Lisa Kaneff—marketing consultant and writer—knows what she wants as a small business owner and knows how to make it happen.
When she wanted to form a group of cyclists, she started a group called DC Jews on Bikes. When she wanted to build a community of freelancers to network with, she started a Facebook community called Freelance DC. And when she wanted to earn the value she knew she was worth, she took the leap to freelance life. She has now grown Next Chapter Consulting into a six-figure freelance copywriting and marketing consultancy. How did she do it? Working with a business coach is one key factor to getting to where she is today.
This is Lisa’s entrepreneurial story.
What were you doing before you started your business? And what motivated you to quit and start off on your own?
I was a Senior Marketing Consultant at an agency. Early on in my career at the agency, I was having trouble communicating with coworkers. My work was good but I was hitting brick walls and having conflicts that were unnecessary. So my boss (now my mentor) suggested I take my professional development money and, rather than attend a conference, I work with a coach. The goal was to figure out how to make me happier at work and a better coworker. My Coach, Dave Kaiser of Dark Matter Consulting, interviewed all my coworkers and found out what my strengths and weaknesses were. From there, we could start figuring out where I was missing the mark with my colleagues.
That whole process really helped me understand how to be more compassionate toward people in a work environment and also be vulnerable when receiving feedback. He also helped me shift my focus from looking for reasons to leave my job to looking for reasons to stay. And when I didn’t have any more reasons to stay, he then worked with me to make the transition. Since he already knew me so well he was able to give me a lot of confidence to take the leap into the freelance world. He pretty much didn’t give me permission to not have confidence! When I thought I couldn’t do it, Dave made me realize that there was no data to back that up.
The real ‘a-ha’ moment came when I realized that the value I presented wasn’t being expressed in the role I was in. I wanted to take all the knowledge I could offer and move it to a position where I could be compensated for my value. I just knew there was more for me out there professionally. So I said to myself: ‘Girl, you’re 33 years old; what do you want to be when you grow up?’
Now, I ‘own’ the term freelancer but it was my coach who helped turn me into a business owner. Becoming the CEO of this business was a real confidence booster. I made the decision to invest in someone who has ‘been there done that’ and has my best interest at heart.
The real ‘a-ha’ moment came when I realized that the value I presented wasn’t being expressed in the role I was in.
What are the 3 things someone should consider before changing careers or starting their own business?
- Get Legal. Know legally what you need to do to become a business in the town that you live. Business license, taxes etc..
- Remember, business isn’t personal. You aren’t your business, your business is your business. Try not to take things personally.
- Find community. Find people who get what you’re going through that you can share your work with. If there isn’t a community, build one. Join a coworking space-it’s a worthwhile investment.
What were/are some of the challenges of running your own business and how have you/are you addressing them?
One of my biggest challenges is that I don’t have a pipeline and sometimes anxiety can stem from that. Work is often very transactional and I don’t have visibility into what’s coming next. During a particularly slow time last year, I was getting a bit nervous because I didn’t know when the next project and paycheck was coming. So I opened up FreshBooks to look at what my income was like the same time the previous year. I noticed a pattern and realized that it was just a slow period. This really helped reduce the anxiety and I could focus on using the down time to develop professionally or seek out new work.
I’m good at what I do but I don’t have natural business acumen. I take a lot of time to invest in learning core business stuff to better understand how it works. It helps make me more confident throughout the ebbs and flows of owning a business–because the ebbs are very scary. During the ebbs, I take time to become better at my work or to get the work
Share a story where you went above and beyond to solve a problem.
I go above and beyond for people who are new to freelancing. I take time out to invest in other people who want to take the same leap I did. I do this in a few different ways.
I send a lot of work to other freelancers and spend time mentoring many of them. For me, that’s the best use of my time because I’m helping other people live their dream. If there’s anything I can do to help people get on the right path, it’s worth every single moment I give to it.
That’s one of the reasons I started Freelance DC. I had a project that wasn’t a great fit for me and I didn’t know anyone else I could give it to. My coach and I talked about building a community. Because, If you don’t know freelancers and you need the freelancers you should go forth and procure the freelancers. The first thing I did as Admin was give someone a project. After all, sharing is caring. Now, It’s grown to be a community with a really amazing ethos of sharing. The goal isn’t to win the work, the goal is to ensure the work is won. It’s all about the client and making sure they are using the best people for the job.
Where do you work from?
I do my best to get out of the house but I don’t work well in coffee shops. I may do some admin work there but for my real work, I need two screens. So most of my time is usually spent at a coworking space and sometimes at home.
Inspiration or perspiration?
As a creative, I’m a firm believer in perspiration. Infrastructure is so important. I believe it’s all about showing up, pushing through hard times, getting the infrastructure in place early and delivering what you promise when you promise it and with the highest quality.
Name one business/business person you really look up to?
My first job out of college was as an event coordinator at an arena in Everett Washington. Kim Bediar was the General Manager. All these years later, she is still an amazing, strong leader who takes no bull from anyone. She embodies strength and confidence and grace under pressure and in life.
She saw something in me back then even though I was this kid who was a bit of a disaster but she had always seen this spark in me. Now, I really see her as a mentor and, whenever possible, I like to turn to her when I have questions about following my path. She’s so great at always guiding me back to what I want. She reminds me that the success I’ve found is the success that I’ve built. And It’s not that we do the same thing because we are in totally different businesses. What we share is the desire to not just be good, but to be great.
Favorite inspirational quote?
“Get up, do the work, get paid, so you can do what you love”
Work life balance is tough for a business owner. What do you do to try and keep some balance in your life?
I’ve given up work/life balance for work/life integration and I’ve never been happier. I work and live; I don’t live to work or work to live. I do both equally and I love it.
I love what I do and I’m at a point that I can work with the clients I want to work with. I work for people I want to work with, do what I love and get paid–that’s the dream isn’t it?!
I’m also pretty clear about boundaries. I’ll give clients a timeline for deliverables-this way, there’s no need to text or email all the time. We will develop trust between each other and it makes us both a lot happier.
Looking forward, what’s next for you and your business?
I want to grow my business but not my business size–I know that probably isn’t what most people say. I want to start working with larger agencies and name brand products I believe in. I’m not looking to add any employees to the business but I would love to grow myself by accepting bigger projects with the skill-set that I have and getting better at what I do.
She has her favorite punctuation tattooed on her arm: The interrobang (‽)
Learn more about Lisa and Next Chapter Consulting:
about the author
Amanda is a content editor at FreshBooks, writing and producing blog content to help small business owners achieve their goals and enjoy (yes, actually enjoy!) running their business. Amanda’s background in education and customer support makes her a natural communicator who loves empowering others to succeed. When she’s not writing and editing content, Amanda takes her dog, Jonny, on adventures searching for the best coleslaw in Toronto.