Poppermost Communications of Seattle, Wash., specializes in case studies, social media content and strategic Web copy for the technology industry.
‘Ah ha’ moment that led to launching the business: I was in the process of leaving Microsoft and had purchased a non-tech-related small business (doggie daycare, anyone?) I knew I would need some steady income while I grew the daycare, so I began freelancing in my spare time. After I sold the daycare, I went back to corporate life, still freelancing on the side. Later, I was looking for a new job—trying to extricate myself from a very poorly-helmed tech firm—and found myself with two great job offers, so I pitched both of them on the beauties of consulting, and they accepted.
Ideal customer: Technology firms that need to better engage with customers and partners with every electronic presence.
First customer: Two companies made simultaneous job offers to me. They were great organizations, and I really wanted to work with them both, so I pitched myself as a consultant instead of an employee, and ended up working with both for more than two years.
Measuring success: I measure success in three ways: 1) Whether my service met/exceeded the client’s needs and expectations 2) Whether the deliverables achieved the client’s desired objective and 3) Whether the deliverables met my standards of quality.
Biggest struggle: Planning and surviving the known slow seasons. Regardless of the economic climate, the annual slowdowns around late summer and the winter holidays can throw you for a loop if you’re not prepared.
Surprise!: That I was able to succeed in the early days as a single parent and not lose my house, car or mind. That risk really freaked my mom out; she would always ask about how the business was doing every week when she called.
Promoting Business: I think that developing and maintaining my industry connections that been the one key thing that made the difference. Nowadays I’m getting more leads from my blog and social media, but at the core of it all, it’s always been down to how well connected I am.
What you wish you would have known: 1) Save more than you think you’ll need for taxes, 2) Don’t hesitate to pull rockstar subcontractors onto your team when you need them.
What keeps you up at night (business wise!)?: Usually it’s when there’s either too much work, or not enough work.
Ever tempted to throw in the towel and just get a job?: Occasionally the thought flits through my mind, but it usually gets beaten to a pulp by my entrepreneurial self, who loves working in my jammies and not ever having to ask a manager’s permission to attend a child’s school Halloween party, or go to the gynecologist.
Biggest goal: Expand my practice to include more diverse clients/projects. I worked all summer on redesigning my Web site, and this single thing is going a long way toward helping me achieve that goal.
Pricing: If you are a veteran of your industry, you will already know what the going market rate is for your products/services. If you’re a newbie, however, I would suggest actively seeking out a smart industry veteran or two and buying them a cup of coffee so that you can chat with them about what’s realistic for someone in your situation and of your experience level. Don’t just assume that online reports about national averages for pricing in your field apply to you; there can be distinct regional differences, so make sure you’re not selling yourself short—or pricing yourself out of the market.
A few good tips: Know everyone, know everyone who knows everyone, and always help out people who need referrals for products or services other than your own. They will remember your help, and refer back to you.
The absolute best part of owning my own business is: the freedom.
If I had to start all over again, I would have: started sooner and been more aggressive with my marketing from the get-go.
I never imagined: finding subcontractors that meet my high standards would be so difficult—but I have found some gems.
If standing on a rooftop facing crowds of aspiring or struggling small business owners, I would shout: “Marketing and networking! Marketing and networking!”