Kim Siever started his own freelance business after being unsuccessful at keeping corporate positions. Read all about his story and how he overcame obstacles to develop Hot Pepper Communications.
I used to think that working for someone else provided job security. This belief permeated all of my attempts to work for myself. My wife and I had tried several different businesses over the years, but because I always had a full-time job, none of them were ever successful.
Nearly 3 years ago, my employer of 9 years laid me off. I received a 7-month severance package. I had no idea what I was going to do, but having 7 months worth of wages would give me some time to figure it out. We decided to try our hand at selling home schooling supplies. It was pretty successful to start off, but we never made enough money to support ourselves, and after about 4 months, I decided to start looking for work.
In my last job, I managed a website, provided desktop support, ran video conferences, and managed inventory, but working in IT provided no satisfaction and it silo-ed me. I wanted to be in another industry. I took inventory of my skills, experience, and talents, and I concluded that I wanted to work in communications. My strengths were in writing, editing, and social media, and I wanted to do something that incorporated those three things. I had a couple of jobs over the next year or so. One job I applied for was in website development. It wasn’t the area I wanted to go in, but I knew I could do it.
Surprisingly, after my first interview, the HR manager phoned me to tell me they wanted me to come in for a another interview, but it was for another position. Apparently, they were so impressed with my skills and experience in writing, editing, and social media—the three areas where I wanted to focus my career—that they wanted to create a position customized for those skills. I was floored. This was exactly what I wanted: a position that could guide my career in a new direction. They just needed to have it approved by the CEO. The good news quickly turned to bad when I learned that the company had to enter a temporary hiring freeze, effectively dashing my hopes.
A couple of weeks later, I had an epiphanal experience that convinced me to go back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree. To help cover living expenses, I found a low-paying, part-time job writing letters and processing immigration applications. Toward the end of my second semester, I received a message from the company with the hiring freeze: they wanted to hire me. There was a catch. The position had to be part time. This was perfect for me because in another month, I’d have 10 courses out of the way and only 9 more left to finish. I was intent on finishing my degree, and a part-time job worked best. Within a week, I’d been hired and they put me straight to work managing their social media properties and copyediting multiple documents. I was in heaven.
A year later, I finished my studies grown the position into a full-time one, but 3 months after completing my degree, the company let me go. I was one of 12 people affected by a round of layoffs. I had 2 weeks to figure something out. When I returned to school, I started a communications company hoping to make some money on the side, but I never did much with it. I decided that now was the perfect time to resurrect this. I looked for clients while I was looking for another job. If one avenue didn’t pan out, maybe the other would. When I signed on an old employer as a client for half of what I was making at my last job, I knew working on my own was feasible. I quit looking for another job, and I focused all my attention on finding clients.
The last 10 months have been a learning experience. Building a communications business from scratch is a challenge, but even more so when you have no startup capital, you have 7 mouths to feed, and your spouse has returned to school.
I’ve had some pretty lean months, but I’ve had some good months, too. In fact, last month, I saw record-breaking revenue (even more than I received at my last job). I’m not where I want to be. Revenue is still volatile, which makes it difficult to budget properly, but it’s rising. Things are looking up, 2014 looks like it will be a great year, and I know that deciding to go out on my own was the best career decision I’ve ever made.
I used to think that working for someone else provided job security. Then I was laid off twice in three years. I’m no longer convinced that it is.