Posted by: garispang | June 16, 2009

Making the Jump: Starting a Business on a Wing and a Prayer

Keep an eye on your food

To be quite frank, I started my web design business on a whim. I had experience starting businesses before…the “right way,” but this time was much different.

I had been designing my own sites for quite some time, years in fact, and had heard many compliments about my work from friends, family members, and business associates. They’d ask if I’d ever considered doing it for a living, and I’d always say, “No, I only do my own.” They’d ask why, and I’d answer without hesitation, “Because I don’t want to turn a hobby into a job and end up hating it.”

Things went on like this for a while, until it literally got to the point where people were frustrated with me for not pursuing it. They’d say, “You have talent, and you’re not using it, and you have the business sense to make this work. What are you doing?”

Finally, my accountability partner asked me if I’d consider helping a friend of hers with her site as a favor and that the friend was willing to pay for my time. “She’d gladly write that check,” she said. I can remember it like it was yesterday.

I said that I wouldn’t even know what to charge. My accountability partner and I came up with what we both figured was a reasonable fee. I said, “Okay, present it to her and see what she says.” (The friend was allowing her to be middleman, since they were really having to twist my arm to get me to do it – really.) The friend gladly accepted my fee.

I did the work in a day. She was ecstatic, and she asked me to promise her that going forward I would, at a minimum, charge double for what I had done for her. A day’s work, and she was willing to pay me $500?! I was beside myself with disbelief. (”People are willing to pay me for this?!”)

In the meantime, she and my accountability partner were trying to convince me to do web design professionally. She said she had three other people who needed my help, but that she’d wait for me to give her the go-ahead. I said that I’d think about it for a few days and get back with her.

That weekend, I built my website and sent off the paperwork to create my LLC. Once the LLC was set up, I opened a business account at my bank, and that was it.

I didn’t have any funding. I didn’t have a business plan. I didn’t even have a logo. Two months later, I had $7500 worth of work lined up, and the rest is history.

Bottom line for me, I guess, was that I had gone the traditional route – planning, meticulously planning until…well, until nothing got done. This time, I was doing something I loved, I was having fun at it, and people were actually willing to pay me for it! I jumped and didn’t hesitate, and that has made more difference for me than any business plan ever could. Sure, I still have to treat this like a business, but it’s the action, the forward movement that makes it a success.

And in case you’re wondering, it’s still like a hobby to me!

Amber Riviere is a web designer with BrownBugProject.com. You can follow her work through her blog and through her newsletter, Inside Brown’s Brain.

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