“Listen to yourself. You know what I mean – listen to that voice that’s telling you what you really want to be when you grow up. Give yourself the chance to try it, and see what happens. When I quit art school as a teenager, I also quit my dream. I “settled” for far too long before I took that dream back, but I’m happy to be living it now!”
An excerpt from The Entrepreneur Within You (book) – chapter written by Julie M. Holloway (www.tewyou.com)
My 30-day review
Somewhere around Thanksgiving 2011, I hit my 30-day mark as a full-time entrepreneur. I remember thinking to myself, wow, remember when your boss would sit you down and recollect how you did in your first month? Normally, that would be an antsy and eager conversation – especially on a new job.
So, I thought to myself, let me sit down and rate myself. How am I doing thus far?
Here’s a snippet of my 30-day report card:
- Organization: D+
- Work/Life Balance: D-
- Creativity: A+
- Customer Service: B
- Finances: B
- Social Media: Addicted
- Marketing/Advertising: C
Let’s summarize for a moment.
After making the 30-day mark, I realized it was time to sit down with myself, “aka JMH” and have an honest conversation. I had just worked 30 days straight, not taking one day off. Weekends were a blur, as was every day of the week. Heck, I don’t think I even knew what day it was at certain points in time; thank goodness my son told me every day at breakfast. Although I was a former executive assistant, my organization skills from day to day were not so great. The days would melt together from the time I cracked open my first package of coffee to the time I cracked opened my nighttime red tea. I hardly took a moment to breathe, let alone see the sunshine. I was STILL a workaholic and that is the main thing I told myself I would never do! Yep, I wasn’t taking the requirement of work/life balance seriously; I had to make some immediate improvements there. Creativity was never an issue in the first 30 days, nor is it almost a year later. The only time it would ever creep up as a possible “situation” would be if I exhausted myself with not enough sleep or if I forgot to take my nutraceuticals. At those few points in time, I would realize my creativity was on a slow path. However, I learned how to quickly correct that.
The next rating on my report card was to deal with customer service or “lack thereof.” I learned very quickly that this is a very important part of a small business. It can be detrimental to your success if you do not treat these two words with the utmost importance. Unless, you are able to hire a customer care team from the start, you must learn to conquer the challenges of dealing with happy, sad, mad, cranky and unavoidably miserable clients. Sorry, but there are some of those out there. There are also some very awesome ones as well! Just be sure that you are equipped with a few bits of professionalism to deal with all types from the start!
On to finances – not my favorite subject. Finances make my head hurt and calculators that add up all the bills too quickly makes my tummy hurt. Need I say more? Now, what I can say is, in my first 30 days I worked so darn hard, I actually surpassed my goals by almost $1000! Now that was “not so” great –because every month afterwards that I didn’t make the goal, I was oohh a little sad. The lesson I learned here is that although you can celebrate the successful months, you are running a business. Businesses do have “slow months” and ups and downs. So what that means is you have to plan for the ups and downs in your pocket book!
If you are not prepared to handle the ups and downs, then you may need to seek a little bit of counseling, coaching, motivation and comforting when you start to let the tears flow. You can cry all the tears in the world, but whining and crying about the things you don’t have will not solve your problems. It will only bring on added stress, fear or anxiety. With that, when budgeting for your business, always try to ensure that you keep a light expectation in the back of your mind that some days, some months will be better than others. That way, when the “others” creep up on you, the blow is not as extensive as you seem to make it!
Somewhere in my first week, the freedom of sitting on Facebook all day seemed a little bit exciting. Now I know why our bosses don’t allow us to do this as much on the job. In some cases, it can truly hinder productivity if you get “stuck” on there for too long. In other cases, however, it is a great marketing and advertising tool. So, in order to talk myself into making the best of “social media” networking while a newly created self-made solopreneur, I decided to allow myself two to four hours a day (LOL). It might seem like a lot, but heck, I deserve it!
I really have tested social media strategy. I could go missing from Facebook for days at a time, and when I get back people are saying, “where did you go, where are you? Are you ok?” Of course, the answer is yes; however it’s very interesting to see that your clients are actually paying attention. Now, Facebook can be a little scary sometimes as well. I have had a client say that they “looked up where I live” and actually considered trying to come by to get me to finish their project “quicker!” Another client actually sort of threatened me by saying that I didn’t help their business as they thought that I could because we were in the same field; so there have been some interesting situations. For the most part, utilizing social media in our marketing strategy is crucial.
My goal is to try to offer one social media special per week to attract new clients and spark interest in my old clients. For the most part, it works. But even more so, my favorite part about social media is connecting with others, being able to share experiences, feelings and events, so that working from home for yourself is not as lonely as you can sometimes feel. It’s a big, big world out there, and there are a lot of great resources and colleagues that you can connect with on the ‘net.’
All in all, the thirty-day review that I conducted of myself was fairly successful. I agreed with myself that I would make some changes:
- Make more time for ME
- Make more time for my FAMILY
- Save some MONEY, if possible for ‘slow’ days
- Invest in a formal business CONTRACT document from a real LAWYER
- Drink “healthier coffee” and quit Starbucks because that stuff is expensive!
- Forge new business relationships weekly
- Ask for “help” when I need it
- Market one time per week at minimum
- Read a few books about customer service as a small-business owner
These are just suggestions, and most of them seemed to work for me. Find what you are lacking and set a few goals to make tomorrow brighter. Do not dwell on the past. Your current situation is nothing but a reflection of past experiences. Use every experience to make you stronger!
Entrepreneurship – my 60-day review
At sixty days, I took a good look back. I re-read my 30-day review goals and actually have followed them! I was happy to say that I finally think I can be “coached.” This time around, I really took some time to think about what I have changed since the first month. I believe what it was – and this was the most life changing – was that I learned how to open up and embrace my decision.
During the second month I really learned how to be more of “myself,” the artist that lies within. I also learned that people were watching me, praying for me, and secretly wondering how the hell I did this; how did JMH just walk off her job?
So it was around that time that I decided I might have to share this experience with the world. I was finally over the resentment, irritation and anger that I took with me when I quit my job. I was finally over the fact that owning a business was a piece of cake. I was also over the fact that some people seem to be in your corner, but then the more you get to know them, you realize you’re better off alone. I would say this was my ‘aha’ month, where things slowly started to settle in.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I still had a bit of growing up to do. My finances were still a little bit iffy and my customer service was on the mend, even though I still had a few run-ins with clients. What I did notice was that when obstacles hit me, I learned how to deal with them DEAD ON, rather than run away scared. When the enemy attacks, boy does it attack hard. However, one must train themselves to seek encouragement from within, and from others and to seek help when needed.
I dare you to seek truth from yourself. Be honest when you make a mistake, be courageous when you need to make a stand, be bold when you need to make an impression and be humble while surrounding yourself with people; you never know which ones will become your “angels” and which will become your “enemies.” If you follow these simple and faith-filled guidelines, you are sure to be protected when needed and be a blessing when others need you.
It was about this time when I started my greeting card line, “TEW,” because I knew that my experiences – although painful – were an inspiration to someone out there.
The 90-Day Review
Something happened at 90 days that I can hardly sum up in words. I hit a BRICK WALL like no other! Harder than the wall that I hit back when I “had” a job. For starters, I think I just forgot everything I taught myself in my 30 and 60-day reviews. Secondly, I think I forgot all of the lessons my dad taught me about business, and all of the confidence that my mom instilled in me as a child. I seemed to have lost track of my to-do list along with everything I was supposed to do every day for the family.
At this point in my brand new business I was starting to feel a bit suffocated. I received a call from a mentor not only looking for his designs, but also looking to see if I was “ok.” Basically, he told me, “JMH, do not forget these words … some of the most important words that you might hear in a while. DO NOT let growth kill you.”
Those words were like cream in my coffee. They were truly what I needed to hear because that is exactly what was happening to me. My business was growing exponentially, my clientele base was growing as well, and ultimately, my responsibilities were growing much larger than life.
I began to have some “growth” issues that only I could truly face and fix, and it had to be quick. During the few weeks prior, I had lost all sense of self and business control. I was harboring fear, I was masking a few painful experiences, and I was secretly stashing away all my confidence, because something was eating away at me.
I had to stop for a minute and really assess, process and digest what was going on. I was weeks behind on work, I was thousands behind on my “goal” for the month and I was eons behind on catching up with the family. I was BURIED ALIVE in my new business. This my friends, is what I called the ultimate “ENTREPRENEUR CRASH.” I would not wish this on anyone, and certainly would love to tell you how I got out of it (once I figure it out).
This crash was like nothing I have experienced before. I truly sum it up in my new website called: www.HelloiamAworkaholicTOOproudtoaskforhelpDOitallBymyselfbecauseIthinkIamsomekindofCrazySUPERWOMAN.com.
Well, that domain name was taken, so I couldn’t just design a website and throw it all out there on the live Internet. Instead, I had to sit, sulk, whine, cry, apply for jobs, drop clients, lose money and even more so, lose faith in myself and everything I had done thus far – until a few good peeps came and shook it out of me, or at least they tried real hard!
It was the next morning (Day 91) that the book, “The Entrepreneur Within” was birthed.
A book you ask? Well yes, I had to share this experience with someone real fast. I had to ensure that other entrepreneurs know that they are not alone! I had to encourage so many partners and friends around me because heck, they were there for me when I needed that boost. I had to create an outlet for others to freely share their journeys, whether happy, sad, rich, poor, humble, confident, scared or hopeless. I felt so many emotions as I stumbled upon this 90-day path that I could not hold it back any longer. It was then that I realized what I had to offer, someone else may need; or what I have to lose, someone else might replenish me. Perhaps, what I stand to WIN, someone else does too. In the end, an entrepreneur – or as many call us, solopreneurs – cannot go it alone.
You might be in your own business endeavor, but you cannot do it alone. Please stop people, look around you, embrace every last one of your biggest cheerleaders and thank them for riding out your journey with you. For clients that ever supported you, try to make them realize that you appreciate them because without them, you’d be back at the cube farm.
Surround yourself with greatness and create a resource out of yourself. You never know who may benefit from what you have to offer at any given moment.
Once I got over my CRASH, a few days later, I felt that I could face the world and conquer it. I felt that I could take my experiences and share them. I also felt that I was certainly not going to allow myself to harbor that same fear I’d harbored during the past month. Lastly, I felt that although 90 days is a long time, I would stand right back up and give myself another 90 days to make things right. What the hell was I thinking when I just applied for 12 JOBS?!
It was time to pick up and run like never before, but run faster, smarter and just a bit more strategically in the direction I had set out to run just 90 days prior.
That’s for sure!
* * * *
After working at seven different corporations during a 16-year span, Julie M. Holloway finally decided it was “time.” On October 28th, 2011 the Graphic Designer/Marketer, left her full time job to pursue her dream of running her own creative agency JMH Cre8ive Solutions. Holloway realized a strong need existed to help other entrepreneurs and those looking to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. The book is a collection of inspirational and practical business advice from Julie Holloway and 16 contributing writers who each pen a chapter on a variety of business topics and personal reflection. Contributors; Rhonda E. Alexander, Steve Amella, GaLonda Chatman , Beth Doyle Adam Jackson, Tiffany Jasper, Corliss Johnson, Shaniqua Jones, Nicole Knox Merry Marwig, Dana “The Loctician and Barber” Moten, Glenn Murray , Patrice N. Perkins, Q. Scott Riley , Anthony Lamar Smith, Danielle Willis . Foreword by Dr. Bernada Nicole Baker.
The 3-Year Review
About 4 years ago I found myself unemployed due to layoffs so I sat home and taught myself graphic design with a $50 piece of software purchased off craigslist! Soon thereafter, I was offered a position as the administrator to a very busy CEO. For three years, I was truly dragged and driven through a pile of mud. I stayed loyal and worked my tail off to collect a paycheck, ensure my family had insurance and for whatever other reasons, I do not know and do not wish to re-live. Although today I wish I had never taken that job, I am grateful because it ultimately led me to true entrepreneurship.
At years (three to be exact) and a few days passed, I found myself frozen in an absolute state of confusion. I could not believe that I allowed myself to be treated in such a way by an authority figure. My boss berated me on a regular and continual basis, he embarrassed me in staff meetings, he often called me out on having minimal amounts of common sense, told me I hadn’t done a thing since I started there three years prior except design ‘pretty well’, told me I was easily replaceable, told me he would surely find someone that would do my job and do it better, told me I helped others on my team too much, told me I took on too many responsibilities, he told me I didn’t even deserve the ‘cost of living’ adjustment on my three year review.
The Weekend After and all those “Why” Questions
The weekend after the big ‘3-year review day’ situation I could not explain to others why I remained loyal to this situation for as long as I did. I talked to many friends and family re-visiting the situation over and over to seek their input on whether or not I was the crazy one. I repeatedly told friends that I could not envision one more day on earth if I had to go to that job yet one more time. I could not wait for my escape day and decided that time would come very quickly. I was so happy that I finally realized that it was time to ‘unlock the treasure of my artistic gifts and become an entrepreneur full time’. I had heard it was the most amazing career anyone could ask for!
That day, my children played the Wii downstairs with my husband laughing and giggling while I sat upstairs in the “office” of JMH Art + Design Studio and cried silently for hours. Puddles of tears watered my shirt and sweat from my hands rested “frozen” on my keyboard. I needed someone to push me over the edge and say – go on, go forth with this decision that you have already made up in your mind.
As I sat there debilitated for hours at my desk with the intent to write a 10-page paper for my marketing course, I asked myself these questions: How did I get here? How did I get this far off the artistic track? Why is it that when I quit art school the year after high school, did I not pursue a career in the ‘arts’. Why, for years was I able to sell my paintings to family and friends, but never step into an art gallery and have them peep my work? Why have I designed hundreds of logos for ‘other people’s’ dreams, while not fully and whole-heartedly pursuing my own? Why, after teaching myself graphic design four years ago while sitting on unemployment did I not pursue that business full time, instead of taking another dreaded administrative support role? Why, while working a full time job, was I able to freelance as a designer and make a 50% increase in revenue for three years, was I not able to do this creative thing full time? Why did I have to find out after nearly feeling ‘dead’ inside?
In the midst of an absolute panic attack, I was finally able to answer all those questions. I was afraid. I realized at that very moment that the answer to all of these “why” questions was this: “only I have the key to unlock that treasure of mine called “the entrepreneur within”. Don’t get me wrong, I had just re-read through for the third time Unlock the Treasure and Discover the Princess Within by one of my BFF’s and life coaching friends, Bernada Baker however that book is for young girls and teens! That lil book truly had an inspiring effect on my soul that morning. The moment I realized and truly understood this concept of ‘unlocking’ all that stuff inside of you that you were meant to be when one is born I realized now was that time for me. So, what next? Prayer.
#TEW2012 – coming soon!