This is “How I Made My First $10,000,” a new, ongoing feature that gives all of us a glimpse at how other solopreneurs hit the challenging $10k milestone. If you would like to be the “How I Made My First $10,000,” please send me an email.
Name of solopreneur:
Name of business and city:
Selena Templeton, freelance writer/editor
Type of business:
Why did you start your own business?
Just before the recession of 2008 I was laid off from the last 9-5 job I ever had. I was a little scared, but more than that I felt free for the first time in my life. So with a severance package plus a pretty nice tax refund, I decided that I was going to do everything I could to work for myself on a freelance basis with the one skill I had no doubt about: writing. I’d been writing my whole life (stories, novels, screenplays, fake press releases about myself, to-do lists; anything!) so that was never an issue. But I never quite knew how to get started professionally. And then suddenly I found myself getting booted out of a job. Like they say, the universe often does for you what you cannot do for yourself. Some people thrive on a daily work schedule, a regular paycheck, and an office full of other human beings. Some people thrive on a schedule that is always changing, the chance to make a lot of money in bursts, and a quiet home office where you can work in your pajamas. I am most definitely the latter. Especially the pajamas part.
What worked — and didn’t work — for landing new clients/customers?
You know, I’m still figuring that out! At first I scoured many different websites for writing work — everything from The Creative Circle to Craigslist — and got some freelance work from my old employer. And then for a while I got most of my new clients from referrals and word-of-mouth. And now that I’ve been working the social media platforms and doing more networking, I’ve been getting work that way, too. I think the biggest thing I’ve come to understand about getting new clients is that the results of one’s methods are not always linear and consistent. At least they aren’t for me. What worked last year may not be as fruitful this year. So it’s good to always brainstorm and network with other freelancers and generally keep your ears open for new ideas and opportunities.
Describe your support system when the business started.
Quite frankly, my support system looked like a ghost town when I first started. I didn’t know any freelance writers (or freelance anything, come to think of it), so I didn’t have a model of how to do it or a support network to whom I could go for advice and feedback. In fact, I don’t think I even told my friends and family! I was afraid people would shoot down my dreams and I couldn’t afford to have my hope dashed.
How long did it take for you to reach $10,000?
Fifty years! Kidding. Probably around three years because the first year or two I was doing a lot of writing for free or for ridiculously low fees just to build up a portfolio. And because I didn’t reach out for help, it took me two or three times longer to do anything than it would now. You know that story of the tortoise and the hare? Well I’m like the tortoise. He was off to a slow start, but with steady progress and an unwillingness to give up, he made it to the finish line.
What would you have done differently?
I would have gotten help. I would have reached out more. I would have asked questions. I would have told more people what I do and how I could be of service to them. I would have queried more writers about how they got started. I would have joined more groups. Basically, I just would have put myself out there more. Now when I strike up a conversation with a stranger in a coffee shop, I almost always trade business cards with them.
What was the best thing you did on the way to $10,000?
Surrounded myself with fellow writers, editors, and other freelancers. When I realized I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel, and nor did I have to go at this alone — that was the best thing I “did.”
What’s the biggest mistake you made on the way to $10,000?
This may sound like a cop-out answer, but I didn’t believe in myself. That was my biggest mistake. Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” Here’s another way to put it: in quantum physics the law of attraction states that like attracts like, energetically speaking. So if you believe that you will fail, you attract people, situations and thoughts that back that belief.
How did you deal with fear/uncertainty?
Hoo-boy! How much time have you got? Lol. I would rephrase this question to: how do you deal with fear/uncertainty? Because it’s an ongoing thing. And here’s the secret: the fear never goes away, you only learn how to manage it. So how do I deal with it? Meditation, exercise, making phone calls to my support system, reading inspiring books, articles and blogs about others who are in similar situations and, of course, occasional denial and chocolate binges. And then I imagine having to take a 9-5 job again, and suddenly the fear dissipates and I dive into whatever I need to do!
Did you ever consider quitting?
Every morning. And then every night I’m glad I didn’t.
What’s your advice for aspiring and brand-new solopreneurs?
First of all, write down your goals. Everything. Write a list of all your skills, write a list of every way you’ve ever made money, and write a list of everything you want to do. Getting it out of the abstract abyss of your mind and down on paper in a black and white, tangible form is very powerful. Clarity is key.
Second of all, reach out to people. Don’t try to scale Everest alone without an oxygen tank and packets of freeze-dried food! Ask for help, ideas and direction. Ask friends, colleagues and strangers. Watch how others are doing it, read how others are doing it, talk to others who are doing it.
And third: don’t give up. When someone once asked me how long I intended to pursue a writing career, I answered, “Until I make it.”