|There were times I really needed these.|
I’ve had a pretty varied work history. Not all of it was pleasant. Hey, we all have to start somewhere.
When I was in high school I started out as a typist for my Dad’s summer theatre group. I took the marked up copy of the play and composed the director’s notes into legible copy. It wasn’t particularly demanding, just hideously boring.
The pay was crap but with some help I managed to buy my first car — a bright orangey red Plymouth Horizon TC3. In the winter the doors would freeze and I would have to climb in through the hatchback. I loved this car!
After that I was a demonstrator for a national grocery chain. This meant microwaving food and shilling it to the masses. Other than popcorn or leftovers microwaveable food should be outlawed on the grounds of lacking any good taste, but it would always be the same crowd coming in every week for the free eats.
I’m not sure how good a marketing ploy it was for these companies, but folks on a limited income sure loved taste testing. I’d mark down their comments and send feedback to the managers while their ideal clients, the upper middle class, would steadfastly always choose to ignore the sample counter.
My favourite day was when a blind lady came up to me and kept calling me Rose even though I tried repeatedly to correct her.
“You sound like a Rose,” she said.
|Not even CLOSE to a rose. I'm @tygerlylly on Twitter.|
“I’ve always thought roses were supposed to be more flowery. I’m pretty direct.”
“You remind me of a teacher I had. Her name was Rose, too. She was my favourite teacher.”
“My name isn’t Rose,” I said, shoving a chocolate covered bonbon into her outstretched hand. “What do you think of this candy?”
“Don’t you like the name Rose?”
“No more than any other, I guess. This candy is handcrafted by a local chocolatier. It’s more expensive than your everyday candy bar, but you get what you pay for, am I right?”
“I think Rose is a pretty name.”
I heaved a sigh. “So do I. I’m going to call my firstborn daughter Rose.”
Thus satisfied she ate the candy and pronounced it overpriced. To this day I have no children.
After that it was more office work until I got hired on at Auto Trader. They had NSCAD trained graphic designers in house who not only couldn’t use the software (QuarkXpress) but possessed absolutely no typing and editing skills whatsoever.
Naturally these designers lasted less than a month.
“Our designers don’t last a month,” the production manager often griped.
“I can do it,” I used to tell her.
I was doing it anyway when she was between designers. The main difference between a designer and a typist back then was I got paid three dollars less an hour. When she finally got fed up interviewing recent school grads she said I could have the job for my current rate of pay.
“Oh hell no.”
It took a couple more designers going through the door before she capitulated. Do I know how to negotiate a pay raise or what?
Once I had six months experience under my belt the plant manager fired everybody — and I mean everybody — for reasons that were never really made clear. We knew it was coming. It was easy enough to recognize your own job description in the local paper.
I went on to work in print shops which was both fun and a headache. Just because it looks good on screen doesn’t mean it’s setup to print properly on an offset press. Since we had the presses in house I took to hassling the operators about project setup before I ever parked my keister in front of a computer screen.
That was twenty years ago and I’ve been in graphics every since, usually freelancing when I’m working a different day job.
For a long time I worked for the post office and I loved being a letter carrier. You get paid to walk around all day with up to 35 kg on your hips so it’s basically being paid to exercise. I suppose I could have joined the military for that too but I’m not so good with guns and getting shot at. For a time I was a banquet manager, and I've even tended bar. Like I said, my work history is pretty diverse.
Now I run my own small graphics design agency and work a lot more hours for a lot less pay and I’m happier. Go figure.
Anyway here are the top 10 things I wish people had told me before I started my own business.
1) You don’t need a business number until you hit more than $30,000 per year in revenue. A dollar less than that and you don’t need to report it, so now you’re just doing additional paperwork for no good reason whatsoever. The BDC got that one completely wrong when they advised me to get my GST number before I even opened shop.
2) The EI program is a lifesaver while you build your client list. It can be another paperwork hassle but at least you’re getting paid for this one.
3) A really great perk to being an entrepreneur is turning away nightmare clients. My job description is defined by me, not by an ultra-demanding high maintenance person who is spending peanuts. Finally I get to just say no thank you to that and move on.
4) You can’t do it all. I’ve had to corrupt my mother and to a lesser extent, an aunt, into helping me. Ditto my father. I buy them booze when I can afford it. Thank God for family.
5) If you’re horrible at organizing your choices are — get really good at it really fast, find someone who isn’t and either pay them or conscript them, or stick to your current day job working for someone else. Organizational skills are not merely a suggestion for self-employment. It’s completely necessary.
6) There are times you’re going to absolutely loathe it. I love designing and creating almost as much as I love writing. They go hand in hand for me. But there are days when the last thing I want to do is sit down and dash off some ad copy for a client’s Facebook page or think up a new company logo. The trick is to walk away for an hour or two and if you have to, make that time up at night.
7) Forget 8 to 4 or 9 to 5. Try 9 to midnight. You’ll work a lot more and make a lot less. It’s not the design work that keeps me past hours. It’s the rest of the daily time consuming tasks no one bothers to mention and you don’t actually get paid for. Time to update your company’s Facebook page? No problem. You’re not billing out for that though, and your prime time daily hours need to be reserved for paying clients. Then there’s the endless paperwork. Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
8) You are going to waste a lot of time, particularly on social media. Anyone who says differently is lying. I once got a fairly regular gig by shilling out my freelance designer status to my largely hockey-loving list of followers during a break in play. Social media profile building to grow your client list is key.
9) Depending on your industry, you’re probably going to work for free every now and again. Just be picky about this. I don’t mind helping other new entrepreneurs get started. Then there are the charity requests. Then there are the family and friends who want something. Know when to charge (hint: it’s not your fellow entrepreneurs), when to compromise (even charities tend to have a budget), and when a little gift can go a long way (family).
10) Constantly being bombarded with ads for every conceivable service and product that might even remotely relate to your business is truly annoying. I get what Facebook and Google are trying to do but I spend an extraordinary amount of time blocking all of these stupid offers. Even worse is the staggering amount of unsolicited emails and phone calls I get because I use a contact form for potential clients to reach me, and I have heavy spam filters and protective software. My tolerance for anyone that tries to sell me via a medium I’ve set up exclusively for my own clients is first to block and then send out letters to my own list warning against them. That’s how touchy I’ve gotten about the whole thing. Not only am I never buying from you, I’m doing my damnedest to make sure nobody else is either.
Now if only I could figure out some Top Ten Tips On How To Get Rich Really Fast and Without Actually Working That Don’t Involve A Gigantic Lottery Win.