A couple years ago, my employer was going through a transition period and I knew that my layoff was imminent. As I began to prepare for this major life transition, I consulted many business associates for feedback. The organization I was with had been my first job out of college, so this was a substantial and awkward period, contemplating spending my days in a different atmosphere than the one which I’d become accustomed in my only post-school experience.
Some of the most valuable advice I received was to generate something that was “mine.” I had done so much and created a name for myself under the guise of my job, though I didn’t have anything to take away with me when my time at that job concluded. As I began to brainstorm with peers, ideas began bubbling to the surface.
The Journey Begins
I knew I wanted to start a blog, but I wasn’t sure on what. I enjoy dining out, and food blogging is a popular niche, but I wasn’t sure I could articulate my experience with food in a unique way. That said, since my gig had involved working with hotels and restaurants, one person suggested doing a blog on marketing for the hospitality industry.
I was already reading social media blogs regularly myself, but I hadn’t yet come across one geared specifically toward hospitality, so I thought this was a great and a perfect fit. I was immersed (both online and in person) in the culture of social media, and fortunately, it came naturally. I also was an English major in college, so articulating things in writing wasn’t intimidating, either.
Nevertheless, as I began the process of creating my blog, I noticed that I was overcome with fear. While I’d spoken to numerous business peers and gotten infinite amounts of valuable feedback, and knew the general direction I wanted to head, when it came to actually materializing everything, I choked up time after time.
I’d settled on a theme, a name, and booked the URL, but it would eventually take me several months to unveil the site. I experienced a variety of hesitation, everything from fear of being held accountable, to fear of judgment, to fear of the time commitment. I knew I was comfortable with the topic and I was excited about debuting this entity of my own, but, despite that, I was still horrified.
Social Hospitality is Born
After pre-penning several posts to populate the site, the blog, Social Hospitality, finally premiered in January 2011. It was a humbling period of trying to get used to having a legitimate web presence of my own, something I strongly desired to become a credible resource for other professionals in the same space as me.
While it took a while to build solid momentum, I am incredibly pleased with the amount of growth (that both myself and my blog) has experienced. Social Hospitality has been live a year and half now, and at the beginning of 2012 is really when I began notice the fruits of my labor paying off. I began being contacted by a variety of people, in a variety of locations, either commenting that they found my content useful, or asking if they could guest post.
It’s extremely flattering to receive comments like this, and to know you’re helping other people. I now have people contacting me asking me to sponsor events; to provide feedback on social marketing strategies; and all of my freelance work has come naturally from the blog as well. My confidence has also evolved enough to begin pursuing speaking gigs, to further help others that are learning this medium that has brought me so much personal and professional fulfillment.
3 Tips for a Successful Transition from Employee to Entrepreneur
1. Believe in yourself
Overcoming fear was probably one my biggest difficulties, though, of course, one that has now reaped numerous benefits. I think it was a personal evolution that took place over time, even still, that has made me more confident in my “expertise.” I used to be incredibly shy when it came to any form of speaking out in person, and now I can comfortably talk about business, social media, etc., and not worry that I sound like an idiot. And, if I don’t feel naturally confident enough to speak about something, I don’t. It came down to realizing that the knowledge and experience I’ve acquired gives me something to offer others who may be in the beginning stages, just like I was.
There also came a sense of learning to approach it from a different angle. A wise coworker made an interesting point to me once, after a meeting in which I was silent. He asked, “why didn’t you speak up in the meeting?” and I responded, “I didn’t feel qualified” (being around much more experienced business peers). His response was, “do you know how incredibly selfish that is?” and that, too, helped alter my perception of keeping things to myself when I really should speak up.
2. Know your market
This is extremely important, though semi-difficult to do since there are so many people out there trying to cover the same bases. I was fortunate enough that, when I began, there wasn’t much out there in terms of social marketing resources specifically for hospitality professionals. There are several other hotel-based sites out there currently that are all excellent, and it’s refreshing to be in excellent company. But I think what’s important to keep in mind is that everyone comes at a topic from a different place (experience, background), and therefore all the perceptions are capable of providing some sort of new insight, different from the others. As long as you know your market, you’re capable of being a resource and shedding new light on the subject.
3. Love what you do
I get asked all the time how I have time to manage freelance clients, in additional to my full-time job, in addition to maintaining a social life. And my answer is always the same: I love what I do. I feel so fortunate to get to make money doing something that I honestly enjoy. What’s interesting about it, too, is that the path that brought me was a series of accidents; none of it was planned nor anticipated. When you honestly enjoy what you do, it doesn’t get (as) stressful having to stay up late to work, or having to go into an office everyday. It remains fulfilling. And amidst constant horror stories of tense workplaces and horrible bosses, being able to make a living doing things you love to do is tremendous blessing.
About the Author
Debbie Miller is the Founder of Social Hospitality , a site which outlines ways businesses in the hospitality realm are using social media to strategically market, expand brand awareness, increase consumer interaction and more.
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