I had the pleasure of speaking at the Creative Arts Forum at Michigan State this past week and it far exceeded my expectations. The turnout was great, it was a creative atmosphere, and the event as a whole was very informal…just how us creatives like it.
My 5-minute presentation was titled “Starting a Business on the Side”, which is exactly how it sounds: starting your own business/freelancing while working a full-time job. There were three main tips that I wanted to get across to students: Paying attention in your day job, networking with others, and learning how to balance your work/play life. Here are the slides from my presentation with the summary of them below:
In other words, if you’re looking to start your own business while working full time, don’t just go to your day job to collect a check. It is very important that you learn how business is done, things that are right, and things that are wrong. Learn from your whole working environment: how projects are managed, how collaboration is done with various departments in the company, and so on.
Client communication is also very important. Whether you’re a designer, developer, or technical writer, it can be a challenge explaining exactly what you do to justify a client spending all that money (and trusting you). Talking to clients is something that you will have to learn, and it takes practice to get good at it. Find people in your day job that are good at communicating with clients, and model yourself after them.
As I mentioned in my In the Workplace interview, building relationships is one of the most important things you can do when starting a business. While it’s good to know other people that share your same job, it’s also very important to broaden your scope and meet people outside of your industry. Since you’re soft selling yourself, as is the person you’re networking with, you never know when someone will need your services, or when you will need someone else’s services.
Networking doesn’t have to be formal, which I originally thought. It’s just socializing. It’s finding common interests with other professionals. An easy way to dip your toes in the water is to start online. Join Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, or interact with people on Twitter. From there, find out about local events that you can attend. I’ve personally met some of the most interesting people at Tweetups.
Since you’ll be working full time, trying to start a business, and wanting a personal life, you will need balance. It is a must that you learn how to balance your life and manage your time effectively. Some say working more hours in the day equates to more work getting done. I disagree. More hours worked means you’re running a higher risk of burning out. Get off the computer. Seriously, either shut it down, or just walk away and disconnect sometimes. You’ll thank yourself for refreshing your brain and not working yourself into the ground. Inspiration often happens when you least expect it, aka when you’re not working. So go relax, read a book, play video games, or visit a museum.
My favorite part of the Arts Forum was the mixer, where I got a chance to meet some great people and students at MSU. I enjoyed sharing knowledge with students and loved how engaged they were when I was speaking with them. You could really sense their passion for their work and their desire to get the right start to their career or entrepreneurial endeavors. I hope they learned from me, and I hope I have the chance to connect with more students in the future.
John Phillips is a user interface designer who runs his own company, Tridea Design, on the side while working full time as a user interface engineer at Campbell-Ewald. He’s very active on Twitter, as well as other places on the web like his blog, Tumblr, Facebook, Daily Booth, and more.