Did you know one of my first businesses was called Network This and what I did was install Cat5 cables in mouse infested attics?
Yes, I'm serious.
I did this at night, after my day job, in the dark. Alone.
I had a website, and a Myspace page and my goal was to become a CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert). I remember thinking yes this is how I'll make big money! The reason I started this biz was I wanted to do something different and to challenge the status quo. Back at that time (wow, around 2002-2004 maybe?) there were zero women doing this type of work. I was in school to be a Network Engineer and was the only woman to graduate in my class. (with honors baby!)
About a year into the biz I realized I wanted to get out of the attics and back into a desk, but I needed something more creative. I was tired of crawling around attics. It was at that time that I dove into coding for more than just creating ascii middle fingers. You see I never even THOUGHT designing websites was an option for me. I perceived myself as a non-creative set of hands and didn't believe I could do it.
So I took on a small website gig, with the help of a friend and we made $2200 on a static HTML website for a small law firm. At the time, this was 5X more than I made per hour in my Networking business and I was sold.
Since that time I've created hundreds of websites ranging from small starter sites to larger ecommerce/corporate ones. I even ran my own multi-designer firm called MageCreates for a bit too!
The point of my story? I want you see that no business starts off perfect and we all evolve. Sometimes we start our business adventures out because we have to pay the bills (or make extra cash to make ends meet), and it looks different for all of us. As we gain more wisdom, our businesses change into something more connected to who we are, and what we want to offer.
To celebrate the many faces of my business journey I decided to write down some of the things that helped me just get started.
First up, the website:
- When I first started out I used Bluehost because it was cheap and easy. (Psst from Thursday, May 19, through Friday May 20 at 11:59 PM (MT), my readers can enjoy hosting for as low as $2.95/mo for 36 months. That's over 60% off!). They've since been bought out and while I dig them for starters, I tend to lean towards Siteground for beefier sites. If you need help choosing a host, ping me!
- My first website was a static HTML site and my second one, for Mage Creates, was built on WordPress.org. I used a free template and basically fumbled my way though it. Doing this helped me learn WordPress.org as a platform and then I was able to build these sites for others! Back then I offered a 'Start me up' offer where I setup a basic template + hosting + domain name for people for $295 and for nostalgia purposes I'm bringing this offer back for a limited time! Click here to learn more. This is for people who just needed a starting place.
- Back then, I wasn't as well versed in Adobe products as I am now, and we didn't have Canva, so I used GIMP which is sort of like a free version of Photoshop. Now a days I'd suggest using Canva or Picmonkey (or any of the upteen million online photo/graphic creation software out there.) or just paying monthly for the Adobe Suite and then using Lynda.com or Youtube to educate yourself. There is also the option of buying graphics from designers on Fiverr, 99Designs, or places like Upwork.
- In terms of what I offered, again, I had zerooooo people to consult so I literally just threw up a services page and made up a bunch of stuff LOL! I wasn't able to find my old Network This site on Wayback, but I did find the last version of my design business website from 2011. Check out that terrible logo! Proof you don't need a perfect website to pull in the dollars yo.
- I didn't have Leadpages or anything fancy, I literally had a free Mailchimp account that I used to keep in touch with my clients. I didn't do any telsummits, I didn't blog much, and I was rarely interviewed. Ending list #'s in my just getting started phase? 467 people.
Why the website first? Because people need to FIND YOU. Think of your website as your house. And no you don't need a perfect, $5,000 website to start off with. The visual representation of your business is such a personal thing. Don't let anyone tell you what you need, do the research and decide based on where you are, your budget, and where you are going. At the end of the day YOU have to feel comfortable with what you are doing and spending.
So while I had a website, I didn't really have a clue as to how to run a business. I mean I had been doing business because I made money but did I really KNOW business. NOPE. I did NOT have a business degree, in fact I slept through most of college (and was a high school dropout). That's when I started googling work from home jobs and found the website Elance (now known as Upwork) and that's where I found my first 'VA' gig.
Now, I do want to mention that I struggled with some shame in regards to being a virtual assistant.(Incredibly ridiculous looking back) I had a pretty slick day job at the time but I felt like my soul was dying every time I walked into that cube farm. I had began to build a reputation as the go to techie for everything and my family seemed proud. I was a girl from South Florida who pretty much climbed her way out of several hot messes. So imagine the first time I told them that my side business was a combination of IT stuff plus administrative assistant gigs. I got over the shame quickly and realized I could live the life I wanted by balancing these two skills to perfection.
I had a business because I recognized there was a need for both tech and admin help. I've never been a 'put all your eggs in one basket' kind of woman and this was how I survived all of these years of being in business.
I always had a writing gig or two that I was juggling, usually found on ProBlogger's job board. I even took odd jobs doing customer service/chat part-time when business was slow.
You see back when I started, there were no Facebook groups, there were only a handful of coaches and the only ones charging $2000 for courses were colleges and Tony Robbins. I never experienced FOMO because I was happy for the adventure and I was able to feel my way through the dark, without much overhead/spending.
And this, is just part of the story on how I started my entrepreneurial adventure. So tell me, where are you in your journey and how can I help you get to your next destination?