Tell us a bit about yourself and your business:
My name is Melanie and I’m a freelance writer, brand connector, and debt-busting enthusiast who writes at DearDebt. I provide fresh and engaging content for a variety of personal finance websites and love to connect people through events and social media. My two obsessions? Karaoke and Ceviche.
Why did you want to own your own business?
It sounds so cliche, but I started my own business to enjoy the freedom of doing what I love and creating my own schedule. That schedule is much busier than a standard 9 to 5, but I can also take naps, work whenever or wherever I want, and deal with things in my own time. I wanted to be able to really feel the fruits of my labor. In a traditional job, oftentimes whether you work hard or not, you will not get paid more for your effort. I have seen in a matter of months, that hard work can pay off directly. I’m also thrilled to be able to use my creativity in a new way and be able to try many different things.
When did you start the business?
I officially started freelancing a little over a year ago. I had a bit of a rough start, then didn’t try again for a few months. I let one bad experience affect me more than I should have, but then another opportunity came along and I knew I had to keep trying if I wanted to actually turn writing into a business. In a short time, I’ve really progressed more than I thought possible, but it was the fact that I started and kept going that really propelled things further.
What training/experience did you have in your business field before you started?
In some ways, I’ve had a lot of training and in other ways, none at all. In graduate school, I primarily wrote papers and was really able to hone my craft as a writer and find my voice. But I also rebelled against academic writing with my blog and was able to connect with myself and my creativity on a deeper level. In regards to personal finance, I often say that my emphasis is on the personal. A lot of my writing is centered around stories, people, and emotions. I really don’t think you can write about money without acknowledging the huge role our emotions play in our decisions.
I have also learned a lot through doing — it’s so scary not having all the answers, but doing and trying are immeasurably valuable.
What challenges did you face when starting up your business?
When I first started, I had the typical challenges of not really knowing where or how to get started. And once I did get started, I realized quickly that I needed a thick skin. My first paid assignment left a bad taste in my mouth as my work was so heavily edited that I didn’t recognize my voice. I was wondering “Is everyone like this or is it just me?” For a long time, I took it very personally. I realized the importance of communication and knowing who your ideal client is. I also learned to not let one bad experience keep you from exploring other opportunities!
In the beginning, I also struggled with time management because I was working full-time. That’s still a challenge for me and I work hard to be my most productive self. It’s a whole other ball game working from home, by yourself, and having no one tell you what to do.
How long did you have to run the business before you saw a profit?
I have a very low overhead, as I simply need a computer and internet to write, so early on I had a profit margin. Nothing to write home about though (ha!). That took a while to build and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.
How did the business startup affect your marriage/family?
When I was working full-time and growing my business, I was working about 80 hours a week. I was so tired, and stressed, and still learning so much that it definitely took a toll on my relationship and my health. I was working so hard so that I could reach that moment of leaving my job. I made the leap into self-employment shortly after that bout of burnout. I knew I couldn’t keep up at that pace and keep my relationship, so we worked together and I did it. I quit! My relationship drastically improved and so did my health. That first month on my own I was wildy exhausted and recovering from those previous months of sleeping 4-6 hours a night. I indulged myself in a lot of naps and am happy to report I don’t need them anymore.
What’s the best thing entrepreneurship has done for you?
Entrepreneurship has given me confidence and also shown me the power of ideas. I’ve had some amazing things happen simply from an idea I pitched, that I thought would turn into nothing. Ideas are so powerful and in this world, our creativity is stifled. Being my own boss teaches me that my ideas are my greatest asset.
What lessons have you learned about entrepreneurship along the way?
I’ve learned that ideas are powerful and you never know where a relationship will lead you. Some of my best experiences came from people I met on Twitter. I’ve also learned that you have to stay strong as there will be times when you feel like you want to give up, or like you are lonely. Then something amazing happens that makes it all worth it! So for me, I’ve learned to cultivate the work and know that I’m planting the seeds for a better future. You don’t see results right away, but action leads to progress.
What advice do you have for those considering entrepreneurship?
Hone your skills and focus on who you are and what you can offer that is uniquely you. Don’t get obsessed with learning too much from the experts. They are great to learn from, but can detract you from taking action. Bootstrap your business until you are seeing a serious profit. Most importantly, find a mentor and a community of like-minded individuals.
To learn more about Melanie’s journey to debt freedom and her business as a self-employed freelance writer, you can visit her at her blog, Dear Debt.