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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
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    Default Support thread for the Self Employed

    I'm surprised we don't have this thread yet. Let's chat and talk about our joys and frustrations of being self-employed.

    I'll start: I'm really sick of certain people in my life implying that I'm lazy, sleep all day, and don't really work for a living because I own my business, set my hours, and work from home.
    "I am no skillful avoid gathering the people together, except when there was occasion, and received." ~ SPAM email

  2. #2
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    Jun 2005
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    Hey Disco. Great idea. I'm a lurker but I notice you alot and I enjoy your posts. I just started a new business doing graphic design.

    My joys . . . getting to schedule my day any way I want. At first I tried doing a typical 9-5er but it wasn't working for me. Now I get groceries at 9:30 in the morning if I want. I'll take a walk and play with my dogs mid afternoon. Ofcourse that means I may have to work a few hours in the evening to make up for it but I do it happily - since I spent my day enjoying myself.

    Also, since I've just started the business I still get that thrill of excitement when there is a message on my machine from a potential client. It's fun.

    The Struggles . . . Being accountable for myself and my performance. I'm lucky that I don't HAVE to work while this thing takes off. Although, we did buy a very small house to keep our expenses down and that sucks. I still feel like a slacker if I take an extra long walk and don't get my work done first. Just not used to not going to an office each day.

    The worst . . . yes, peoples perception of what I do or should be doing. I can't ever lament about not having something done. After all, I've had tons of time right? I get LOTS of unsolicitated advice from well meaning people. Still, it irks me. After all I don't tell them how to organize their office or what sort of calls they should be making.

    And I'm in the process of getting my vendor license and all that fun stuff. I hate that part.

  3. #3
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    Jun 2005
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    Hi paperweight! What kind of graphic design do you do? Do you design business logos and flyers, things like that?
    After all I don't tell them how to organize their office or what sort of calls they should be making.
    I love that! I may start using it. When someone says something about my job, I can say, "I tell you what, I won't tell you how to do your job, and you don't tell me how to do mine." Let's see if that response makes them realize what they are doing!

    The pros of being SE can be great.
    - I generally don't go to bed until around midnight, but I'm often working. Actually, I do a lot of phone work in the evening, because my clients can't do it during the day when they're working.
    - In the mornings, I walk or do yard work before showering and starting my daily routine. I'm getting a nice tan!
    - I can schedule hair appts, dentist appts, etc., during the day and not have to take off from work or worry about a boss hassling me.
    - I don't have to answer to some jerk boss telling me what to do!
    - I can refuse business if I don't like the client or the job.

    Downside of working my job -
    - I'm rarely home on a Saturday, and if I am, I feel like I'm losing money. I miss Saturday nights going out to dinner, movies, concerts, shows, etc.
    - I rarely get to church anymore, since I'm sleeping in from working Saturday night.
    - I work an additional part-time job because I don't feel like my business brings in enough money (although our company is actually pretty successful).
    - People call me during the day expecting that I can be the one to pick them up if their car dies, etc., because I'm home. They think being home = not working.
    - Sometimes it's hard to set aside time for me and DH, as I feel I *should* answer the phone when it rings because it could be a new client.
    "I am no skillful avoid gathering the people together, except when there was occasion, and received." ~ SPAM email

  4. #4
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    Jun 2005
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    It would really suck not having Sat. off. But you work with your DH don't you? Atleast that is something. And as far as evenings out go, you might be working but I'll be you get to eat, drink and be merry (to a certain extent) and get paid for it. At least the DJ's in my parts of the world do. Not the same I know and you don't have the luxury of saying, "naw, I don't want to go out tonight. Let's just get a movie and hang out."

    I feel the same way you do about answering the phone. Especially now with being so new. For myself if I call and have to leave a message I might not and then never get around to calling again. I don't want someone to do that to me.

    I do all sorts of graphic design but what I really enjoy is wedding invites. That is my main thing. I've been doing it for about 3 years now as a side business. We recently moved back to our hometown and decided since it's a cheaper area to live in that we'd make the plunge to have me do this full time. I've been playing with the idea of getting a part time job because I'm not making much money now. But I am really busy running around town, joining clubs so I can network, etc. Maybe I'll wait until after the holidays and see how it goes.

    So what did you do to network when you first started out? DH had 6 siblings so I've used them and their friends as customers. I'm building steam that way. And I recently joined the chamber of commerce. That seems like it was a good move. I'm not good at cold calling. I do want to hit a couple of the bridal places around here but not sure of a good approach. Any suggestions from a seasoned vendor?

  5. #5
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    Jun 2005
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    That does help! Fantastic.

    I'm glad you mention what didn't work because those were the two things that I was thinking of doing right off the bat. Funny.

    The problem in my situation is that there aren't any bridal shows around here. We're kinda in the sticks. Most of the shows are in cities 1 hour away. Brides will go to those shows to get ideas or see the fashion show but none to actually use the vendors. Plus it's expensive to have a booth. Well, expensive for me right now. I'm not opposed to do invites for brides outside my area but I don't feel I'm ready to spread out already. I do need to get a website and that is on my list.

    I have checked with several of the nicer rental halls and found ways to advertise with them so that's a start.

    HTML Code:
    But - we NEVER drink on the job. To me, professional wedding vendors never drink on the job, just as other working professionals should never drink on the job.
    Good point. I guess here is pretty relaxed. Most of the time your DJ is a buddy or something. I'm always amazed at how much people spend in other parts of the state. There are some really fabulous weddings out there. And ofcourse the vendors at those events must be true professionals.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Atlanta
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    I just found this thread. DD pretty much covered all the fun of being self-employed in a wedding related industry.

    I have to say that the thing that bothers me the most in being self employed are the people who think that I should be falling all over themselves because they're thinking about hiring me.

    I take Sundays off. It's the only day of the week I'm off. I work during the week doing all the office related things that have to do with my job, and then I shoot weddings and portraits on Saturdays. But I have had people chew me out because I will not meet with them on Sunday. I have had people chew me out because I won't meet with them on Saturday before a wedding. I just don't understand people sometimes.

    Then there are the people who see my prices and proceed to chew me out for how much I charge. They tell me that my work is the best they've seen - better than anyone else they've looked at - and then yell at me for charging too much. Hello? If my work is the best you've seen, then maybe I'm charging what I'm *worth*???

    Oy. Can you tell this strikes a nerve?

    And the whole Saturday working thing - honestly it's a career choice I made and 90% of the time I don't mind it. Really. But I don't work with my DH and so I don't get to see him on Saturday much at all. And I don't get to party at receptions - not that I don't enjoy them, but I don't get to dance, don't get to eat, and, as DD said, definitely don't get to drink. I just photograph everyone else doing it.

    Really it's not so much that my Saturday night is taken as it is that it blows making any weekend plans. Wanna go to the beach for the weekend? Can't, I have a wedding. Wanna take a long weekend and spend a romantic few days in a cabin in the mountains? Can't, I have a wedding. And because DH works a "real job", we can't take those days in the middle of the week either. So if we want to do anything ... go to a family event, take a romantic weekend for the two of us, whatever ... I have to carve out a weekend and not take bookings for it intentionally. Bleah.

    I'm glad to see a support thread for us!

    Karen
    Last edited by KarenS; 10-09-2005 at 11:18 AM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
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    well...i'm not self-employed yet...but I would like to be someday.
    Like Paperweight I would like to start my own graphic design business. Probably working with small business and individuals designing invites, announcements, logos, brochures..etc.
    Paperweight I know you're just getting started, but any info and pointers you can give would be appreciated! One question that comes to mind...is how do you deal with printing? Do you include that in your services and get printing done at a local printing press or do you just turn over your designs and let the client deal with printing?
    Thanks! I'll be back to read more about the joys/horrors of being self-employed

  8. #8
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    Well, getting off of the wedding-industry specific stuff, there are a lot of other things that are hard about being self employed that people who draw a regular paycheck don't think about:

    1 - Income fluctuations. You don't draw a paycheck every two weeks. Instead your income is directly reliant on your ability to sell your services and products. If you work in an industry that's seasonal, you have even more to worry about as you have to remember to set aside income from your busy periods to cover you in the slow season.

    2 - Taxes. Taxes suck. I pay 40% of my gross in taxes. By the time I pay self-employment tax, federal tax, state tax, sales tax, business registration fees ... etc., etc., etc., I often feel like I'm bleeding money.

    3 - Paperwork. See #2. Every time you have to pay a tax, you have to file a form. And the IRS intentionally makes every form as difficult as possible to understand clearly - I believe that with all my heart!

    4 - Insurance. My insurance bill every year gets higher and higher. Not only do I have ot carry a $1 million liability policy, I have to insure all of my equipment. And every time there's a hurricane or a bombing or something my insurance gets cancelled as my latest carrier decides that it's too expensive to insure small businesses. I was dropped by 3 insurance agencies after 9/11 - even tho I wasn't affected and I live nowhere near NYC. But they all retooled their small business insurance coverage and I no longer qualified. Bleah.

    5 - Getting a loan for anything - car, credit card, mortgage - when you're self employed you don't have a verifiable income. So in order to get the most basic loan, you have to submit 4+ years worth of income tax forms and justify your income 6 ways from Sunday. The last car we bought took us 3 weeks to finance, since we had to keep faxing and FedExing documentation back and forth.

    Financial issues are the worst to deal with as a small business owner, IMO. Be prepared!

    Karen

  9. #9
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    Jun 2005
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    Hi everyone! Hope you all had successful weekend and are going to be enjoying a down day.

    I know you're just getting started, but any info and pointers you can give would be appreciated! One question that comes to mind...is how do you deal with printing? Do you include that in your services and get printing done at a local printing press or do you just turn over your designs and let the client deal with printing?
    I used to work in a print shop. When I did my designs on the side I worked out a situation with my boss who gave me vendor pricing for my printing. So what I do is charge people what I want for my designs and then bring the artboards to my printer. I pay her for the printing and then turn around and charge my customers double what I paid.

    I am lucky that I had a boss who was supportive and interested in seeing me succeed. She continues to give me that same pricing. She even lets me use her bindery equipement for free which saves me tons of money. It's paying off for her now as I'm bringing a decent amount of work her way.

    I think the best thing to do it to research your area and find a printer that works with freelance designers and brokers. You will get excellent prices and if you bring in regular work they are likely to give you perks such as storing paper for you in their shop, let you use some equipment, etc. I think it's very important to work with someone you feel comfortable with as you'll be doing a lot of repeat business with them. Some shops don't want to do this work and you will be an annoyance to them. Move on to someone else.

    My old shop is over an hour a way from me (in our old city). Up until now I've been making a trip once a week to get my printing done but I know that with the winter coming up and the fact that I am getting more busy, I won't be have the luxury of taking an entire day off to make that trek. So I've been looking around for a new printer and it's hard. Print shops usually have to work harder when they do a bunch of little jobs as opposed to one large one for their own customer who is paying full price.

    But I think it's worth the search for several reasons.

    1.) You don't want to design something for a business owner and then he takes the art to a printer only to find out he could have paid them less for them to design it. Unless your customer is very loyal to you he might let his new printer design his next project for him.

    2.) It will probably be easier for you to deal with the specifics of gettting a job quoted and printed since you are in the business. Why not be full service and make more money in the process. After all, if you get yourself set up with a printer the process should be pretty easy. I'm happy to purchase the paper, run it over to the printer and work out the specifics - and then charge them double for everything - including my gas.

    3.) I think you'll get more repeat business and referrals if you are full service. Most of my customers know nothing about which weight of paper they want, PMS colors, blah, blah, blah. If you give them the artwork and they have to source out a printer, find the paper, pay the printer for all the things that they don't understand they may get turned off and find someone who will make those things easy for them. Do you want them to say, "yeah, I like my cards but uggg, it was such a pain to get them printed. Next time I'm going to try this other person I heard about" or "my cards are awesome and paperweight got them done for me in one week. Here's her number"

    When I worked at the shop we gained some customers because they would use a designer. The designer would happily send us the artwork. We'd spend all kinds of time discussing paper, ink, etc. Then sometimes we'd have trouble with a font, a set-up, etc so we'd tell the person (our customer) the problem. They would stare at us with a blank fear in their eyes. They didn't want to call their designer because they had already paid for services rendered and they sure didn't want to have to pay them MORE. I'd usually call the designer directly and iron out the problem for them. Or worse the designer wouldn't want to fix the problem and we'd have to say, "sure we can take care of this for you but it will cost you X dollars ON TOP OF the printing price". No one want to pay good money for a design only to be told they have to pay more money to fix that design. At the end of the day the customer would be irritated with their designer, grateful to us and the next time they needed something designed, they would come to us first. Of course this isn't always the senerio but it sure happend a lot.

    4.) Finally, getting the printing done yourself will ensure that you are putting out a quality product. Your excellent design will look like crap if it's printed improperly. You don't want people seeing that and figuring out that you were the one who designed it. This is probably the most important to me. I want anything associated with my name to be quality.

    I hope I haven't bored you with these points. For me, it's really important to me to consider these situations. Perhaps your clients are more print shop savy. Mine definately aren't.


    My question for the day . . . I'm new to my area. How have you all gone about researching and setting up your prices? I'm baseing my figures off of my old city and I know things are different here. Do you just brazenly call your competitiors and get some general prices. Do you pretend you are a potential customer and do it? I have trouble wasting people time but I haven't found anyone happy to divulge their prices even to me a freelancer.

  10. #10
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