Nacie Carson worked in quality assurance but the quality of her work experience was lacking something.
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So, she ventured out on her own.
We tracked her down in Boston, Massachusetts and asked her to share her transition from employee to entrepreneur with us. She kindly obliged, and she offers some great advice for would-be entrepreneurs.
So, Nacie, what type of firm were you working at before you decided to go out on your own?
I used to work at a financial software company as a project lead in the quality assurance department.
I had been there for a little over a year when in September 2008 I chose to leave to pursue freelance writing, something I had always been passionate about.
As soon as I left, however, I began building and writing a web community called "The Life Uncommon" (www.thelifeuncommon.net) about working and succeeding in a field you love, not just a field that pays.
That is now one of my top projects, and the eBook and associated advertising for the site is now a steady source of income. I am planning to expand the community further in the New Year with online video seminars, speaking engagements, and a revised second edition of the book.
Why have you decided to become an entrepreneur instead of simply looking for another job? Is this something you have been thinking about for a while or did you just recently decide that you wanted to own your own business?
I started thinking about working for myself a while ago, but had no idea how it would work out. With bills and debt to pay, the idea of being self-employed seemed like a pie-in-the-sky dream.
I was interested in it because I like running my work and managing my product, wanted more flexible working hours, and I also have a hard time working for someone else's agenda when I'm not invested personally. But I felt like there was no way to keep my head about water financially and pursue working for myself so these were just things I'd have to deal with.
Yet the thought kept persisting, and one day I sat down, crunched the numbers, and realized it could work. It wasn't until I was out on my own and saw the vast world of possibilities out there that I decided to own my own business.
Did you start the business from scratch or did you buy it from somebody? Why are you doing one instead of the other? Which do you think is the best approach?
The website was started from scratch on a shoestring budget as a hobby while I was still working in the financial sector, and has been built up slowly over time.
For an internet business, especially one that is personal and needs to have a distinct personality and voice like "The Life Uncommon" so I think it is best to start from scratch.
You can pay web designer's to make it fancy and you can spend a bunch on internet advertising, but at the end of the day it is the personal relationship you build with the audience that carries it, unlike a bricks and mortar business.
The slow start up and development of a following is essential to certain types of online businesses, so I wouldn't have done it any other way than from scratch!
Why did you start an Internet business instead of a more traditional bricks-an-mortar business?
I think an internet business is a perfect business for me to own because it is flexible with time and also allows me to craft a voice and reach out to more people across the world.
Are you going it alone on this process or are you consulting with others for advice? If you are talking to others, who have you met with? What good advice have you heard?
I've been consulting with people from the time I started to consider my site my business. I've spoken with marketing experts, web designers, and financial advisors to organize the look and feel of the site.
But I have also had some great conversations with other entrepreneurs working in the internet sector about how they have been successful and gained customers. One of the best pieces of advice I've heard is not to mimic other successful sites – you can learn from their strategy, but the only hope your site has is to be original and unique in its own right and not look like everyone or everything else.
Sometimes it's hard, because you can look at other successful sites and think, "wow, it works for them to put their ads on this side of the page or use these colors, I should do that," but your site is your own, and you need to keep it distinct from the rest.
Stay true to your message and goals and it will pick up a following on its own terms.
That's great advice for aspiring Internet entrepreneurs. Everybody says owning a business is very different from working as an employee. What are some of the big differences you've noticed?
Things that have already been different in good and challenging ways.
Being able to work your own hours and work your own pace is one of the best things – I've been able to spend more time with my family and friends, as well as pursuing my non-work interests like fitness, reading, and spending time in nature.
But finding good and affordable health insurance has been a challenge.
Another unexpected challenge has been time management. You'd be surprised how little can get done when you have fifteen or sixteen hours free each day! You need to be strict with yourself, and I also suggest spend time reading up on time management techniques. The lack of 9-5 structure can be either a blessing or a curse, depending on how you use that time.
Have your loved ones and family been supportive of your starting a business?
I have been lucky, because my family and friends have been very supportive. My parents were great about talking me through it, going over pros and cons, and not impressing their will on my choice – the people who love you want you to do what you love, but they also don't want you to be destitute.
My boyfriend was also very supportive, which was really helpful. I remember one day when I was fretting about my job, going back and forth between working for myself or staying for the salary, he just stopped me and said, "Nacie, do what makes you happy. Life is too short for you to be this stressed about it and to be this unhappy at your job. Just try it out, and if it doesn't work we'll take it from there."
I think the sense that vocational trial and error was acceptable and a part of life really helped me get my mind in a place where I could make the leap.
Sounds like you have some great people around you. So, what is your timeline for becoming an entrepreneur? Are there some specific goals that you hope to achieve by a certain time? What are those goals?
Right now I feel like I am in the fledgling stages of where I could go, and where I want to go, and am in the process of organizing a comprehensive business plan.
One of my big goals for 2009 is to have the second edition of the book for sale by the end of January. Another is to get video posts up by April, and then start offering online seminars by July.
From there, specific goals get more nebulous – I would like to get the book into print form, and write a few follow up books as well. Of course I want readership and customers to increase, and I think that in the next few months I will need to bring another person on board to help with the day to day responsibilities, which will be a new phase for The Life Uncommon in and of itself!
What makes you think you will be successful in running your own business?
My business is my vision, it isn't just a money making entity. I want the message of The Life Uncommon to be presented to the world in the best ways possible, and this is my top priority.
I know I will be successful running my own business because I am competent in time management, financial organization and balancing, and planning strategy. I communicate well with others, and try to let my personality come through in my writing, which I know is an asset in the online world.
And maybe most importantly, this is what I love to do – I will persevere until it is successful!
Anything else you'd care to share with us regarding the transition from being laid off to starting a business?
Never underestimate yourself or your ideas. There is more opportunity in the world now than ever, and any idea can be turned into a money making venture.
Be creative, be true to yourself, and be excited – starting out on your own is scary but rewarding.
You never know whose idea will be the next big thing…why shouldn't it be yours!
Nacie, thanks so much for sharing this great advice. We appreciate your taking the time to participate and wish you all the best for your business!