Malika Bowling, 36, is of Indian origin, born in Mumbai, India and currently residing in Atlanta, GA with her husband Glen. She has a BBA in Marketing from Kennesaw State University and is an author, writer, marketing consultant and community manager with two businesses, Blue Sky Virtual Assistants and Association of Food Bloggers. Connect with Malika through Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Read up about her latest adventures on AtlantaRestaurantBlog.com
Malika began working from home in 2009 when she was laid off from her marketing job. She started out doing accounting part time for a friend but at the same time started blogging and learning social media which got her some clients and added to her income. She slowly built her business from there.
Choice or a necessity? Both. I was laid off from my FT position and decided to build my own business rather than go to work for another company.
Obstacles faced? Doing everything myself, having to learn new technologies, keeping up to date with trends. I find it really exhausting keeping it up with all the latest information and best practices in my field. So many people want to pay freelancers hardly anything at all yet they expect them to know everything.
Benefits experienced? Flexibility and creativity. I love that I don’t have to sit in traffic each day and sit in pointless meetings and report to micro-managers.
Business or game plan? I thought I’d have a career blogging and doing social media. That has evolved into being more of a marketing consultant with some Public Relations thrown in as well.
Financial, emotional and social observations? Financially, it was a struggle at first but I was determined NOT to work for a corporation again. I waited until I had enough clients / income to pay my financial obligations at the minimum before quitting my PT job. Emotionally, I definitely had more good days than bad. But sometimes it was a bit hard on my ego to lose a client. But it happens and I’ve learned that you can do everything right, and still a contract might not last. Socially, I’m definitely more of an introvert than an extrovert. So, working from home works well for me. But I still would miss the social aspect of seeing others, but because I write a food blog I go to several events per week so still get to socialize. The hard part for me is the sales part of business as I’m not inclined to do that or have a fondness for it.
Family support? My dad has always encouraged me to be entrepreneurial and he is, and I fell into it pretty easily. When I started my business, I was 100% responsible for my financial obligations, but my then boyfriend, now husband, provided much encouragement and emotional support.
Factors that helped you get started? Hating working for companies as so many treat employees badly, so I was determined to work for myself. Also, I am naturally entrepreneurial, so it was a good fit for me to go into business for myself and I have a habit for doing multiple projects at the same time, so this certainly encouraged me to get started, to allow myself the free time to pursue some of the other projects I was interested in.
Currently Malika works from home as a Solo Entrepreneur!
Average day - Sleep in. Not a morning person. So, don’t usually get started until about 9 am. I check email and respond to the most important things. I consult my to-do list that I made the day before. I take care of the most important and unpleasant tasks first. I may have conference calls or writing as well.
Work schedule - Yes, I maintain a work schedule but it is not a typical schedule. I don’t think most entrepreneurs have typical schedules. I try to stick to a Monday – Friday work schedule. I sometimes have to attend special events on evenings and weekends for clients but it is rare. I also try to go to the gym 3 to 4 times per week during the day. Work hours are Monday – Friday 9 am – 6 pm, for client work. Often times I take Friday afternoons off. Side projects, blogging for myself are on evenings and weekends. During the day around 1 or 2 pm, I take a break to go to the gym for an hour.
Biggest challenges now and how do you deal with them? Being able to do everything I am responsible for. I might need to update a website but don’t have all the technical skills to do it. Things like that frustrate me. So, I’ll have to find someone to outsource it to. Also, making clients understand the value of what I provide for them. There’s always someone who will do it cheaper than I will, but that doesn’t mean they are getting the best value. I try to let them know about small wins when I get them for them and try to have face to face meetings when possible so they don’t forget about me and my importance to their business.
Most celebrated moments being 100% work from home? When I hear about horrible traffic reports and know I don’t have to sit in that mess! I love when it is a beautiful day outside and I can spend the afternoon working on my deck or take an hour or two and go for a hike. I set my schedule, I don’t have to bend to the will of a boss. And, being able to spend more time with my husband.
Liberties/restrictions of being 100% work from home? Liberties – being able to set my schedule, take a long lunch, etc. when I want. But it is my responsibility to update all equipment – I can’t rely on a company to do that. It is difficult to not have the benefits of vacation or health insurance or other benefits. As a freelancer / contractor, I don’t get paid if I take any time off.
What parts of your work do you enjoy the most and which parts do you not enjoy as much? I love setting my own schedule. I feel guilty whenever I take time off though. I feel like I always should be trying to produce / grow my business. I hate spending so much time trying to land a client and have them pick my brain and not sign a deal.
Support network? Yes, my husband and father are very supportive. They encourage me to keep doing what I’m doing and that it will all work out.
Tools/mechanisms to success? I love my break in the day at the gym. I don’t bring in my phone and have an hour to escape, re-energize and come back to my home office more creative.
Current financial, emotional and social observations? Financially, I’m doing fine. My business is slowly growing and I am comfortable, but I would really like to have more of a nest egg, be able to buy a new car, take at least one nice vacation per year, etc. Socially - Fantastic. Running my own business has forced me to be more social and outgoing. I think I’ve built some good relationships – not just friendships but business relationships as well. Great emotionally – I have lots of opportunities to go out several times a week to media events and see fun and interesting people. I love engaging and talking to new people whenever I’m out and about.
How important is face-to-face networking? Networking per se doesn’t really work for me. The events where you go and everyone is trying to pitch themselves are awful. I got very frustrated going to those events because they never got me any business. I’ve gotten business from meeting others in my field (blogging, writing, social media) and they recommended others who they knew. It is because I developed a relationship with these people that they got to trusting me and recommending me.
How important is social media? It is what I do for a living, so I have to demonstrate that I know what I am doing. I spend at least an hour a day on it for clients and myself. I also spend time reading articles on keeping up with it and trends to keep my clients satisfied.
How important is marketing? Marketing is important, but I’ve learned to do it indirectly. I’ve gotten more and more clients from referrals. These are friendships and relationships that I’ve developed over the years within my industry. I help these friends and they help me. Online ads and straight up networking events never worked.
Do you find time to indulge in pursuits that are non-professional? Yes, I enjoy cooking occasionally and get to do that a couple times a week. I enjoy hiking as well. I sometimes get to do it during weekdays and on weekends.
The highlight of your career while being 100% work from home? Being a published author. I was contacted by a publishing company to write the book, Food Lovers’ Guide to Atlanta. I never thought I would be an author. I am so thrilled to have written a book.
Malika plans to continue working from home fulltime in the future. "Yes, I love it and I’m good at it. You have to be disciplined to work from home with all the distractions, but I feel very satisfied doing it. I’m writing at least one more book, if not two. I expect that these will give me even more credibility than I had before and catapult me into even more and bigger opportunities. I plan to continue going to media events and making good connections. I look forward to writing more books and for travel but even though I like to stay busy, I’m not someone who likes to be so incredibly busy that I don’t have time for friends and hobbies. I could see my business growing to the point that I won’t have much free time. I don’t want to be one of those people that has to work 70 or 80 hours per week."
Advice to others currently considering 100% work from home? Make sure it is a good fit for your personality. Some people can’t handle all the distractions of working from home. The other thing is so many people crave that social interaction that you don’t get when you work from home. So think about these things before doing this.
Specific tools that helped? Fiverr.com is a great tool. They have lots of things skilled people will do for five bucks. You can get help with websites, writing, video transcription, anything!
You can also read up more about Malika on Idea Mensch !