Three years ago, I made a life-changing decision to leave my job at an architecture & design firm. It had lost its luster in the midst of the pandemic, and I was exhausted from endless Zoom meetings and working overtime.
I thought my leave was going to be a short but purposeful pause to recover from burnout while the world rebounded from the pandemic… But then I came across a whole new world of opportunities: online businesses. A spark was lit. That was it!
I saw an opportunity to replace my salary and transform my corporate knowledge into a business, all while being the mom I wanted to be. Now, I have the freedom to choose the clients I want to work with, the projects I want to take on, and the hours I want to dedicate to my work.
In this article, I’ll share the roadmap I used to successfully leap from corporate. I hope it helps clarify what it takes to go from being overworked to a thriving entrepreneur.
How to get started
The fastest way to begin earning income is by turning your knowledge into a service. Consider the roles that your colleagues seek your help with or the tasks you enjoy doing. It's important to reflect on what tasks drain you and which ones energize you as you explore your options.
There are three ways to offer your services:
Consulting: You have the expertise to walk another person through a process. This can look like offering up one or several calls to help another person solve a problem.
Project-based Packages: You are working on one thing over a short timeframe with a client. This can look like helping a small business owner solve their problem within a set number of weeks.
Retainer-based Packages: You are working with someone for a longer timeframe. This can look like providing a set amount of hours per month to solve multiple problems.
During this freelance stage, you want to validate your ideas and prove you can generate income. I recommend starting with consulting and project-based packages over retainer work because it allows you to work with more people in a shorter period of time.
Freelance for six months, work with a couple of clients, or complete a couple of projects to see if this path is right for you before taking the leap into running a small business.
What you do need to get started
Getting started is simple with just a computer and phone. Here are the other things you will need:
A simple contract: It needs to confirm the scope of work, deadlines, and payment terms.
A scheduling tool: This will save you time. Simply share a link to your tool of choice, like Calendly. Potential clients can find a time that works with your pre-defined schedule. You can elect to connect over a free Zoom account or by phone.
A way to collect payment: You can use Paypal, Zelle, or Venmo. If you are offering paid consulting calls, simplify the process and upgrade your free Calendly account to a pro plan so you can collect a payment when a client books a call.
Don't get hung up on finding the "best tools." You will gradually learn about the online tools and apps that are right for you and your business.
Pro tip: Create a one-page sheet about yourself, your expertise, and your ideal client. Don’t worry if you can’t get your thoughts to paper. It will come as you talk to each person.
What you do need not to get started
I purposely excluded websites and social media from the list- I don’t think it is necessary because both have greater levels of investment of your time and resources.
Be sure to update your LinkedIn and personal social media profiles and use them to spread the news. But remember, you want to spend your time having as many conversations as possible, serving clients, and collecting testimonials. I have seen others fail in this phase because they got caught up in naming their domain, spun their wheels over the "best" website platform, and got decision fatigue on what to post.
Both of those things require marketing strategy and copy. Plan to create this after you work with a client or two. Of course, if your services involve either of those two things, then dive in. If you feel certain about a business name, then go for it and claim your domain and social media handles.
Pro Tip: Don’t waste your money and buy a website only to have it say “coming soon.” You can create a simple but effective landing page for less than $20 per month. Be sure it includes a clear call to action.
Where to find customers
Remember, at this stage, your goal is to keep your investments low while you validate your ideas. Here are a couple of free ways to find clients:
Your personal network - don’t overlook this: Why? Because friends, family, and former colleagues already know and trust you.
I get it; they might not be your ideal customer or client. But it’s who THEY know that helps you get your foot in the door.
They might be the ones who introduce you to potential clients. Your personal network is the secret weapon many overlook. Sharing your new venture and excitement with them can bring unexpected referrals. And trust me, you’d be amazed at the connections you might have forgotten about!
Facebook Groups - ones dedicated to your ideal client base: I was amazed at how many Facebook Groups were out there dedicated to my niche. Find and join groups, be respectful of group rules, and provide valuable advice to posts that relate to your offer and services.
You are not selling; you are connecting. This is also a great place for market research. You may discover you can solve more things than you initially set out to do. Ultimately, this will lead to conversations offline.
Pro Tip: Don’t scroll your time away. Set a 30-minute timer and find two or three posts where you can add value to the conversation. Also, confirm if the group has days where they let you promote yourself. If they do, make use of it!
There has never been a better time to start your own online business. Download the workbook and see the steps I took to successfully launch a business after years of working in the corporate world. Whether you are at the beginning of your entrepreneurial path or considering taking the leap, I hope my insights will help you reach your goals calmly and with clarity.
It starts with making the bold choice to try, making the most of your limited time and resources, and gradually building your runway (and savings account). I’m here rooting for you every step of the way.
Hey there- if we haven’t had a chance to meet yet, I’m Kirstin, a former corporate gal turned small business owner who helps female entrepreneurs lead profitable and fulfilling businesses without burnout.
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