Today Melissa Alam is here to share how she left a digital agency job to strike out on her own!
Tell us about yourself and what you do.
I’m a strategic brand developer meaning I work with multiple clients (usually entrepreneurs, small businesses and bloggers) to help them build sustainable brands from a digital perspective. I consult them on best practices when it comes to their website or social media, and if they like what I have to say, they can hire me to actually make their website, maintain their social media, or take photos for their brand. I’m also a blogger, local teacher, and co-founder and editor-in-chief for Femme & Fortune, a community and online magazine for the modern woman!
How long ago did you make the escape?
I made the escape in August of 2012, so my two year mark as an ‘escape artist’ is coming up! I was miserable at my digital agency job, and it came through in my work. I felt like I wasn’t good or smart enough for my company, the pressure was too high, and my creativity was suffering. I knew then that I had to make a change if I wanted to be happy with my life and career. I put my two weeks in and around the same time I received my first referral for a website!
What roadblocks did you face when preparing to leave your job?
Just the mentality of what’s next? Leaving my job wasn’t too hard – I took a deep breath one day and said to myself “Just do it Melissa.” I consider myself somewhat of jumper when it comes to ideas or opportunities; I don’t tend to think too much before I just go ahead and do things (could be a good and bad thing at times!).
After I quit my job, I knew my brain couldn’t handle another full-time position, but I needed to figure out how to pay rent ! I looked on Craigslist for a few filler jobs and began working at a local Thai Restaurant as a hostess for side money (and free dinner ha) while I also began to develop my skills, client base, and my current businesses. That lasted about two months, and by then I was I able to become self-sufficient from freelance work.
How did you know you were ready?
The day I walked out of my job, it felt like a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders – the sky seemed a little bit more blue and I had an extra step of joy as I walked away. I knew I was ready when I didn’t care what the future held for me – the only thing I was sure of was that I finally had the opportunity to mold my career the way I wanted it to be and not let my career mold me.
What is the best part of being your own boss?
So many things! Being my own boss has allowed me to grow as a woman and spearhead businesses that have originated from my own ideas and my own passions. Being your own boss is definitely not easy nor for the lazy, but it has great perks of an open schedule, working from home, calling the shots, and connecting directly with clients.
What challenges have come up?
This whole leap into the freelancing world brings new challenges every day. I’m thankful to rely on referrals for my business, but there’s always the challenge of how do I handle all of the work I get; do I hire someone else and can I even afford it? Other challenges include learning different aspects of the business such as accounting and taxes – two of my worst enemies. I’m okay at keeping records of everything, but I could definitely be better. Confidence has also been a big challenge, but I believe in constantly learning and being ahead of the curve when it comes to your business. A great piece of advice I received early on was to “fake it till you make it!” That mentality has helped push myself when it comes to tasks where I had no idea how to accomplish but decided to simply teach myself step by step.
What are your work days like now?
Everyday is different! I try to schedule meetings with clients usually on the same day so that I can focus on working at least three full days of the week on actual client deliverables. I work from my apartment, local coffee shop, or a co-working space throughout the week, and I tend to start my days around 10am until the wee hours of the night. I’ve been spoiling myself recently by allowing a few happy hours here and there, only because the first year of freelancing meant a lot of hibernation. It’s not the healthiest thing to do, so balancing work and play is important to stay sane!
Any advice for those working to make the escape as well?
You don’t always need some elaborate game plan to take the leap. Just believe in yourself and know that whatever game plan you choose includes you working your butt off. And never stop learning! I wouldn’t be where I am if I didn’t soak in information from blogs like Sarah’s or ask questions to other similar freelancers or business owners. Knowing others are going through the same thing you are is really empowering and uniting as a solopreneur like myself!