This is “Featured Soloist,” a feature that appears every Tuesday at The Solopreneur Life.
The purpose of “Featured Soloist” is to give all of us a glimpse at how other solopreneurs operate their small businesses. This week we meet Tzaddi Gordon, a Web designer based in British Columbia. If you would like to be the “Featured Soloist,” please send me an e-mail, Larry@TheSolopreneurLife.com.
Name of solopreneur:
Name of business and city:
ThriveWire Media, Sunshine Coast, British Columbia (north of Vancouver)
Web site address:
Type of business:
When did you officially go into business?
I began freelancing part time in 2004, and full time in 2007. After much soul-searching I branded the business as ThriveWire in 2009.
Why did you start your own business?
Creativity and freedom: to be able to move out of the city and to balance design work with making art. (I’m still working on the balance part!) I also needed new challenges and to grow my skills in new ways after years of working on Web sites for a large telco.
What was the best thing you did when you were starting up your business?
I subcontracted with a friend who already had a successful business. I learned a lot about business from working closely with her in my early years of freelancing. Her informal mentorship was immensely valuable and gave me a great jump-start on building a network.
What is a mistake that you made that you have learned from?
Not making enough time to work ON the business and to relax. I’ve always put my clients first and I’ve come to realize that if you neglect the needs of your business or yourself then it’s a disservice to the clients in the long run. It’s another thing I’m still working on.
What is your biggest current challenge in the business and what are doing to try to solve it?
Scalability. As Charlie Gilkey says, we have only so much Time Energy and Attention (TEA), and as my business grows I’ve been feeling the limits of mine. I’ve used several tactics to address this:
• getting better at filtering prospective projects
• increasing the price of my custom design work to align with demand and the TEA involved
• subcontracting more than I used to. I love my craft and working with my clients so my challenge has been figuring out what I can delegate and what each contractor is best suited for.
What are your main software programs?
Typical designer programs like Photoshop and Coda. Also WordPress, which I’ve used to build Web sites for about five years now.
What lifestyle choices have you had to make to stay in business?
The form of my business and my lifestyle choices go hand in hand. I wanted to move out of the city. Working from home in a rural area means my daily expenses are lower than they were in a city life of commuting and working in a big corporation. Therefore it’s O.K. to earn less than I used to. I’m sure I could earn a lot more if I wanted to do business differently, but I care more about the kind of work I’m doing and my values than I do the money.
If you could start your career all over again, what would you do differently? Why?
I wish I had studied more 2D media and graphic design while I was at art school. It wasn’t until I fell in love with the Web in the late 1990s that I decided to go into design. I mostly studied sculpture and ceramics (both of which I love dearly), but it meant I didn’t study some design fundamentals like typography until much later. Plus, I think it was a mistake to miss out on all those beautiful printmaking facilities.
If your business should fail, what is your fall-back position?
I don’t have a fall-back position. The only failure I can imagine is if I failed to evolve the business. Businesses are living things that must adapt over time, just like Web sites. It’s a good thing I’m wired for learning and challenges!
What’s your advice for aspiring solopreneurs?
1. Make friends with your “competition.” Maybe start out by working for them, as I did. You will learn so much from each other and build such a stronger network that way. Ideally you’ll be different enough from each other that you’re not really competitors anyway. Even if you’re one of thousands who do “X” generally, you’re YOU. The people you should be working with will gravitate toward you or a competitor naturally.
2. Become great at networking in whatever form makes sense for you. It could be in social media or blogging, or at live events. Build a strong network (not necessarily a big one). Your network is your business’s lifeblood in so many ways.
Are you glad you became a solopreneur? Why or why not?
YES! I love to learn and do meaningful work. As a solopreneur I’m doing both every day, even with tasks that might not feel like it on the surface. It’s extremely satisfying to help people follow their dreams and make the world a better place.