the most part. They had built a brand and a business, and as such people took them more seriously.
Now, hindsight is 20/20. As I look back, I see that anyone freelancer or otherwise can build a brand. The route I chose, though, was to make my business its own entity outside of who I am.
The biggest reason for this shift was simply that I wanted to compete with the copywriting and consulting agencies, and I wanted to be paid fairly for the value I offer. The way for me to do that was to create Sincerely, Me LLC.
The Real Cost of My Business
The really real cost of starting a business was an ongoing payment plan. What am I talking about? The really real cost was that of losing a guaranteed paycheck. As a freelancer, I had embarked on a journey that meant that I was going to have to hustle in a way I never had before to earn my paycheck. I couldn’t clock in and clock out. I couldn’t let the boss know what had gone wrong and let her deal with it. I was the boss suddenly. I was the CEO. Every decision, good or bad, was on me.
Thankfully, I am a very decisive person. I’m okay with making the wrong choice and then choosing something else the next time. I think my college history can attest to that. But this was a whole new level of decision-making.
My business cost me several nights’ sleep, many missed evenings with my family as I struggled to meet a deadline, and my sanity at times.
What it gave back to me, though, was a profound sense of purpose, an overwhelming drive to improve and do better and grow, flexibility in my schedule, and this massive sense of pride. I had built this. I was doing this. And I was going to be great at it someday. In the meantime, I was just proud with every little victory.
Sure, there were times when I thought, who the heck am I? I can’t do this. No one wants to hire me when there are 7 billion other options out there. But then, every time I felt that way, it would be a matter of minutes, hours, or sometimes days when I would get an email or a phone call from someone who chose me. They wanted me.
I not only gained freedom, flexibility, fulfillment, and drive, but I also gained peace. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am doing exactly what I was meant to do in life. This is it. I’m living it. And because of that peace, I can get through the phone call with the pain in the butt client and I can rewrite my bio for the third time to better appeal to my target market and I can schedule another post to social media. And I even enjoy those things because it’s all part of it.
The Price of Starting a Business
For me, I had a very simple start-up budget. I already owned a laptop, and we already had internet access that was reliable. I could work from my home, so I didn’t need to worry about renting a location.
I did need to pay for my LLC registration with the state, and I needed a logo and business cards. That was my starting point because I was going to try to market my business by attending networking meetings.
So, I went at it one at a time. I started with the LLC registration. In my state (Missouri), it’s pretty simple to go to the secretary of state’s .gov site and purchase the LLC. You set up a login and they walk you through it. So this is what I did. Then, I forked over 51 bucks and downloaded my official paperwork.
*Please note that there are scammer sites out there that want you to go through them to purchase your LLC. They’ll charge you more and who knows whether you have a legitimate LLC by the end of it all. Make sure you are on a .gov site if you go online to purchase your LLC registration.
Next up, I talked to my friend, the graphic and web designer. We discussed a logo, and then I let her do her thing. She has known me forever and I had no doubt that she would design a better logo if I was hands off in the process.
I still wasn’t ready to use my face as the face of my company because I needed better photos taken. So, I had her design images to use for my social media profiles as well as a business card.
Registering my LLC cost $51. Having my logo designed cost $250. Having business cards designed and printed cost $75. Joining the networking group I chose cost $250.
This put my total business start-up cost at $626. That’s the equivalent of about 125 cups of Starbucks coffee, 45 mediocre lunches out, or 8 months of cheap cable.
What Happened Next
The clients just started pouring in! I built it, and then boom! They were banging down my door to hire me.
Yeah, right. That’s not how that works.
It certainly can be this way for those who have a longer runway to launch their business. If you begin building your brand and excitement for your business over time, then the act of opening can mean that you are suddenly busy. But, make no mistake about that statement: a lot of work has to go into marketing a launch for this type of result. Usually, this also means more money is involved, too.
For me, what happened next was that I got my butt in a seat of every networking meeting I could. I went all over, and I pitched. I also did my best to get to know people. I wanted them to remember me, to like me, to think of me when someone they know said, “I’m building a website but I don’t know what to do about the content.” I focused on trying to provide value to those relationships by connecting them with others I thought would be beneficial to them.
As Rich Kandlbinder, a sales professional with over 40 years of experience, likes to say, “A cold call is a process, not an event.” I hustled hard on making friends, and that’s a process.
Within 60 days of starting, I had made back all of my start-up costs. Within another 60 days of that, I had my busiest month ever. I hired two subcontractors to help me that month.
Realistic Start-Up Expectations
Whatever you do and however your do it, make sure you have realistic expectations before you begin. Take a step back and really look hard at the things you’ve budgeted for. Do you need them right away to get clients? Could you get clients without these things and then fund the other items with the money you make from your client? Are you missing any vital start up costs?
If you’ve found your passion, that thing that makes you eager to get out of bed and get to work, then really, it’s priceless. You’ll find a way to make it work, I’m sure. Just be smart about the way you approach it so your dream becomes a reality and not a nightmare.
If you’re where I was, and you’re ready to take the leap and begin your own business but first you’d like to estimate the start-up costs, then go check this webinar out. Megan Tsui, who is a business strategist with over 15 years of experience, talks about how to complete a start-up cost estimation.
She will walk you through how to decide if your start-up cost estimation covers all the bases of what you’ll need to get started with a bang.