As we celebrate 15 years in business as of December 2020, I look back at the long, winding journey and remember the fear and anxiety of giving up a steady paycheck for the uncertainty of self-employment. I remember weighing the pros and cons but no matter how many lists I made or books and articles I read, the only way I’d know for sure was to take that leap into the unknown.
So I jumped.
As I previously wrote about all the things I learned regarding building and running a business, it’s been a fabulous, exciting, frustrating, exhausting, enlightening and scary ride. Every entrepreneur has that time of reckoning when they feel that compulsion to strike out on their own and my own reasons had been buidling over time. What motivated me to start my own business was largely attributed to two main factors:
- I absolutely HATED commuting into New York every single day from New Jersey which I had already been doing for over 25 years
- And I wanted the flexibility to do what I wanted, work with who I wanted and be more in control of my own time
In short, it was a lifestyle choice.
[bctt tweet=”I wanted the flexibility to do what I wanted, work with who I wanted and be more in control of my own time” username=”samsonmedia”]
THE RISE OF THE INTERNET
Leading up to starting my own business I had ben a video/TV producer and director working at a public relations agency in New York. My career focus had always been on communications and media. When the Internet started being a real force for change it impacted my profession very strongly. Analog staples like video tape and linear editing were replaced by digital recording and editing. Distribution, which used to be done by booking satelites to send our content to TV stations, started to rely more and more on the Internet especially as broadband became the defacto standard over dialup and ISDN (remember those?) Keep in mind that only 69% of US households even had access to broadband in 2006, up from only 43% six years earlier in 2000. The burgeoning digital marketing space was very exciting and I wanted to be a part of it while many of my peers thought it was a passing fad. Also keep in mind that in 2006 when I started Samson Media, YouTube was one year old, Google 8 years old and Facebook was only two years old! So it was against this background of excitement and activity that spurred me to take the plunge. And if you notice, none of these reasons included making lots of money. To me this was always about lifestyle and enjoying what I did, working with who I wanted to work with and reaping the rewards for my own efforts. It also was about developing skills that people were willing to pay me for and getting off the hamster wheel. The money would come later.
And that last point for starting a business was key: having a skill that people were willing to pay me for.
[bctt tweet=”When I started Samson Media, YouTube was one year old, Google 8 years old and Facebook was only two years old” username=”samsonmedia”]
SELLING MY SKILLS
I remember going to a networking event and meeting a guy who sat at my table that had a vending machine business who wanted to reach out to prospects regularly by email. So I offered to create an email newsletter using an email marketing program that I was familiar with and got paid $250 for about 2 hours work.
The lesson that I would learn over and over to this day is that just because something was easy for me to do or came naturally, didn’t mean it was less valuable to someone who had no idea how to do what I knew how to do. Or didn’t have the time.
So while millions of people can develop a website or create email campaigns or design graphics, many more can not. Plus, digital marketing takes time as well as skill and businesses who saw the value in hiring someone to do it for them was a lesson I would soon learn to grow my own business and leverage my own time.
The key was in finding those people who needed what I offered and had the money to pay for my service. As obvious as that sounds now it was a revelation for me back then.
TRADING TIME FOR MONEY TRAP
The first year or two I did what many entrepreneurs do and that’s trade time for money. I established an hourly rate, estimated the time it would take to complete a project based on that rate, quoted prices base on that calculation and then did the work. Of course, based on that model, all entrepreneurs will top out at 24 hours a day (assuming you never eat or sleep) which is not a sustainable model.
Delegating and building a team was the key to everything from there going forward, which I also outlined in this article about working “ON” your business vs working “IN” your business.
With the pandemic now upon us we’ve taken a hit like many other businesses. We especially got clobbered in April of 2020 when many of our clients closed or went out of business following the outbreak in March. But over the next few months, some clients bounced back, new ones emerged and some outright thrived. All the while, the fact that we had always been a virtual company with my entire team working from home helped us, as a company, to never miss a beat. Working from home all these years really paid off in more ways than just saving money on rent and commuting time.
We survived the Great Recession that hit in 2008, just two years after we started, and now as a more mature business, we have a well of former and present clients, referrals and a great reputation with 100% 5 Star Reviews to draw from. But I realize all too well not to get complacent or take anything for granted. Many larger and richer companies have failed for a variety of reasons before and during the pandemic. In business as in life, nothing is guaranteed yet it’s the combination of making new deals, the anticipation and thrill of meeting new clients, serving our existing clients and knowing it’s on my own terms that keeps me enthusiastic and engaged with hope for the future. And it’s those elements that get me out of bed in the morning to take on the challenges and rewards up ahead. I’m looking forward to the next 15 years!