Start a Biz: The Alternative Entrepreneur

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My logo!

This post was originally published on the Sisarina Blog. Thanks to Melanie for supporting my business!

I own a business and I don’t work nonstop or sacrifice time with my family. It is not the easiest accomplishment, but you can definitely do it, too.

Setting Up a Business

My particular business is online marketing. For more than eight years, I’ve done corporate, nonprofit, and start-up online marketing. I specialize in the strategy and implementation of mass email communications, Google AdWords, website development, search engine optimization (SEO), online advertising, blogging, and social networks including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Say that three times fast! In November of 2007, I was laid off along with 20% of the staff at the start-up company where I was employed. I was lucky enough to be in the first round of lay-offs that received severance. I had time to regroup and really decide what I wanted to do with my career.

My choice was clear: I enjoyed online marketing and I needed to be able to devote time to my personal life. It would have to be online marketing as a consultant/contractor. Because I chose a business that I already knew, could be done from home, and did not require a large upfront investment, it was simple to get started relatively quickly. I didn’t have to figure out fulfillment for a physical product or how to comply with random governmental regulations. Networking, networking, and more networking is what landed my first contract with an international training corporation within months.

Right before my second contract (with the start-up that had laid me off!), a co-worker pulled me aside and asked if I’d done anything to protect myself. While I pulled my mind out of the gutter, she told me about limited liability corporations (LLC). In simplest terms, an LLC is a way to form a corporation that will protect an individual contractor from calamity if she is sued. I filed that information away.

Three contracts and 18 months later, I found myself on maternity leave with my first child. Personal time was more important than ever, and staying at home as a stay-at-home-mom wasn’t an option for me. With no contracts on the horizon and a burping baby always nearby, I filed with the Commonwealth of Virginia for an LLC (a surprising simple and inexpensive process), hired my designer to finally create a website for my own business, and sent out messages to my network letting them know that Online Marketing Branch had been born.

Setting Boundaries and Expectations as a Part-Time Entrepreneur

It has been hardest to stick to the time boundary I’ve set on my business. My toddler son is in daycare from 8am to 4pm every weekday. That is the only time I allow myself to work – and that includes commuting time in the heavy traffic of the D.C. metropolitan area. Not only do I refuse to do the 60-hour work week like my colleagues and competitors, I shy away from taking on a standard 40-hour schedule as well. I am upfront with my clients and the occasional employer about this restriction and so far it has worked.

This definitely isn’t an easy feat. I mainly take contracts that offer 25-30 hours of weekly work for a temporary time frame. I work my butt off when I’m “on” and only check my BlackBerry two or three times a night. Because I will not risk having too much work, I have had to refer potential clients to my network in times of abundance. And, when the economy slows down, I am left scrambling. This kind of gamble is not for the faint of heart. I don’t make as much money as I would if I took on every contract that came my way. My business isn’t growing as fast as it would if I took on the added responsibility of more contracts and more staff to accomplish the work.

My expectations on my business are realistic. Online Marketing Branch will not make me a millionaire (at least not in this decade). But, I am doing what I love as a career and raising my son the way I want. For me, this is success.

I own a business and I don’t work nonstop or sacrifice time with my family. It is not the easiest accomplishment, but you can definitely do it, too.

Setting Up a Business

My particular business is online marketing. For more than eight years, I’ve done corporate, nonprofit, and start-up online marketing. I specialize in the strategy and implementation of mass email communications, Google AdWords, website development, search engine optimization (SEO), online advertising, blogging, and social networks including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Say that three times fast! In November of 2007, I was laid off along with 20% of the staff at the start-up company where I was employed. I was lucky enough to be in the first round of lay-offs that received severance. I had time to regroup and really decide what I wanted to do with my career.

My choice was clear: I enjoyed online marketing and I needed to be able to devote time to my personal life. It would have to be online marketing as a consultant/contractor. Because I chose a business that I already knew, could be done from home, and did not require a large upfront investment, it was simple to get started relatively quickly. I didn’t have to figure out fulfillment for a physical product or how to comply with random governmental regulations. Networking, networking, and more networking is what landed my first contract with an international training corporation within months.

Right before my second contract (with the start-up that had laid me off!), a co-worker pulled me aside and asked if I’d done anything to protect myself. While I pulled my mind out of the gutter, she told me about limited liability corporations (LLC). In simplest terms, an LLC is a way to form a corporation that will protect an individual contractor from calamity if she is sued. I filed that information away.

Three contracts and 18 months later, I found myself on maternity leave with my first child. Personal time was more important than ever, and staying at home as a stay-at-home-mom wasn’t an option for me. With no contracts on the horizon and a burping baby always nearby, I filed with the Commonwealth of Virginia for an LLC (a surprising simple and inexpensive process), hired my designer to finally create a website for my own business, and sent out messages to my network letting them know that Online Marketing Branch had been born.

Setting Boundaries and Expectations as a Part-Time Entrepreneur

It has been hardest to stick to the time boundary I’ve set on my business. My toddler son is in daycare from 8am to 4pm every weekday. That is the only time I allow myself to work – and that includes commuting time in the heavy traffic of the D.C. metropolitan area. Not only do I refuse to do the 60-hour work week like my colleagues and competitors, I shy away from taking on a standard 40-hour schedule as well. I am upfront with my clients and the occasional employer about this restriction and so far it has worked.

This definitely isn’t an easy feat. I mainly take contracts that offer 25-30 hours of weekly work for a temporary time frame. I work my butt off when I’m “on” and only check my BlackBerry two or three times a night. Because I will not risk having too much work, I have had to refer potential clients to my network in times of abundance. And, when the economy slows down, I am left scrambling. This kind of gamble is not for the faint of heart. I don’t make as much money as I would if I took on every contract that came my way. My business isn’t growing as fast as it would if I took on the added responsibility of more contracts and more staff to accomplish the work.

My expectations on my business are realistic. Online Marketing Branch will not make me a millionaire (at least not in this decade). But, I am doing what I love as a career and raising my son the way I want. For me, this is success.

Nicole Skuba is the founder and principal consultant of Online Marketing Branch, an agency that boosts ROI online for nonprofit, start-up, and small businesses.  A graduate of Duke University, Nicole resides in Ashburn, Virginia with her husband and son. She spends her free hours writing a book, watching movie previews, and staring at the ceiling.

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2 thoughts on “Start a Biz: The Alternative Entrepreneur

  1. Very inspiring! I’m getting increasingly wary about the effects of that mad 60 hour + week. The fear of the potential consequences of turning down work is very real, being a start-up and all. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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