Entrepreneurship wasn’t something I jumped into with a full heart and with full intention. In fact, owning my own business took me by surprise.
Growing up, my father owned a small sock factory. Much of what he experienced as a business owner is what I pictured entrepreneurship to be all about. Truth is, his experience was less than desirable. Despite being brilliant at what he did, he worked endless hours and never achieved the kind of success he deserved.
So you may ask: How did I end up here today, as a communications strategist for my own company?
It was the desire for a career change that set my off in this direction. Before becoming an entrepreneur, I left a perfectly good job as a professor. I knew I wanted to do something else, but I didn’t know how to go about translating my academic experience into employment.
To help weigh my options, I turned to a friend with years of business experience. She said, “the only way you’ll be able to make a living is if you work for yourself.” My heart sank; knowing what I had known about entrepreneurship, those were the exact words I did not want to hear.
However, with her encouragement propelling me, I decided to take the leap and start my own business. In fact, this friend was my very first client—she gave me a chance when nobody else would, and I’ve been a self-employed communications consultant since. Today, I make a living by helping people talk about the things that are hard to talk about, and I’m loving every minute of it.
What sets me apart from other consultants? I believe it’s the way I express what I do. I help people talk about things that are hard to talk about. That’s a specialty that taps into what I love the most.
For instance as a teacher of college students for many years, I loved wrestling with really hard ideas in a room full of other people. So being the “expert” was never really interesting to me. For me, I was passionate about helping other people think through really challenging ideas.
Today as a consultant, I take that experience from my teaching days into my new role. Rather than aiming for the easy solution or sound bite, I help my clients work through the hard stuff. Together, we give voice to their most important ideas. That’s something I haven’t seen a lot of people do, and it’s a kind of work I find profoundly rewarding.
As in: How do I ask people to pay me?
It was totally alien for me to ask for money from clients. And it took me quite a while to get my head around how to do it, and how it could be okay.
So I consulted with an artist friend; what she told me is something that continues to stick with me today: “Money is just energy”. I put energy into the world when I do my work and I get energy back in the form of money. So I quickly learned: If I put a lot of energy into my work, it’s okay to ask for energy back.
Believe it or not, I sent my very first invoice with FreshBooks. When I landed my first project, I knew I’d need to send an invoice of some sort and track my hours. So I Googled “small business accounting software” and that’s when FreshBooks appeared.
I considered my options carefully. This was the only solution that had time tracking and invoicing altogether. Beyond that, I liked the feel and look of FreshBooks—it felt friendly and encouraging to use.
Why have I stuck around? FreshBooks knows that I care about how my business looks to others. It lets me put in my own company logo—little things like that matter.
I’m a consultant so I’m paid for my time. In a very direct way, being able to quantify the time I’m putting into a client’s project is how I earn my living. FreshBooks makes that part of business easy, and that’s priceless.
With clients, I sometimes work on a retainer or a fixed-fee basis, rather than hourly. I’ll also track my hours for those projects in FreshBooks, so I can show my clients exactly what I’m doing on their nickel. On every invoice, there’s a link to FreshBooks that lets clients see how I’m working on their behalf. That link makes the value of my work transparent, and clients appreciate it.
Beyond invoicing, tracking my time helps me be a better business owner. I track time on FreshBooks that isn’t billable. For instance, when I set up special pro-bono projects or non-billable business development tasks, tracking time gives me an overview of where my time is actually spent.
Being able to use FreshBooks for time tracking in those ways saves me from the feeling of “time wasted” that I’ve seen a lot of freelancers experience. It’s great to be able to see exactly how I’m spending time to do something good for my business and my clients, even if I’m not billing for it.
I’ve shared all my early thoughts about going into business for myself—how my past experiences led to some doubts and fears. Once I’d accepted my career was headed in that direction, I had one financial goal: I didn’t want my husband to have to pay more than his share of our living expenses. That was the sum of my ambition.
It was a slow and steady climb, but in 2015—my second year as a business owner—my revenue increased 110% over the previous year. Then, in 2016, it rose another 10%. I owe these figures to the accounting system I have in place. With FreshBooks’ help, all my projects, tasks and time are accounted for. FreshBooks takes care of the administration, so I can do the work I love.
Thus far, FreshBooks has helped me track my time, invoice clients and provide estimates—all in one place. It’s really helped keep me organized, so I can focus on my work.
The price I pay is more than fair for what I get, and I can write it off as a business expense. If I ever need help, I know from experience that their support team will help me with good cheer. But I love FreshBooks for more than practical reasons. To be frank, I trust FreshBooks to be good to me; I trust the integrity of the company. Every single encounter I’ve had with FreshBooks—including this one—has made my world a better, happier and more functional place.