As the one year anniversary of the launch of Richardson Media Group steadily approaches, I've been thinking a lot about the important milestones we've hit so far and what's up ahead for year two and beyond. It's been an incredibly exciting and rewarding first year, full of surprises, many hard-won victories and a few tough defeats. I've summarized the top three major milestones here:
Milestone #1: Taking the Leap
Staring my own company didn't just happen overnight. I'd been thinking about it for quite some time, but the practicalities of life always seemed to get in my way. For one, my husband is self-employed and I've watched him ride more than a few tidal waves over the 20+ years he's been in business. He's managed to keep his head above water, some days simply due to sheer willpower and brute strength, but I would be lying if I told you his experience hadn't been a sober reminder of how tough this entrepreneur thing really is. Another reason I found myself hesitating had to do with our family's need for a decent health insurance policy, along with all the other myriad expenses that come with running a busy household and taking care of a family of four. It was easy to tell myself that I had to stay in a more "traditional" work environment so that I could earn a regular paycheck and standard benefits. Only after doing a ton of research and pricing out multiple insurance packages did I realize I could manage the same essentials independently. It was a learning curve, but once I purchased the necessary coverage and we re-prioritized our family budget a bit, my entrepreneurial spirit was unleashed!
I'll never forget the day I opened Richardson Media Group's virtual doors. I felt instantly free and utterly terrified at the same time. I remember referring to myself as the "woman with her hair on fire" during those first few months. Picture an image of one of those female comic book heroines with magical fire powers who battled world domination during the day and came home to make dinner at night. That was me. Flash forward ten months to today, and I'm still a pretty cool super hero but without the dinner preparation responsibilities. I've had to delegate some of that stuff!
Milestone #2: Getting out of the house
In the beginning, the lure of working from home was enticing. I had read a lot of articles about this phenomenon over the past few years, but I was certain I'd be different than all those other work-at-home entrepreneurs who saddled up to their laptops with coffee and bunny slippers at all hours of the day or night. Well, turned out I wasn't so special after all. The most challenging part about having my office in my house was the level of distraction I had to endure when my family was home. It was partly my fault, partly theirs, but we just kept clashing over noise levels and other distractions. There's nothing like your child announcing at 10pm that she has a history project due the next day and needs to use the printer RIGHT AWAY while you are trying to write a new business proposal in the same 10 square feet of space. The only solution for me was to set up my shop in a real office, outside of the house.
Back in April, I moved to a sturdy, renovated old mill building about a mile from my house in downtown Amesbury. I've finally found a place to be productive, enjoy the quiet I need to write and plan, with plenty of space to receive clients and meet with my expanding team of vendors. I can keep all my essential business files and equipment secure and away from my home environment. Plus, if the weather cooperates, I'm walking distance away, so I often leave the car in the driveway.
Milesone #3: Building a Website
I'm in the communications industry, where so much depends on one's online profile. Like the cobbler without shoes, my business' social media, email signatures, business cards, and e-newsletters seemed sorely lacking without a company URL. It was time to solidifying my digital presence with a website.
After a few false starts, I landed on Weebly. It's Wordpress-based, intuitive and much more user-friendly than some of the other platforms I had been fooling around with. I've been more than satisfied with my company's preliminary website launch and have even received positive feedback on my site's look and feel from people who "do" websites for a living. One of the aspects I really like about Weebly is that they make SEO easy, a key factor in being found by users conducting organic searches on the major search engines. Put it this way, without Google-friendly SEO, your site might as well be one of those walking sandwich boards advertising free coffee on the sidewalk. Not exactly visible to a larger audience.
As I write this post today, Richardson Media Group is still a work in progress, and hopefully always will be. Work varies every day between developing new business relationships to fill the pipeline to managing the work we currently have with as much grace and expertise, as possible. Most weeks have been incredibly rewarding and empowering, and of course there have been a few that I'm happy to have in my rear view. On August 1st, I'll be lighting a single candle to mark this important anniversary, a milestone in itself. My wish will be for many more candles in the years to come.
I'd love to hear from readers about the significant milestones you've been through as you've built your own businesses. Let's keep this conversation going!