For this customer spotlight we focus on independent business consultant Jason Scott Montoya. You can follow Jason's work on his website.
What do you do for a living, and why did you make the jump to self-employment?
I work as a freelance consultant with small business owners to move their digital marketplace companies forward. I focus on improving revenue, growing teams, and evolving the CEO while also helping to simplify and streamline their business. The goal is to turn their chaotic organization into a well-oiled and working machine. In 2014, I shut down my marketing agency (read the story) and was not sure what my next vocational move was going to be. During the shut down process, I had multiple business leaders reach out to me asking for guidance and support in their organization and within a month of shutting the company down, I had eight projects on my plate. I was now freelancing. Eight months later, this stream never ended and I made the decision to embrace freelancing as my full time vocation. A year later, I was coaching other freelancers on how to succeed, and in April of 2017, I wrote a book called Path of the Freelancer: An Actionable Guide To Flourishing In Freelancing to help freelancers in their respective journeys.
What's a big challenge you've had with running your own business, and how did you overcome it?
Honestly, the biggest challenges I faced running a business came during the years running my marketing company. I was able to learn the hard lessons before making the jump and I simply applied these insights in my freelancing journey as the different obstacles came my way. These included discovering a system for working with my clients, my service offering, building consistency with my income, managing my money well, and unifying my personal and working lives. Now that I've established a few years of sustainable and regular income, I'm focusing on establishing and growing financial and time margin personally. We're on the tail end (18 months left) of paying off almost $150k in student loans and our minivan (+$25k). To do this requires I sustain a high level of performance in my freelancing work, but it is draining to "HAVE TO" perform at this level to survive. By paying off both of these obligations, we'll have another $3,000/month worth of financial margin for giving, investing, and spending. This will release some of the burdens with my freelance consulting and give me margin to explore my side projects. Knowing I've got eighteen months of high-level performance remaining, my challenge is balancing time to rest and release throughout this so I can realistically accomplish my goals without burning myself out. I cut off my work each day and on the weekends as well as taking 'me days' each month during the week to keep myself fueled for the journey. In December of each year, I take a break from blogging and social media activity to provide additional time margin for myself. By increasing my hourly rate this year by $5/hour to $90/hour, I can work a little less and earn the same income. This will help me lean into a better pacing for my work.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out on the journey of running their own business?
Get fully committed to the business, define your intentions (Why? Where? How? Within?) for doing it, how much money you need to live the life you want, and get clear on what service or product you'll offer. With this foundation, be prepared to get active networking, meeting people, and building relationships. We can't do it alone, so make sure you have a community around you to help make it happen. As you grow, allow it to happen organically, and don't fall prey to the distractions that there is an easier way or you can be successful without the hard work and grit required.
What quality, habit, or decision has contributed to the success of your business?
I found and discovered my Focus Metric, which for me is the target that fuels all other activities required for success in my business. My Focus Metric is the number of billable hours logged. Here's my Focus Metric target for each time-frame: Annual = 1,560 hours; Monthly = 130 hours; Weekly = 30 hours; Daily = 6 hours. Every day, week, month and year I know where I stand. By tracking it each day and week, I can make little changes quickly to alter the course of the month and year. I've also tied actions on how I get more hours so when I'm low, I simply execute those actions instead of panicking.
How has Harpoon helped you as a business owner?
Harpoon has made my life as a freelancer easier and better. There are numerous strategies I take in my work, and I was thrilled to learn that their software aligns with these strategies. For example, Harpoon recommends you start by designating what you want your annual income to be and we work our way backward from there. This is something I was doing before using them, so to have a software align this precisely was exciting. They also automatically send reminders for late invoices up to three times, and this too was something I was doing, but manually. Harpoon now saves me time collecting money. Their scheduling tool shows me what money I can expect to collect for the month and year based on what's been paid, invoices and upcoming recurring invoices. I'm also thrilled to have the simple forecasting tools that project how much income I can expect for the year based on the trends so far. This allows me to see how close or far away I am from my annual goals, and proactively make adjustments.
You can find Jason blogging regularly at JasonScottMontoya.com where he shares stories and systems to live better and work smarter. You can also find a library of terrific resources for freelancers at PathOfTheFreelancer.com. Check out Jason's services if you're interested in working together. You can also follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Thanks Jason!