When people announce they’ve started their own business, they typically get a variety of responses. Some people are proud and really in awe, and others tend to be critical and judgemental.
When I announced that I was starting a digital marketing agency, I got a lot of responses that were surprisingly negative. Most people had no idea what a digital marketing agency was or what it really meant to be the owner of one. (Quite frankly I’m not even sure I knew either.)
Back in June of 2019, I was fired from a writing job where I was on track to make $60,000 a year. I invested hours of my time and a lot of my mental sanity, and I truly believed that a writer was what I was going to be.
However, I quickly realized that the ‘amazing’ world of freelance writing was cut-throat and wasn’t backed by stability. I’m not going to lie, getting fired put me in a dark place where I truly felt like I was going nowhere with my life. Luckily, I had the support of my husband, parents, and close friends who believed in me when I swore I was going to end up jobless for all eternity.
Something strange happened when I was searching the internet for freelance writing jobs; I realized that I didn’t even want to be a writer anymore. I didn’t like the feeling of pouring thought and emotion into a piece only for some asshole editor to return it and tarnish everything I had worked on.
Now don’t get me wrong, I completely understand what goes into editing, however, I didn’t get into writing to constantly get my creative work ripped apart.
Suddenly, I had an epiphany.. I realized that I wanted to work in digital marketing! My amazingly-successful sister-in-law, Kalila, got her start in digital marketing and I had always been drawn to the work she did. I just never felt confident enough to take the leap and try to get my foot in the door. Well, getting fired was just the kick I needed.
I went to Target, bought a pack of pens and a 5-subject notebook and I started writing down all of my ideas from services I’d be providing to possible names for my business. The ideas just began flowing out of me andonto this notebook.
Thanks to Google, my sister-in-law, and lots of coffee, I managed to scrape together a business plan. I immediately got started on building my website and researching business names that weren’t already taken. After hours of deliberation, and the help of Kalila, I settled on Halyn Marketing. It’s unique- nobody knows how to pronounce it, but it sets me apart from the rest of the crowd.
At this point, I felt like I was ready for business. I started applying to freelance jobs like nobody’s business and felt proud of my first website. I started getting interviews and I managed to sell the idea to people that I was a digital marketing guru, but I knew I had a lot to learn.
I started taking every free course on digital marketing I could find. I was reading articles nonstop and was absolutely consuming myself with this homemade digital marketing crash course. The crazy thing is, it worked! I was able to learn enough and I started landing clients.
Once the clients started rolling in, at a measly $10-$30/hour, I realized that I needed to hire someone to help me out. Luckily, I found someone on Upwork who had way more experience than I had, but needed to establish himself on the platform. After a five minute interview, I decided to hire him.
To this day, hiring Drew was one of the best business decisions I have ever made. My confidence grew even more because I knew I had this advertising genius by my side who could help my client’s ads succeed, and to my surprise, it actually worked! My clients loved working with us and I started building my digital marketing profile.
After working with a ton of smaller clients I finally landed my first high-paying client. I swear I couldn’t have done this without being able to sell Drew’s six years of paid-ads experience. We poured our heart and soul into this client’s campaign, only for the client to cancel the contract in a month to avoid paying. But don’t worry, I got him to pay his invoice.
This was a real eye-opener to me because I realized that running a business involves protecting you and your work. I remember crying for a whole day when that contract was canceled because I took it so personally. But then I realized, it is not personal, it is business. If I wanted to be successful one day, I needed to realize there is an abundance of clients and I don’t need every single one of them.
I’m telling you that I am so grateful that he canceled my contract because it really opened my eyes and made me work even harder. I decided it was time to create service agreements with strict guidelines and require upfront payments.
For about a month after that, things were moving along. From July to September I had tripled my income and started really getting more clients. Since then I’ve also lost quite a few, but that was due to my own realization that I don’t need to be treated like garbage by clients who are also my lowest paying clients.
My biggest “fail” during this time was when I had a company reach out to me that was looking to spend $30,000 a month in advertising. I’m sharing this number because I want you all to really feel what I felt when they messaged me about this. I about had a panic attack when I calculated how much of a service fee I could charge them.
I had a meeting with them, it went great, and I immediately got to work on my quote, as well as a free audit of their account to establish value. Well, I sure as hell learned my lesson on that one! They took my free audit (that Drew and I spent hours on) and decided to go with someone who could implement it for cheaper.
Aside from having that first client cancel their contract, I have never been more upset to this day, while owning Halyn Marketing. I felt so used, betrayed, and quite honestly I felt like a total moron for even giving him a free audit. That one took days for me to get over but it made me realize I need to stop putting so much value into potential clients. I can’t get attached to them because they’re not even mine yet.
I learned a lot from that experience as well and now I look at it this way: I don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t want to work with me.
Soon after this, I decided to file my paperwork to register Halyn Marketing as an LLC. It took about four weeks to get everything finalized and when I received my official documentation, I cried like a baby. I had physical proof to demonstrate everything I had worked for in the last few months.
In October I decided to join a digital marketing agency group on Facebook. I wanted to get involved in my industry and connect with other like-minded individuals.Turns out this group is highly unorganized and half the people in the group who own agencies are only in it for the money.
I decided to post asking how people their prices because I felt like I was seriously undercharging people. Only one person had commented that actually had something of value to give me. It was a business coach who wanted to give me a free consultation.
I finally gave in and was like “look, I’m not buying anything!”. Our meeting lasted about an hour and during that time I realized I have been charging about three times less than what I should be. That was a total eye-opener and after that meeting, I ended up closing my highest-paying client to date.
Now, flash forward to the beginning of November and I not only have already met my Q4 income goal, but in the first week of the month, I was able to close on three contracts. I have four amazing employees, Drew, Calissa, Roselle, and Jazlyn, and I can honestly say I’m extremely satisfied with where I’m at.
At the beginning of this journey, all I wanted was to be working part-time and get to work on marketing all week . Now, I’m running an almost six-figure business (expected to reach this goal in two months) and I have a team of people who create and produce some of the most amazing work.
I wanted to share my story to give everyone a little insight on what I mean when I tell people I started my own business. None of this has been easy and at times I really wanted to quit and just go back to working at some retail job. However, I can honestly say aside from marrying my husband, this was the best decision I have ever made.
I now plan on sharing this journey with all of you. I want to document every experience and produce content that can help others start their own business and succeed. Not to sound like an infomercial, but anybody can start a business. Don’t listen to the naysayers who don’t understand your industry or who think it’s just a “hobby”. (I’ve heard that once or twice!)
If there’s anything I want you to gain from reading this and future articles it is to realize you can literally achieve anything you set your mind to. I know it sounds corny and a lot of people don’t believe it, but I’m a 21-year-old CEO who is here to show proof of that.