Lisa Tilt is a Marketing Communications professional at Full Tilt Consulting, her branding and public relations firm. A resident of Marietta GA, she has a Bachelor’s degree in Media Communications from Florida State University. Reach her on Twitter or LinkedIn and visit her website and blog.
In 2006, Lisa left her previous job to start her own branding and public relations firm Full Tilt Consulting. She began her 100% work from home journey and has been successfully running her business even as her firm grows. “It was a conscious choice to work from home as I didn't have a need for office space as a sole practitioner. It saved on start-up costs and I did not want to commit to that kind of expense without knowing how my business would grow,” shares Lisa. “I wouldn't say this is an obstacle, but rather a significant change in work environments. Coming from a company in which I was managing teams, to being a solo entrepreneur was a new and different environment and work dynamic. I had to get my head around this change, which became natural pretty quickly.”
On the benefits of being 100% work from home, Lisa comments, “Before I had children, the benefits included working from home in a quiet environment with very little distractions. This made me extremely efficient. My plan was always to get my business up and running before I had children so I have the focus to dedicate to getting that off the ground. When I did have kids, I wanted to see them sometimes throughout the day, give them a hug after school, or attend a school play. In addition to spending time with my family, I enjoy tennis as both my personal time and source of exercise.”
So what helped her starting on her new business and getting to 100% work from home? “My entire career has been in Atlanta, and that fact alone made starting my own business just that much easier. My very first client came from a personal connection, and all of my business since then has been by referral. I believe that when you start out in a business community and continue to build relationships there, it lends itself to successfully starting a business in a much more seamless process – whether out of your home or out of an office building. Presently, we work on brand development and communications strategy, helping organizations, primarily professional services firms, to communicate their expertise through information and branded content. Our aim is to enable our clients to sustain the programs we create. We are a small yet mighty team working out of my home office four days a week with remote work days on Fridays.”
The average work day begins with Lisa getting her girls ready for school. “Because the school is so close to our home, I drop them off and return home to start my day at 8:30 a.m. I spend the first part of my morning reading the newspaper and writing for clients while I'm fresh. I am currently ghost-writing a book for a client among our other work, which takes immense focus. My team comes in at 9:30 a.m. We will typically have at least one client call during the day. And then we will either take a break for lunch or eat at our desks while continuing to work and catch up on the latest news. I’ll then review documents from the team, talk about new story angles for our clients, go over media pitches and get caught up on reading and researching for projects. Toward the end of the day, I’ll determine what the next day or week looks like in terms of deadlines and priorities. At 5:30 p.m., I have a hard stop to relieve our nanny and focus my time on my girls. We figure out dinner (usually as a group), spend time together and then get ready for bed. Once they’re all tucked in, I’ll usually hop back on the computer and finish up some emails or writing to prepare for the next day. My work schedule is pretty specific: 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and half days on Fridays. Client meetings and work take place within those hours, and then the rest of my day is dedicated to family or personal activities.”
Lisa enjoys her 100% work from home arrangement. “I really don’t face challenges working from home, it all works seamlessly. I love the fact that I'm able to work my schedule around the needs of my family. Seeing the milestones of my children, whether it’s a school play, dance performance or gymnastics meet, makes work become even richer because I don’t feel like I have to choose one aspect of my life over the other. I definitely do have a support network, made up of my husband, family members, our nanny and my Full Tilt team. My husband also works from home, so when he isn't travelling he helps with carpool. Our nanny is available for after-school care until my work day ends at 5:30 p.m. Family members who live nearby help with the girls when my husband and I attend client events during the evenings. And, from a work perspective, my team is incredibly good at what they do and accountable for their work. I don’t have to question whether their work is getting done, which makes us a highly effective team. A support network is critical, not just for professionals who work from home, but for anyone who works. We all need a little help at some point.”
On the importance of marketing and networking, Lisa stresses, “Networking, both in general and building relationships with your clients, is important. Whether it’s face-to-face or the occasional meeting, it depends on the kind of relationship you have with each of your clients. Some of our clients are out of town, so we are able to get together a few times a year and have frequent phone meetings. In other professions, it’s easy to work out of your house and become insular. But, it has to be a concerted effort to get out and meet people. Most of my networking is done at coffee meetings or lunches from someone who has recommended a connection. Other ways are industry meetings which may include a speaker on a related topic. Regardless, I find that it’s important to make the specific effort to get out of the house every now and then to meet people and refresh connections.”
“Social media is an important aspect of my business, but also to our clients due to the fact that it’s an industry in which we work on their behalf daily, adds Lisa. “For Full Tilt, we find LinkedIn to be our most prominent focus, supported by our efforts on Twitter. For our clients, mostly professional services firms, we find the same to be true – LinkedIn is where we are discovering and talking to a more business-focused audience. So, it is through this social media network that we maximize our content strategy. We secure contributorships on media outlets such as Huffington Post and are able to maximize those opportunities through the use of social media every day. We are lucky to be in a position in which all of our business is referral based from current clients and relationships we've built over the years. As a small business, typically a process like a RFP (request for proposal) often takes a lot of time and energy and doesn't yield high results. Therefore, as a philosophy of the firm, we generally build our business through referrals.”
Lisa plans to continue being 100% work from home in the future. “My business is in a good, solid place with the team that we have. Economically, it makes the most sense right now to keep the business at my house versus spending money on unnecessary office space. Instead, I used company money to build out a nice office in my home to afford our team to work efficiently from this location for the foreseeable future. We have a pretty good thing going – and we’re growing every year, very deliberately, and with clients who will grow with us. We always like to take on new and exciting companies and entrepreneurs who are doing and saying things that are interesting within their industries. We look forward to bringing more clients into the fold and growing our offerings and capabilities along with them.”
For folks considering a 100% work from home arrangement, Lisa advises, “First, make sure you have a clearly designated work area. The risk in not having this opens the door for your life to encroach on your work, and vice versa. It’s important to have a physical reminder that you are leaving work and joining family, such as walking out of the doors of your office and being able to close them on the weekends. Without this, the two run together too much. Also, keep your relationships fresh. Have a plan to stay networked while working from home. Book a few lunches per month, meet new people, and reconnect with former mentors and colleges. You’ll always get something out of these meetings, whether it is intellectual stimulation, leads on potential clients or staying relevant in your area of expertise. And always keep yourself and your company top of mind.”
Thank you Lisa for those wonderful words of advice and guidance on your 100% work from home experience!
The April-May culinary issue of Atlanta Tastemaker features 3 articles written by yours truly. I enjoyed writing each of them and hope you enjoy reading them just as well.
There's Chocolate Madness on pg45, Drink,Snack,Share on pg47 and a review of Family Dog on pg51. Just click on the image above and you can head to an issuu link to check out the magazine.
I really enjoyed the review of Family Dog. It was a preview of the new Spring brunch menu the restaurant was introducing and the chef came to our table with every dish to describe the flavors and ingredients. Loved it!
Jonda Beattie is a professional organizer and the owner of Time Space Organization. Born in Portsmouth OH, she resides in Clarkston GA with her two cats. Jonda has a Master of Education, Georgia State University (1984). Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and read more about her work on her website and blog.
Jonda founded her business Time Space Organization in June 2006. Retiring after 30 years in the field of education, the last three as a Lead Teacher of Special Education, she wanted to use her skills developed as a special education teacher to help adults reclaim their time and space.
The beginning: I was very fortunate to end up in a networking group that helped me understand what I needed in order to run a business. I chose to make the change to work from home full-time because I felt my health was affected by the stress of the job I was doing. My biggest obstacle was complete lack of business training. I had no clue as to how to write a business plan or plan a budget. I saw myself going into homes and small offices and teaching clients how to organize their time and space so that they could flourish. I did not know what was necessary to make my business successful. After a few years, I did develop a business plan which I now update every year.
Starting out: One of the biggest benefits was the pure joy of doing what I loved. I flourished in the positive affirmations I received from my clients. I began to feel a more complete person and more in control of my life. I tried to keep a balance. However, there were times when I allowed myself to become overextended. I gave too much of myself and became depleted. I usually became aware of this soon enough to step back and evaluate what was going on. The first couple of years were a financial disaster as I was still finding my way. I am fortunate that I have a teacher retirement plan that kept the wolf from the door. Currently I am comfortable financially and am still seeing my business grow. I also became more social in my business than I had as a teacher. I am very conscious of the importance of taking time for my family and friends. I have made many new friends as a result of my business.
Finding motivation: I joined a networking group that eventually became my “village” or “team.” From that group I got an accountant, a marketing coach, a person to help me with my brand, a graphics designer, a printer, and a web master. Later I met a book coach that helped my write and publish my workbook From Vision to Victory: A Workbook For Finding a Simple Path to an Organized Home. I also formed a Goals Group that met once a month and gave each other support.
An average day in the life of a professional organizer: It seems each day is different. At the beginning of the week I first plug in my client hours. Then I fill in the day with client contacts, phone calls, networking, project work, financials, etc. I do work a full day five days a week most weeks. I will often do office work in the evenings. Sometimes I work with clients in the evenings, sometimes I work with clients on weekends but I try to keep my client work between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. I have tried to have an office day with no clients but that rarely happens on a scheduled basis. I would like to say my work hours are Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. but I have to remain flexible to meet client needs while still taking care of my needs.
The good and the not so good: My biggest challenges now are trying to bring in more income with fewer hours and finding more time in my week for a relationship. As a sole entrepreneur you get to set your own hours. The advantage is that you have no clock to punch. The disadvantage is that you have no regular schedule. You alone are responsible for the success of your business. This takes a lot of self-discipline and keeping your eye on your goals. But I enjoy the ability to close down my office for a few days or a week in order to be with my family or the ability to take a half day off to do something special with a friend is always worthy of celebration. I love the idea of being able to meet someone for lunch. I feel much more in control of my life and happiness than I did when I was in my previous line of work. I love the part of working side by side with my clients. I do not enjoy the paperwork alone in my office.
Along the journey: I have a vision board and as part of that board I have a word that I put forth into the universe each year. I believe in the power of attraction. I also try to take care of my body. I do some exercise (not enough) and attend weight watchers to maintain my weight. I do positive affirmations. I am in a comfortable financial position right now. I am actually not trying to grow my business now so much as trying to maintain it and serve more people with fewer hours. I am very active socially. I am in a serious relationship. I have friends that I see on a regular basis. I go out to many events. I take time to enjoy pursuits besides my business. I like to go to theater, concerts, and festivals. I enjoy dancing and travel and hosting parties. I try to have fun away from work on the weekends and occasionally on a weekday evening. I feel very strong emotionally. I am happy with my life.
Networking, marketing and social media: Face-to-face networking is important. I am a solo entrepreneur but I am a member of NAPO-GA and use other members of that group if I need to put together a team. I network at Atlanta Independent Women’s Group, Dunwoody Business Forum, and the Decatur Business Association. I also network when I am giving presentations or in groups. I am never without a business card. I have several support networks. My Goals Group is very personal and supportive. My networking group that I joined when I was still wet behind the ears still continues to support me. Social media is one way I market my profession but feel the value of it is still uncalculated. At a minimum I am on Twitter once a day, Facebook three times a day, and LinkedIn once a day. I set a timer, usually 15 minutes, to keep from getting sucked into it for too much of my time. All of this is done from my office computer unless I am traveling – then I use my iPad. I have a newsletter, send out email blasts about organizational events, have a blog I attach to my website. A couple times a year I do print advertising at Decatur events. I track where all my clients find me. In the past, the avenues have been very varied with no one way being outstanding. In the past year or so, I have had more and more clients tell me that they have found my on a web search. Conversely, paid advertising rarely pays off.
Highlights and lowlights: My best achievement was completing my workbook From Vision to Victory: A Workbook For Finding a Simple Path to an Organized Home. The concept started as worksheets for my clients and then with encouragement from my Goals Group became a workbook. It was a lot of hard work to layer on top of working full time. But I have had a couple of clients that I felt I was not able to give the support they needed at that time to make a difference in their lives. This is a big disappointment to me but I just couldn't make the connection.
Jonda plans to continue working from home. I enjoy the independence. I look forward to having more paid presentations. In the past, I have done many pro bono but recently that has been changing. I am going to give myself permission to say “no” to some of the non-paying presentations. I am trying to avoid hoarding situations. I like being able to touch more people and love the interaction and synergy that comes with working with groups. I also plan to incorporate a virtual organizing component into my business. I am currently working on updating my website to facilitate those new directions.
Her advice to others currently considering 100% work from home? Be very careful of your time management. Have a scheduled time that you work in your office area and honor that time. It is very easy to take a break to work in your home and not spend your full day working toward your business goals.
Thank you Jonda for your valuable inputs and list of books below!
A Joy Strategist from Decatur GA, Wendy Watkins, 50, is the author of The Joy Factor Recipe Book – A Common Sense Approach to a Delicious Life – a 202-page book published in May 2012 and available in print on Amazon. A Certified Professional Co-Active Coach from The Coaches Training Institute, she is still attending the School of Life! The book is a great inspirational and motivational personal development tool. Connect with Wendy on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube or read more about her work and her book on her website.
Wendy shares in-depth about her experience writing her first book. “I have always been a personal development junkie who loves food, so sharing my message on how to raise your Joy Factor in a “cookbook” format was unique and fun. When I became a Professional Coach in 2000, I knew I had an important message to share with the world; however, I was unclear on exactly what format it would take. I was asked to speak at a conference in New Orleans in 2008 and the concept of raising your Joy Factor became my topic. As I fine-tuned this concept of tapping into increased joy to manifest a desirable life, I realized this was the message I was to write about. I heard myself utter the words, “I am going to write a book”, and the process began.”
So what was the process like? “My first documents on my computer for this project were dated early 2009. Most of the information came from my life experience, as well as my clients’ journeys. For the majority of my adult life, I looked for joy outside of myself. I call this my sex, drugs and rock and roll era. In late 2005, I succumbed to the fact that I was a highly functioning prescription drug addict. The umbrella of shame that I lived under stopped me from experiencing true joy. When I stopped abusing drugs in January 2006, I was able to examine my journey a bit more clearly. In 2007, the quest to look at what brought me sustainable joy began and the ingredients for the Joy Factor started to become well-defined. The way the principles of attraction work, the more I put my attention on this notion of sustainable joy, the more I attracted clients who wanted to be in this type of conversation. My Joy Factor website launched and I blogged about these ingredients. There are 20 contributors in the book - I call them my Joy Posse. They all share recipes that use the ingredients I share with people to raise their Joy Factor. Their entries come from the blog as well as other sources.”
And the next steps were… “I hired a designer and editor to help me put the finishing touches on the book in late 2011. It was published in Spring 2012. There were times when that felt like the longest three years of my life and other times, it seemed to fly by. Staying focused on the project was a bit challenging. First, when you are working and writing, it can be challenging to make the book a priority. That first year I really worked on creating sacred space to write, taking retreats and spending time at gorgeous locations in the Southeast. The second year, I was feeling focused and enthusiastic. I entered a contest to be The Next Top Self-Help Author. My optimism was high - I was going to win the contest! It was a real blow when I did not make the first cut. That was March 2011. After that, I did not touch the manuscript for six months. I realized that I was writing this book from my ego, my desire to be famous and to be on Oprah. I did lots of soul-searching and shifted the format of my book from a very significant “this is my story” type of book, to its present format which is much more fun and easy to read - more like me! After I figured that out, I began writing again and finished the project in eight months.”
On her schedule and others who helped in the venture. “At first, I did not have a true schedule. I waited until the creativity struck me or I retreated somewhere to write. When I decided to finish the book, I committed to awaking each day at 5:30 a.m. to be able to write a few hours before I began working with clients. I did that every day for many months. Yes, as I mentioned, I had my Joy Posse. They were collaborators on my blog. I looked at some of their posts and put the appropriate ones in the book. I also invited others to write a “recipe” for the book. There are also at least 20 pieces of original art that were created for the book. I had both a designer and editor help me put all of the pieces of the puzzle together. I could not have completed the project without them.”
What about the publishing process? “Initially, I was hoping to receive an offer from a publishing company. After the debacle with the contest, I decided to self-publish. It was important to me to use a local publisher, since I am a proponent of keeping business local. I gathered a few recommendations and made my choice with Booklogix in Alpharetta. They were wonderful in working with me and walking me through the publishing process.”
The response to Wendy’s book has been great. “I had an amazing launch party at Cooks Warehouse in Decatur. It was the perfect way to introduce the book to the community. People comment that they enjoy that it is easy to read. They like that they can read it cover to cover, or open it at any point and get a tasty nugget to help them optimize their day. Many of my fans purchase the book as gifts after they read it. It is perfect for someone who loves personal development and food.”
Marketing tips are on Wendy’s website and blog. “As soon as the book launched, I began putting attention on attracting speaking engagements. That has been the best way for me to market my book. I am getting ready to publish it digitally, so I can offer incentives for people to purchase—buy a copy of the book and receive the digital version for free or a special price.”
Wendy’s Book is available locally in Decatur - it is at Eagle Eye Bookstore and Vivid Boutique. It is also available at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, NC. Currently, Wendy is busy writing blog posts and articles. She is also working on a project that aligns perfectly with the book, called Simply Flourishing, and will have more details on that coming soon on her blog. To aspiring writers planning to publish in the future, her advice is, “Be clear on what you want to create, stay focused and take care of yourself throughout the process. Hire support to make the book exactly as you want it to be.”
Thank you for your inspiring story Wendy, and hope many more will read your book and share their responses here!
I enjoy connecting with people from diverse professional backgrounds. So if you are here and reading this then feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on Twitter. The links are on the top right corner of my website and on every page so let's connect and see how we can help each other. I am always happy to help with an introduction if I can or a referral if you would like to connected to some of my professional contacts. If you have any specific requests, then feel free to email me through the contact form on my website and let's get talking!
Signed up with them few days ago so here is my profile on their website. Check it out, join me there, let me know your thoughts.
Excited to see the email today with the first chapter from the Year of Profit exercise offered by Chris Guillebeau. So the way it works is you get a chapter a month and then you have some actionables from that chapter which will help on this journey towards profit from your current or new business. This chapter talked about relationships with customers, identifying who my customers were and grouping them to see what it is I currently offer them and what I could offer them additionally. I am going to work on this but join me if you'd like - here's a link to the course, if you click through I get a little commish for which you know I'll be grateful :)
With guest and hosts on Good Morning Atlanta!
I was a guest on the Good Morning Atlanta radio show a few days ago so here is a link to the page where you can click to listen to the radio podcast. Enjoy!
Alisha L. Gordon is a writer, blogger, and full time graduate student from Atlanta, GA, pursuing a Master of Divinity degree at Emory University. The 30-year-old author also has a BA in English from Spelman College and M.Ed. in Secondary Education from the University of Phoenix. Alisha’s book is titled Pieces: Finding the Missing Piece is Easier than You Think. It is a 73-page paperback on Christian/Self Help/Single Parenting (published March 2010) and you can read more about the book at here. The book is also sold on Kindle, LuLu, and the blog site. You can reach Alisha on Twitter and Facebook.
When did you get the idea for a book, and why this particular genre? After having what I consider a “God experience” on New Year’s Eve of 2008, I decided to use writing as a way of dealing with issues that a lot of women face: rejection, unforgiveness, brokenness, a desire to find my purpose, a lot of things. As a single mother, I found that my experiences were universal: every woman is looking to find the missing pieces in their life – often times we lose pieces of ourselves in old relationships, burdensome jobs, broken dreams. How do we go about reclaiming these “pieces” of ourselves? This book was birthed out of the process of finding my own missing pieces and its purpose meets the needs of so many women in various phases of their life.
How long before you got around to working on the book, what research did it involve? Because the book uses anecdotal stories about my life, the research was real-time, being lived out day to day! When something happened in my life that I felt was there to teach me a lesson, I wrote about it in my book. I used the Bible as a means to shape the stories, using some biblical stories to explore the spiritual principles behind the experiences. Writing the book, actually, ended up being very therapeutic!
When did you feel you had a finished book to take it to the next step? I’m not sure when I knew that the book was finished – I prayed a lot during this process because I wanted to be sensitive about what God had to say about the book. I didn’t want it to be about me in the sense that I was making every decision based on what I thought. Because I knew the book had a greater purpose for it, I wanted to be sensitive to what the Spirit was showing about the writing process and even myself. When it was done, I just knew it.
What was the most challenging part of the writing process? Because my book was personal in nature, it was hard trying to assess what information to include and what to leave out. What I found, however, was that it was important for me to be and remain as transparent as possible in order for the overarching message I was trying to convey to do its best work.
When did you do most of your writing, did you have a schedule? Interestingly enough, I did a huge chunk of my writing during Lent of 2009. Instead of giving up something, I decided to make use of a gift God gave me. I turned my phone off from 8 p.m. - 11 p.m. every night for 40 days and I wrote. Some nights were better than others, but during this time, I was very intentional about getting the words on the paper. It was probably the most impactful time I had spent that entire year.
Did you have any collaborators, editor, designer, co-author? I was blessed to have some friends who were highly skilled in the editorial and design part; a Soror of mine did some heavy duty editing while a college classmate designed my book cover and online graphics for me! The process of self-publishing is truly a collaborative process!
What technology did you use to write your book? Before I got hip to Mac Books, I used my trusted old desk top PC and laptop. I also used Scrivener, a program that many professional writers use, to keep chapters organized and complete the outline and layout of your manuscript.
What methods of publishing did you consider or had plans for?
Initially, I thought that going the traditional route of pitching the book to a major publishing house would be the only way I’d get my book published. I bought a copy of The Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino and I combed through it looking for every agent who would be interested in representing my type of work. After sending dozens of pitch letters and packets (which also came with dozens of rejection letters), I decided to publish the book myself. Waiting for someone else to believe in my book, a book intended to help people overcome defeat, in itself, seemed so self-defeating. So I did the work myself!
What was the process after that, once you had your book ready to be published? I set up an account on Lulu.com because they were one of the few online sites that did printing and shipping. I invested some money in my project by buying a couple hundred books so that I could sell them at different events, book signings, etc. A number of my supporters wanted to have their book autographed so this was helpful in that process. It was a bit cumbersome trying to mail out the books myself, but the reward definitely outweighed the inconvenience. I relied heavily on social media and my website to promote and sell the book and even secure a few speaking engagements where the book became the focal point of the experience.
What has the response been to your book? The response has been overwhelming and, more importantly, has impacted the lives of women all across this country. From lawyers to stay at home moms, women have been able to reflect on their own lives and create opportunities for growth – but it is more than just individual change; Pieces allows women to change so that their families, homes, and communities can be better. When a woman is at her best, the entire community thrives!
How did you market it? Social Media, Social Media, Social Media! Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr were essential in making sure I got the word out about the book. I also created an email account for the book (under the To the Nines Publishing umbrella) to contact local media (TV, radio, newspaper) to send press releases about my book signing and general information about the book. It became a one-stop-shop: I did the marketing, promoting, and public relations!
Your advice for aspiring writers planning to publish in the near future? Basketball players dribble basketballs. Singers sing. Writers write. You can’t make a claim as a “published author” without first taking the time to write! Do your research as well; there’s nothing that you need to know how to do that you can’t find out on the Internet! I taught myself how to lay out a book, market, and publish a book all on the Internet! You can too!
So what’s next? Alisha has spent a lot of time blogging but has two books in the works. She has been revisiting her manuscripts and hopes to have one of them ready for publishing in 2014.
Thanks Alisha for sharing your author journey and being the first author to participate in the author series. Good luck!
Tamara McElhannon, a 49-year-old native Georgian of Celtic heritage, has a BFA, and is a Graphic Designer and Fine Artist at her company Tamara McElhannon Graphic Design and Illustration / Southern Studio Arts.
How did you begin your 100% work from home journey? I was part owner of a graphic design agency and sold my half to my business partner. After taking time off to travel, I began freelancing from home. It was a natural progression. I wanted to provide a service that was valuable to my customer. Making sure I had a great workspace and the latest technology to do what I needed to do was critical. The benefits? No commute! I am way more productive at home. However, that only works because I am very structured with my time. My office feels like an office. When I leave for the day, I shut the door. It’s a mind game.
Where was it going? Financially, I have done as well, if not better, than I would have if I had a full-time job with a company and I have my FREEDOM! This lifestyle is a perfect fit. Rarely have I felt like it was going to crash in on me. This last recession was the closest but I’ve been doing this for almost 25 years. I do have to make an effort to stay social. I go to meetings, I meet colleagues for lunch and I don’t mind productive meetings outside my office.
Some important factors that helped get started?
1. My first job was with a small graphic design company. I did a large majority of the work but not the bookkeeping and sales. My boss supported a family of four on the work I did, plus his part of the sales. I decided if he could support a family of four, I could take care of myself!
2. When I got to Atlanta, I tried to find a job with what I knew was a sub-par portfolio. I could do better but the only way to do that was to find the jobs that would up the quality. Portfolios are a MAJOR necessity for a graphic designer.
Today, Tamara is still a graphic designer. “I now include illustration in my title and from time to time I am a set/space designer. I am a fine art painter and show at galleries. I can do all of this because I am a solo-entrepreneur. I team up with vendors and other solo-entrepreneurs on various projects.”
What is the average day like? These days, I hit the ground running. Early mornings, coffee, and the news gets me going. I am in the office between 8 and 9 a.m. and out by 8 p.m. I try to stay committed to exercise in that time frame but my commitment comes and goes. A schedule is the most important thing to have. I get up, get dressed and go to my office as if I were working in a corporate job. Because of this, I take myself more seriously, and my clients do too. I do not return emails over the weekend, even if I am working. Right now, my work hours are Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and most weekends. Can’t complain, I am happy to have the work! I feel 100% in control of my life. Even if I am working around the clock, it’s by my choice.
Biggest challenges - Work-life balance. Vacation is in 10 days AND I’ve started telling new clients that I cannot work on their projects until mid-June. My initial fear was losing them but I am now booked until August! Also previously, when clients wanted to meet me at my office, I felt a little insecure about working from home. These days, it’s not taboo.
Lowlight of your 100% work from home career - Our accountant did not file sales tax forms and we were hit with a $30,000 tax bill!
Highlight of your 100% work from home career - I just finished a project for a huge Solar Power Plant just outside of Boston, MA. I created the environmental graphics for a solar trail around a bunch of solar panels for Cox Enterprises. High profile project, great cause, I’m proud of it.
The love/hate relationship - I like clients to stand out from the pack and when we do that successfully, it’s a lot of fun helping a client realize their vision for their company in a creative and compelling way. However, routine production work is not my favorite. I’m currently working with a production artist to take some of that load off.
What gives? I have a support network. Not a “team of people” but in general, I feel supported by my social and business networks. I have faith that I have a unique skill that can help someone else. I’m not a huge goal setter. I do hold myself accountable for moving forward every day and I’m a big believer in self-evaluation, regrouping and redirecting when something isn’t working.
Current status - I am happy financially. I am saving for retirement. I am happy socially and emotionally…I don’t sit well with the demons. If they sneak in, I kick them to the curb as fast as possible. Life is good.
Networking, social media and marketing - When a current client passes my name on, that’s the most valuable. Face to face networking, for me, is more about staying social and supportive to/with others in my community. Social media has been an eye-opener. Since I started an e-newsletter, my business increased by a third. I spend some time conceptualizing it and creating it. I feel it must be a professional job, look like “I” did it and not pulled stories from somewhere else. I also show a project that I have worked on and have a testimonial. I am working on being more social on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. I’m giving it a good try, but I can’t say that I am that comfortable with it. The e-newsletter and cross selling to my clients are my best way to network. General ads to a general market suck! I learned this with my fine art business. Target marketing is the key and sometimes it takes a while to find the right niche in your target market.
Tamara plans to continue her 100% work from home streak in the future. “It suits me,” she adds. “I will tweak what I am doing and plant seeds for a career in the fine arts when I retire. I’m sowing the seeds now!”
Thank you for sharing your experience Tamara!