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Solopreneur Story: My First Year in Business

Once again, taking a look back at my start as a solopreneur and the lessons learned along the way, this time as I finished my first full year in the land of the self-employed.

One year out of the fray of getting up every morning like clockwork and getting on my bike to head into the office and sit in an assigned seat for an assigned wage and coming home, flipping open my laptop and working til midnight.

One year since I discovered there was so much more of me to give that I had never given myself the opportunity to attempt. 

One year after I leapt past the inhibitions and insecurities to believe that there truly was a life beyond an eighty hour workweek.

One year ago, I said goodbye to one professional life and opened the door to a new one, one that has changed me profoundly.

  1. Since starting off, as a recruiter I’ve worked with 10 clients, filling 21 positions (7 women) in the tech startup & small business arena, with a time to fill average of 28 days (date position posted to date offer accepted).

  2. As a career coach, I’ve helped 72 clients by partnering with them to create great resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, stronger networks, improved interviewing skills and cohesive, effective job search strategies to help them reach their goals.

And I’m still working my tail off  – but now it’s “smarter not harder”! Working for myself as a recruiting consultant and career coach has been SO fantastic and more fulfilling than I’d ever imagined! I’ve met the most incredible people in the community, including a number who have become great friends and/or mentors as well.  I’ve learned a thousand lessons and seen so many tangible results of my efforts, that I know I am truly making a difference.

Each quarter of this first year, I’ve documented what I’ve learned and shared it with you, from my initial lessons learned as a newly self-employed in Month 3, to ways I’ve found equilibrium in Month 6, to the best practices that have helped me be successful in Month 9. Shocking that we’ve now hit one year, is it not?

I am so grateful, and have so many good memories to look back on during this first year, including…

  1. I think about my very first client, GigaPan, and how I hired 5 engineers including a VP for their teeny tiny team during my first month, and that when I revisited them it was so fulfilling to see this joyful, cohesive team (and a whole lot more desks – and dogs!) hard at work. Oh and did I tell you they’re a 50% female engineering team?  Yeeeeah!

  2. I think about the many amazing women I met when I presented at Girl Geek Dinners in November, and how through that, I not only got the opportunity to coach many of them, but ultimately placed several of these brilliant women in great jobs for several of my recruiting clients!

  3. I think about the first time I worked with one of my current clients, Monsoon Commerce, and how we filled their Lead Engineer role in just 14 days – something that comes from a company’s true commitment to making time for hiring in an efficient and effective way, and opening up to new ways to find and assess great talent.  I’ve since filled 3 other roles for them and am working to hire even more as they grow. They are such a great team to work with!

  4. I think about the tremendous diversity of career coaching clients I’ve had the pleasure of working with, not only locally but nationally and internationally! From the contractor who wanted full time work in her field, to the investment rep who wanted a career in sustainability, to the executive who wanted to branch out to a new specialty, to the nonprofit employee who wanted to work in the private sector, I feel so fortunate to have gotten to know so many amazing men and women.  And I have seen it, time and again, that those I’ve coached who made the commitment to change their approach, open their minds, and aggressively pursue the path they’ve chosen – they are succeeding!

I am equally grateful for what I’ve experienced outside of the professional side of my life. As I truly believe we should work to live, not live to work, taking this leap enabled me to see a future I’d never previously imagined. I live simply, and going into business for myself reinforced this even more.  The most exciting thing I did when I got my first big client?  I finally had my 5-layer roof replaced. Not sexy to some, everything to me.

Some other results of this life change…

  1. Community-wise, I’ve returned to volunteering, helping local organizations like The Portland Kitchen and Lettuce Grow during the first half of the year, and looking forward to joining the volunteer team at SMART (Start Making A Reader Today) hanging out with the kiddos at the local elementary school by my house.

  2. Financially,  I’ve paid off my student loans and been able to take 3 (yep, three!) vacations. I’m now working on paying off my home equity loan, which will reduce my monthly house payment by 25%. Having rented both rooms in my basement during most of last year was an unbelievable help and yes, as I’ve said before, I live simply and don’t own a car, don’t have cable, and don’t consider clothing or cosmetics to be a budget line item.

  3. Domestically, my garden is more awesome because I actually see it on more than early mornings and the weekends, and I’ve finally finished a lot of projects that were on the back burner due to previous exhaustion and financial constraints.  And I no longer rent out my basement – it’s great to have my much needed privacy back after several years of sharing my house with strangers (and just one bathroom!).

  4. Mentally, I’ve been able to re-immerse myself back into my yoga practice and other activities which truly support my well-being. In addition, I’ve had the time to take two community college classes – for fun – and have discovered that my passions are consistently drawn towards wellness and women’s issues (not horticulture therapy as I’d intellectually thought would be “me”). As my stress level has decreased, I see my therapist quarterly rather than monthly for “tune-ups” as I call them. (For those of you who don’t consider mental health as important as physical health, I urge you to reconsider – therapists are NOT just for the lowest moments in life. Just like annual physicals are good preventative measures for the body, regular mental health checkups are fantastic for keeping the mind and heart healthy).

  5. Physically, I feel better. My regular yoga practice, cycling and walking, along with working in the garden, are now integral parts of my routine that I found so hard to stick to in the long hours I used to work. In addition, after changing to a naturopath’s care, I’ve gone gluten-free and dairy-free, as well as transitioned over to a natural thyroid medication that no longer creates a dependency on synthetics. Both of these have made me feel SO much better.  Oh, and the bonus? I’ve lost 30 pounds!

One year ago I started my own business, said goodbye to my beloved pup, and opened a brand new door to follow the road less traveled. I only hope to be as fortunate in the coming year as I was in this first year.  There were hard times, trust me, but something happens when you know you’re on the right path, something that keeps your chin up and trusting the process. I am grateful for those struggles and obstacles that I overcame – they’ve made me better as a person and in how I do business.

I am so grateful to the friends and mentors along this road who have guided me, pushed me, counseled me, drank with me (LOL), and supported me in both the good times and the bag-lady moments.  Thank you to my sista in every sense of the word who I trust without question, and would do anything for.  Thank you to my colleague who introduced me to my first client and helped me gain my footing.  Thank you to my friend who always has a way to bring sanity and a nonjudgmental ear to our conversations. Thank you to my friend and colleague, who I first met decades ago but reemerged recently to become my coach as I fought to find my inner strength and clarity and confidence as I walked this road for the first time.  And of course, thank you to my sweetheart - my rock, my true love, my biggest fan, my partner-in-crime, my confidante, my gardening mate, and my favorite person in the whole wide world.

There are so many more I want to thank (oh god that sounds like an Oscar speech) from my colleagues and clients and neighbors and friends and community and so on…just know that if we’ve connected, I am grateful to have known you, laughed with you, met you, and learned from you.

"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." ~Thornton Wilder

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