Going forward, I'm going to be changing things up a bit more with these blog posts, and I'd love to know what you think below! I've been talking a whole lot about myself in the past, and I'd like to put the focus on YOU instead. You are the ones who help keep me going forward, so it's time to honor YOU! This month, I figured it'd be best to combine my experiences this month with a bit about practical bits of advice for budding entrepreneurs. Again, this is purely my opinion, but this a list of 6 things that I feel help leap into building one's own business/brand.
1.) Have 4-6 Months Worth of Savings (If Jumping in Exclusively as an Entrepreneur)
For most people, the issue and the fear of completely transitioning into a freelance or self-employed business is based on cash flow (or lack thereof). This is an honest concern, and one that while it shouldn't hold you back from pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams, should be considered. In freelance work, I've discovered that peaks and valleys are normal, but there are ways to mitigate them. Transitioning into self-employment, you are most likely going to incur some losses as you transition from the comfort of a weekly-bi-weekly check to consistently working on your own. If you are looking to move into entrepreneurship full-time, I would recommend having AT THE VERY LEAST 4 (four) months worth of personal savings in your personal account. This cushion allows for the inevitable losses that you will incur (startup costs like potentially renting space, buying updated technologies if your industry requires it, building your brand and establishing yourself, buying product and materials, etc), while also allowing for the standard costs of living. Of course, you can also pick up a part time job while you build your portfolio or services, and there is NOTHING wrong with that too!
2.) Know What You Are Looking to Sell/Service
This MAY sound silly, but once you're in the thick of working towards establishing your brand, it's very easy to get lost in doing the work and not realizing what exactly you are trying to sell. Focusing your brand and identifying the products and services you excel at should be the first thing you devote your energy to. Knowing what your dominant streams of income are and when to tap into them is crucial. I, for example, sell books, but I also: teach, run workshops, offer reading presentations, do public speaking presentations, offer consultation, take short illustration/character design commission work, and illustrate for other large-scale projects as well. Since I've been able to focus my vision and my brand, I've been able to secure more work and consistent clientele, because I know exactly where to look.
3.) Research Your State's Tax Guidelines
I am not naturally math-oriented, so the very thought of taxes makes my stomach bunch up in knots. Knowing sales tax in your state and establishing yourself as a business entity, however, is an important step. Identify what type of business entity you would like to establish. I identify as a "sole proprietorship", primarily because I don't have any employees, and the work I do does not necessarily leave me vulnerable to lawsuits and claims against me. Research business entities to identify which is most appropriate for you. There are LLC's, C-Corps, S-Corps, all with different requirements and tax documentation processes. Each state also has its own guidelines regarding sales tax, and a quick search in Google with: EX: "sales tax NJ" will yield a ton of helpful, official resources. Establishing your business entity also requires a bank account specifically set up for your business, (which will make things MUCH easier come tax time). Along with establishing the aforementioned points, you also should strongly consider establishing an EIN number. This serves as your business' social security number, and is what I always use in lieu of my actual Social Security Number. It protects your identity while also showing the IRS that you are in serious business.
4.) Connect with Other Local Businesses
Even if the work you do is mostly done alone, the human connection is still crucial. Looking at similar local businesses and reaching out for potential ways to collaborate or even with questions is a great start. They are always excited to see other local entrepreneurs and most (if not all) will be glad to lend their expertise or see how you might partner together. I've gotten much of my work opportunities by partnering with local schools and organizations who would benefit from my work. Going in with the mindset of making friends and "what can I give" instead of "what can I get" also helps a great deal. Everyone likes someone who can add value to their life in some form or fashion, and being genuinely interested in what this person or org. does is a good foundation.
5.) DO NOT BE AFRAID TO CHARGE WHAT YOU ARE WORTH. (And again for the folks in the back)
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but one of my biggest hurdles when I first started was being afraid that I'd drive clients away by charging the value of my work. Put very simply you, like everyone else, deserve to get paid for what you are good at and are putting yourself out there for. You've worked hard to get to where you are proficient enough to sell your work, and you are providing a valuable service or product. Own that! Beyond that, charging less than the market value for what you are worth undermines your peers. When and if someone has a lowball idea of what to pay for similar work, they may demand similarly from others in your industry.
6.) Be Geuine(ly) Kind
This one goes without saying, but more than anything else, I've found that being genuine and kind has provided me with more opportunities than any other "hard" skill. People remember someone who smiles and makes them feel welcome. The vast majority of people are drawn to positivity and authenticity, and the especially sensitive can easily tell when you are working and coming from the heart. I'm naturally outgoing, so that works in my favor, but the most rewarding relationships have come from where I have become legitimate friends with contacts. Even for the folks who are more introverted, just simply be more selective and intentional with your meeting! With everyone I meet, I try and find common ground for us to build upon. If it's not there I don't force it, but always maintain that kindness. A smile and goodwill go a long way. :)
That's it for my points for the day, but I hope that it's helped someone get the confidence to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams! It's definitely within reach. :)
All of this leads me to what ACTUALLY happened this August! This month I had the pleasure of expanding my brand on two occasions, both of which were major and quite exciting. The first was the opportunity to do a book signing at Classics Books in Downtown Trenton, NJ. It's a cozy bookstore nestled in the heart of Trenton, owned by Eric and Donna Maywar! They both welcomed me with open arms, and I'm happy to report that I made a SLEW of new friends and supporters! They all were pleased with the work, a few traveling just to see ME! One person in particular was my best friend's stepmother who came from North Carolina and stopped by just to see me! I was absolutely blown away. An incredible feeling and an incredible day for sure. :) Thank you!
Of course, I also had the opportunity to be interviewed by Della Crews of News 12 New Jersey! Della Crews was incredibly warm and inviting, and the interview went by without a hitch. Beforehand, we toured the studio and learned a bit about what makes one tick. Really unbelievable what goes into what we take for granted every day! You can check out the interview on my Press page here too!
I hope the last bit of summer treated you well, and I look forward to talking to you all soon! Leave comments below for some feedback or just to say "HEYYYY!"