Being an Entrepreneur in a Corporate World
After spending the last eight years in Corporate America and getting beat up pretty bad in a couple instances, it was safe to say I was tired of the rat race. I spent a majority of my childhood wanting financial security and it only made sense that I would work in the business world and steer clear of any lower paying careers. Not saying anything is wrong with having a less lucrative career, but it definitely doesn't pave the way for the land of the riches and that is what I was after. After graduating from college in 2010, the dust was just beginning to settle with the economic downturn and the worst was almost behind us. I spent a lot of time my senior year applying to jobs that I felt would have a great projection for me to climb that corporate ladder. To maximize my chances of setting myself up financially, I changed my major from marketing to the much more stable and more practical finance, or so I thought. I think the thought of spending four years being in an institution, I couldn’t face not having a job upon graduation. More importantly, I couldn’t face not having money.
After all who didn’t want things, and not just any type of things. A furnished apartment, a new car, money to travel and go out with friends on the weekend. You know the type of things a girl coming from a single-parent home and the oldest of three would want. I envisioned having money to call my own, save and spend as I saw fit. The only issue was although I was a finance major, I was no pro at managing money. I mean I had learned about the evils of credit card debt and was not one of those who had amassed a large amount in college. However, when it came to saving money and ultimately investing it, I was clueless and was still a fish out of water. I never realized how much the value of time came to money and more important the value of compounding interest rates. Strange when you major in money, you still have no idea what to do with it.
From my demographic and community, money was always used to measure how much success you had in life and to take care of yourself and your family. The more money, the better legacy you can build for those you love and want to take care of. Nothing would be wrong with the mindset if more people understood, the rat race a lot more. After reading the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki a few years after graduating, I began to understand the environment in which most of us are placed in. It gave me a whole new perspective on money, except at the time I was engaged to my fiancé-now-husband and we were already in mid planning for a wedding that I knew wouldn't be cheap. We, or I mean I, got suckered into having a wedding that was way above our price range from family. I’m still ashamed of how much we spent, definitely not worth the money or the great stress that attributed to my moodiness the whole time and even months after. Looking back on that, it was truly the worst financial decision, I ever made. We literally could have purchased a house back then. But hey what is the point of being young and dumb, if you have nothing to measure your growth on.
My husband who grew up in more humble beginnings was accustomed to less, me on the other hand was the first in both my immediate and extended family to get married. It was a special celebration that required special moolah. After paying off the wedding six months later, I finally had time to invest in something that had been weighing on me heavily for quite some time, my need to be a graphic designer. You see in college all my internships were in marketing and design, it was only when the market crashed it snapped me out of lala land to find a career more practical and money-worthy. I wanted more fulfillment, my career in audit was only paying my bills not my happiness.
At the time, I was having a serious quarter life crisis and knew the only way to get some reprieve was to get into a graphic design program ASAP. This way I could get an outlet and have some fun. The boss I worked for at the time was real nightmare and it would be nice to come home to a little fun. I remember getting through the program in one year and finding satisfaction that I had done something out of the box for me. I also remember being a little apprehensive that I had wasted time and money, and nobody would take me seriously because all of sudden I was a "graphic designer”. At least that’s what I thought would be perceived of me. However, after snapping out of my moment of self-doubt, I began putting myself out there as a freelancer. I wanted to pursue my own little side hustle/business and most of all share my creativity with the world. After all, who knows where it may take me one day. After two years, in this journey, I’ve highlighted a few things that I have learned in the process.
LESSONS LEARNED ON THE JOURNEY OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
1. Always believe in yourself even when you don’t think others will. If you don’t take yourself seriously no one will. I learned this one early when someone tried to take advantage of me and I had to put my foot down. This person wanted me to do free work and I was already charging them peanuts compared to what I charged others. I politely declined and told them I can’t accept that because I’m trying to build a business. This person of course was unreasonable and didn't want to work with me after that, but hey everyone isn't happy when you stand up for yourself!
2. Stay positive during negative times. The road of entrepreneurship is not easy but it's important to take things in great stride and one step at a time. You’re going to have set backs, you’re going to wonder when you’re getting paid next. It’s okay to not have everything perfectly laid out. These are things that make you stronger and push you through the hard times because when it gets good, it's going to be great!
3. Take your time, never rush through something. This year I was given an opportunity to take a 5-week sabbatical from work and I really could have spent the entire time eating and watching my favorite reality shows but I didn’t. Strangely enough, I was even more motivated to keep going because I felt like why waste time. Now going back to work, I still need to make sure every work I do, I need to do it with quality, even though my time is now limited and I don't have the luxury of a sabbatical under my belt anymore. I tell all my clients a realistic timeline for myself to give myself time. Also it's about ensuring I have quality with the work I do, because I can't tell you how much business I get from referrals. So my work needs to be high quality at all times when I'm delivering it to my customers.
4. Network like crazy to add to your circle. Entrepreneurship is all about who you know and what you can learn from them. They tell us something similar in the corporate world but it's not the same when you are not in a stone-wall building with people around you all the time. You literally must put yourself out there for networking to be effective. Fun fact about your girl! I’m actually an introvert and can be painfully shy. When I put myself out there, I give myself a pep talk and say it's going to be okay and then run into the den. I have a uncanny fear of rejection, so it clouds my rationalization sometimes when it comes to meeting new people. I realized though, I can’t live in a bubble and I have to put myself out there sometimes.
5. Support Other Entrepreneurs in Your Field. One of things that boggles my mind, is how many people don’t like to share their information when they see someone doing the exact same thing. It’s a very odd thing to me because sharing is caring right? Or at least that’s what they teach us in kindergarten. I think it's important for people to leverage each other because you never know what you can learn from someone and what they can learn from you. Also, who doesn't like friends with a common interest. Come on people!
The moral of story is that despite staying in corporate, I've made the decision to be an entrepreneur. This is something I definitely didn't foresee in college. I never knew how many qualities of an entrepreneur I had until I experienced how many qualities I don't have for Corporate. I desire the freedom to make my own decisions and most of all be happy that I can be myself. I'm annoyed with the politics experienced in the working world and "making the client happy". However, not all of my experiences working for the man have been bad. I've learned a ton working in consulting. How to communicate with clients, deliver quality work, and be able to go above and beyond in expectations and deadlines. It's really interesting when I meet a new customer for my business, how much I emulate the managing directors' at my firm. It's like I've become them in a lot of ways and it's helped shape me as an entrepreneur that knows how to deliver when it comes down to it. I can honestly say, "Thanks Corporate America", I guess!.