Tell us a bit about yourself and your business.
I’m a freelance video editor and blogger living in Los Angeles. I grew up in Detroit and moved to Seattle when I was 25. I lived there for eight years before my company at the time relocated me to LA, where I’ve been since 2003. In 2008, my company was bought out, so I lost my full time job, and since it was the start of the recession, I decided to freelance until I found a full time job. Here I am almost seven years later and I’m still freelancing. My video freelancing site is called Tonya Designs, and my blog is called Budget and the Beach. In my spare time I love playing beach volleyball and running, and last year I learned how to play the ukulele, which I love!
Why did you want to own your own business?
I think I always had it in the back of my mind that working for myself would be cool, but when I was working full time I never had the guts to take the plunge. Being sort of forced into it with the layoff was certainly one way to start. It might not have been ideal, but I might not have tried it otherwise.
When did you start the business?
I started video freelancing in 2008, but started blogging as a business in 2012.
What training/experience did you have in your business field before you started?
With video editing I’ve been doing it since I was in high school, and I got a degree in Television Production in college. I’ve always loved to write, and have had many blogs in the past, but Budget and the Beach was my first serious go at making income from a blog. Everything I learned was by throwing things to the wall to see what stuck. But I’ve also had many great mentors along the way to guide me, so for that I’m thankful.
What challenges did you face when starting up your business?
Since I was an “unexpected freelancer,” I never had any kind of structure or education of what it takes to run a business when I first started. To this day I’m still learning as I go. I also was mismanaging my money and didn’t follow a budget, so much of the money I’d saved (aside from my retirement accounts) was slowly dwindling. I also didn’t make as much of an effort at first to go after things. I just wasn’t used to it, so I waited for things to come to me, which was a huge mistake. I could seriously write a book on mistakes I’ve made as a freelancer.
How long did you have to run the business before you saw a profit?
I made a profit in my very first month – a great profit! But then the following two months were dismal, and honestly, it’s been up and down like that for all of the 7+ years now that I’ve been freelancing. I have very low overhead for my business, which is great, but as a freelancer your income ebbs and flows. I’ve had amazing months, and some very slow months.
What’s the best thing entrepreneurship has done for you?
I really love the flexibility and being able to work from home. I’ve had the freedom to explore different ways of earning income, and I’ve come to the realization that there is no ceiling. The potential to earn a big income is completely possible…you just have to have the passion. and put in the time and hard work to make that happen.
What lessons have you learned about entrepreneurship along the way?
I’ve learned that having a big financial cushion is a great way to feel less stress about freelancing or being an entrepreneur. You also sometimes have to be bold and take some big (but calculated) risks…you can’t just sit back and play it safe or your business is unlikely to grow. I’ve also learned that I need to be a serious goal-setter and keep marketing myself and strategizing to grow my business. I recently took a big chance and launched a crowdfunding campaign to try and raise money to produce more videos for my website. It’s scary, but being bold is part of being an entrepreneur.
Also, I think people who want to take a shot at entrepreneurship need to redefine what they think of as success. To some, success means making decent money. Your business may or may not fit that definition of success. For me, I consider myself a success because I’m supporting myself by doing what I love, by doing my own thing. This is my definition of successful, even if the income isn’t as much as I want it to be some months. I can’t imagine going back to working at a job that I don’t like simply to have a steady paycheck.
What advice do you have for those considering entrepreneurship?
Like I said, I could write a book on this topic, so to narrow it down I’ll say if you are thinking of becoming an entrepreneur or freelancer, practice while you still have a full time job. Read everything you can about how to do it, and save a ton of money. I would say live on half of your full time income for a year and see how that sits for you. If you are uncomfortable with risk, it may not be the best option for you. It can be a serious roller coaster ride!