What do you do for a living, and why did you make the jump to self-employment?
I'm a freelance graphic designer. I became self-employed because after working in a few agencies I quickly felt that I was being too passionate to fit a hierarchical structure. Next to that, I didn't like not having any control over what I could execute and what not. Now I have the power to go an extra mile here and there if I think the project's worth it. I was also too eager to talk to clients directly because I value direct feedback enormously. I always want to hear it in the exact same way as it's meant to be, even if that implies decoding their feelings sometimes. Because I like guiding and trying to make clients understand their own brand.
What’s a big challenge you’ve had with running your own business, and how did you overcome it?
Starting out with zero clients. My last job didn't allow freelancing after hours, so I didn't really have the chance to slowly build up my client base. Ironically that was even another reason to become self-employed. But I only did it from the moment I applied to a freelance job and got in. It wasn't really something big or contracted, so I was basically still taking a big risk. But I felt so demotivated that I had to something. I simply had to "break free" at any cost. And I believe it doesn't matter if you start out with no clients because I'm now sure of the fact that's only a bonus.
What advice would you give to those who are just starting out on the journey of running their own businesses?
Never ever lower your standards to get any job, because you'll be having a hard time trying to explain to new clients that your rates were way too low for previous clients. You will want to at least embed an accountant, a great invoicing tool like Harpoon, a project management tool like Asana and Google Apps are also a great starting kit (endless e-mail storage, back-ups in the cloud and a good calendar system). Be open for meetings with anyone and not just job opportunities. You want to make as many connections as possible, and in order to be authentic, you need to be more willing to seed than to harvest.
Where would you like your business to be three years from now?
When I started out I just wanted to work alone day in and day out, but in the meantime, I've started to enjoy working along with other freelancers. Today I even scheduled a meeting with someone looking for an internship. Funny thing because I'd never thought I'd be that far already last year. It's a real breeze to learn from others and be able to talk or do business with likeminded people. Next to that, it's important to get feedback from someone else than your clients once in a while. I didn't see myself as a "business woman" or "entrepreneur" when I started out, but it's been a real boost for my self-confidence just outsourcing stuff, making other freelancers happy while learning how everything works. I don't want to be a project manager, though, and I don't have the ambition of starting an agency (yet), but it'd be nice to have someone who can do that for me in a few years.
What quality, habit, or decision has contributed to the success of your business?
Definitely my perseverance and self-awareness. For me, it's very important to discuss business and to have a few people who can be my soundboard. Thanks to them, I know that I am very driven and not easily pulled off my tracks. As long as I know where I want to go. I really need to feel like I'm moving all the time, so I keep learning, keep thinking about my course and how to improve my skills.