ENTREPRENEURSHIP / FEB. 24, 2014
version 3, draft 3

Starting Your Own Business - My Story

It remains to be seen if this experiment is going to work, I say to myself, one night, twirling a pen in my hand like a ninja star. It’s got all the makings of a great tale, full of risk and adventure, triumphs and failure. The ending, however, has not yet been written and that intrigues me quite a bit.

In January 2014, I started my own business. It was only surprising in the amount of time it took to actually start my own business. I had been disabled for a good ton of whatever and struggled to hold down a normal, structured, boring, routine job.

So, in January, after another abysmal failure, this one at a pizza shop, I said to myself: Why not start your own business? The hours would be good, the vacation time great, and most importantly you can wear pajamas all day every day. It was a win-win-win situation, as I’d like to say.

Then the rush was on. Get a website here, get a portfolio there! What would I write about? Anything and everything, I cried. Journalism articles would be postmarked ‘J’ and commercial writing projects would have folders of their own. It would be grand.

But, alas, that first wall came up hard and quick. I had this grand plan to approach businesses with a plan to increase their revenue through my writing but I had significant anxiety approaching a single business. My website took longer and longer to perfect, the articles coming in slower than I had expected. My enthusiasm was worn out.

Still, I, like many entrepreneurs, put on a good face for the crowd. Everything was going swimmingly, I told family and friends, although I struggled to put one letter in front of the other. I was working multiple hours a day (opposed to that dreadful single hour) and in competition for project after project.

An exaggeration to be sure. I was receiving minimal contacts from publishers and magazines and companies that needed bloggers. I knew my writing skills were top-notch. Could the competition really be better?

Every entrepreneur needs commitment, both in personal resources and financial resources, and due to my dismal failures at other more socially acceptable professions, I was running out of both. I had to sit myself down and really think—how could I make this better?

Then it clicked. I needed to simplify my product, which in this case was my writing service, and target my message to specific audiences, rather than carpet bomb everyone with applications and proposals. I needed, in other words, to adapt to the market, rather than have the market adapt to me.

And there came the first breakthrough. Everyone was competing for national online jobs, many of them far better writers than me. I needed something that would differentiate me from the crowd and I realized that that would be my crowd!

To whit: I live in Champaign, Illinois, the home of corn not quite sweet. And I knew then who would be my target audience.

I don’t think it was a coincidence that soon after that breakthrough, I found my first paying job as a staff writer for a local magazine. I was assigned to the news and culture beat and took on stories that other people wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot wiffle bat. It gave me energy, enthusiasm, a sense of purpose.

For a freelance writer, that first paying job is crucial. It signals like to the fiction writer who has his or her first story accepted that, yes, I can compete. I am worth something in this digital publishing age.

There have been failures and successes and I have to admit that things have been rough. Not having a steady paycheck can be difficult while working for yourself can be super awesomely cool. But that vacation time? Nah, see you next year. Dream of working on the beach and picking up WiFi from a local coffee shack? Er, maybe three years from now.

But they’re still dreams. And although two months is egregiously early for hanging in their messages, I want to declare that I’m hanging in there and that’s that.

Overall, I feel like the first twelve, twenty-four, forever months of a new business is a steep learning curve. It’s like being thrown into a brand new school again where everybody knows everybody and no one wants to chill with the new kid, except in the freelance writing game people are willing to claw each other’s faces off for a job.

It’s still fun though and I get to do what I love, which is write.

Speaking of, since you’ve made it this far, what’s your story? Are you an entrepreneur starting out or well-seasoned? A freelance writer or another man (or woman) of mystery? Let me know! I love stories, and there’s always another out there waiting to be told.

 

Image source: www.startups.co.uk

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