ESCAPE 9-to-5. CREATE YOUR OWN FREEDOM. Case Studies of Non-traditional Business Founders

From Mainstream Journalist to Thriving Business Owner – with Alexis Grant

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Published under Blogging/Writing, Book publishing, ebooks, Freelancing, Information products, Training & Coaching, Travel

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March 19, 2013

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EPISODE 12: A common theme that’s emerged from my conversations with a dozen guests so far is that businesses usually start as side projects. There’s nobody I’ve spoken to that has quit her day job cold turkey and started a business from scratch (except myself – I was stupid but lucky it worked out!).

To illustrate further on how to start a side business and smoothly transition it into a full time gig, I invited Alexis Grant, a former reporter at U.S. News & World Report, to tell me her story. Alexis started off as a part-time social media consultant and freelancer and now runs a full time business (with a team of 10) that includes blog management, email marketing and social media products & services.

In this case study, you will learn:

  • How Alexis started her side business or ‘side hustle’ – from ideation to launch
  • How she mastered a skill she knew little about (and made a business out of it), and how you can too
  • The easiest way to land your first client and the smartest way to look for gigs online
  • Common challenges 9-to-5ers face before making the leap to business ownership, and how to address them
  • How to network (even if you’re an introvert)
  • Alexis’ product vs. service revenue mix, and why the latter is important in the early stages of your business
  • 3 actions and tips to get started on your side business

Here’s the video:

Audio only:


Alexis Grant – Summary of Case Study
19-Mar-13

Background
• Worked as a reporter for mainstream publications for 6 years. Left day job a year and a half ago to work for herself full-time.
• Started her business as a side business for a couple of years before deciding to quit her day job.
• Since she’s a writer, everything she does now involves content (blogging, social media, newsletters, etc.) either for her own brand or for clients.
• She blogs about careers, how to make your own luck and get where you want to be.
• Her core services include blog management, email marketing and social media. She also offers ebooks and courses on the same topics.
• Revenues: side gig only: $2000 per month
• Products (currently): $1000-$4000 per month
• Services (currently): Around 6 clients: packages range from $750 – $5000 per month

The side business or ‘side hustle’
• Started a side hustle while she was looking for a day job.
• Left her full-time reporting job in 2008 and backpacked across Africa. Was writing a book and living with parents. That’s when she decided she needed a job.
• Realized there were more social media jobs than journalism jobs, so she offered social media services to clients on the side (creating and/or implementing strategies; reaching out and communicating with clients’ audience on sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
• Prior to taking on paid clients, she volunteered on a social media campaign. This gave her experience and credibility.
• Her journalism background gave her communication skills that she applied to her social media consulting role. She picked up all the technicalities of social media by experimenting and learning along the way.
• Initially, she got clients through friends (and their friends). A friend suggested that Alexis pitch her services to his boss. She still has that client.
• Social media consulting is a huge market. There are lots of small businesses that need these services. Check out Alexis’ ebook called “How to build a part time social media business” on her website.
• Landed a full-time job a few months later.

The full-time job after starting her side hustle
• Started working at U.S News and World Report in 2010, covering the job market and careers. She kept her side hustle going as well.
• She released her first guide (ebook mentioned above) that made her realize she could take the leap to full time.
• A year into her new day job, she left to work on her business full-time.

The first product (ebook)
• The first version was not very sophisticated in terms of design, cover, etc.
• Its sells well because it’s a hot topic. Price point is $24 which is reasonable. Also, it’s a product that helps people make money. People are willing to pay for a product that helps them make money.
• Sold approx. 600 copies over the last one and a half years. When she writes guest posts on the topic she notices spikes in sales. One of these copies sells every day. Sales also come through SEO.
• She had a post go live on Mashable about the ebook and sold 50 copies right off the bat.

Products vs. Services
• Products account for 1/5 of total revenue. Trying to build up the product side of her business. Increasing product revenue takes time, and plus you need a huge community.
• She gets 12,000 unique visitors to her blog every month. If you want to have a ton of products, you need a huge community.
• Core services: She helps small businesses – several of which are websites – with blogging, email marketing and social media.
• She works behind the scenes with her team of 10 contractors.
• One of her clients is Brazen Careerist; she manages the blog. Entails looking over submissions, deciding which ones go live, editing and managing the editorial calendar.
• She does freelance journalism occasionally.

Client acquisition
• People connect with her via her blog. With a blog, clients have the opportunity to get to know you and reach out if they can relate to you.
• Gets a lot of referrals.
• Also, lots of leads come from in-person events.
• Check out this blog post where Alexis elaborates on how to have clients find you instead of you finding them:http://alexisgrant.com/2012/07/25/get-new-clients/

Common challenges people face when making the leap from 9-to-5er to business owner
• People don’t know where to start; getting the first client is the hardest
• You can get clients via your own network (friends of friends), work for free (not forever though).
• Tap into communities online. Lots of opportunities available. Product sales, writing, freelance blogging, social media work. People don’t get these gigs on traditional job boards. They get them via social networks – Facebook, Twitter, etc.
• If you’re looking for a social media job, you have to be on social media!
• Alexis hires from Twitter, her newsletter, Facebook group.
• Facebook groups are a good place to network and find support – Alexis did a webinar (see http://alexisgrant.com/webinar-recording-side-hustle/) on side businesses and started a group called ‘Rockin’ the side gig’ to get like-minded people together.
• Other challenge: People don’t know what to charge. No blanket answer to this. Many factors that go into this. Do some research and choose a price. You are what you say you’re worth.

On her Africa trip
• Spent a semester abroad during college in Cameroon; decided to backpack in Cameroon and rest of Africa including Madagascar and a few French-speaking countries in West Africa as well.
• Came home (27 years old then) and started writing her memoirs – on what it’s like to travel to Africa as a woman alone, independence, career etc.
• She’s in the process of self-publishing the book.

On networking (even if you’re introverted)
• Online is a great way to meet people who share your interests (communities that we talked about earlier), but face-to-face is great too.
• There are so many meet-ups on diverse topics, so take advantage of them.
• She’s introverted, so at networking events her goal is to meet one new person – just one. Setting the networking bar really low helps her. She can leave after that if she wants to.
• Also, remember that everyone at networking events is there to network, so they will be receptive if you approach them. Don’t be shy of starting a conversation with a stranger.

3 actions to take if you’re looking to take the leap from 9 to 5 to owning a business
• Start a side hustle. If you’re not sure, take baby steps. What are you going to do today? Tomorrow? What one thing can you get done today? Once you get the momentum, you’re going to be more excited about it.
• Surround yourself with go-getters. Very important. If you’re in an office environment, you’re most likely not going to find the right support group. Surround yourself with people that are passionate about what they’re doing – building a business.
• Pick a field you like (and a service there’s a demand for). If you’re going to spend weekends and evenings working on your side gig, picking something you like is key to succeeding.

Contact info
Send her a message on AlexisGrant.com

Additional info:

Click here to read Alexis’ blog post mentioned in the case study – how to have clients find you instead of you finding them.

Click here for the recording of Alexis’ webinar on side hustles.

AlexisGrant_headshot1About Alexis Grant

Alexis is an entrepreneurial writer and digital strategist, with a focus on careers and the workplace. All of her work falls under one umbrella: helping YOU create the life you want to live. To learn more, click here.

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