We’ve long admired Nicole Neves, and we’ve recently tapped her to join the heymama team as an official Ambassador in LA. She first caught our attention while managing a full-time career as the Director of PR and Events at Guess and being a mama to her two little boys, but now we have full-on heart eyes for how she is kicking butt with her own PR business, Sequin Productions. With new clients coming on board every day, Nicole has learned a thing or two about what to do and what not to do when starting out. Are you thinking of making a change? Read on for her tips.
I knew I’d have to hustle when I decided to start by own business. I knew it would be a grind. But, having done the same thing in the corporate world for more than 15 years, I felt like I was prepared and ready to hit the ground running. A few of my brands are relatively new and don’t have big budgets, so I really have to hustle to get them great press. This means utilizing my previous contacts and pushing for them to still support me, plus my clients.
Sales was never a part of my day-to-day responsibilities, nor has it ever been a strong suit of mine as I’ve never considered my personality to be assertive enough. Unfortunately, clients don’t always come knocking on your door. You really have to work at it and sell yourself to potential clients, and be persistent. I’m definitely more on the humble side when it comes to talking about my work, but at the same time, I’ve made a conscious effort to push myself to get out there and show what I can do for my clients.
This is probably my biggest issue as a freelancer. I want to be able to network and socialize with press, influencers and potential clients, but I also need dedicated office days to get work done — then squeeze in gym time and balance the crazy schedule of my two toddler boys. It’s an endless exercise in multitasking, and, needless to say, it’s hard to do it all. There are days where I feel like 24 hours just isn’t enough. As a result, I find myself in the office at 2am, or working on the weekends. It’s been a gradual process, but I try to make strides every day when it comes to both time management and prioritization.
It’s Okay to Say “No”
Another challenge I face as a freelancer is the art of learning when to say “No” — whether to potential clients or invites to social outings. It’s always been a struggle for me, but in the end it’s not fair to my clients, my family, or myself if I’m taking on too much and stretching myself too thin. I can’t do it all, and that’s perfectly ok. I once heard a great quote that really aligns with this way of thinking, and that is: “Quality is the best business plan.”
Never Burn Bridges
It’s a bit crazy how badly this can bite you if you are not careful with relationships. I always try to stay true to myself and make sure to be kind to all colleagues, bosses, friends and vendors. You never know when a person will circle back in your life that can support you in a current endeavor.
Discuss With Your Family
Discuss the big decision with your loved ones. My husband fully supported my decision and was my biggest cheerleader throughout the process.
Seek Advice/ Find a Mentor
Socialize and connect with people in your industry who have gone freelance, learn from them and ask questions. I sat down with my best friend who is in the same industry (also as a freelancer) and had her walk me through all the steps involved in getting started on my own.
Get creative and figure out a business name that represents you and your work. I chose Sequin Productions because my Instagram handle is @MySequinLife and I knew I wanted to utilize my Instagram audience to get the word out about my business. After I knew my business name, I ordered simple business cards on Minted with my company name, email and phone number. You never know who you will meet, and where, so it’s always best to be prepared with a business card.
Spread the Word
After I gave notice at my corporate job, I contacted past colleagues, vendors and friends to let them know about my new business. I posted on all my Social media platforms about my new career move, which really gave me a lot of leads for current clients. Then, I joined entrepreneurial groups like heymama to connect with other women who could help amplify the PR for my company.
Incorporated or LLC
Decide if you want your business structure to be Incorporated or LLC. I worked with my financial advisor to learn the differences before making this decision.
Business Account & Credit Card
Start a business account. I suggest having your personal and business account at the same bank. I also opened up a business credit card to help keep my business expenses separate from my personal expenses.
Take time to develop the purpose of your company within a business plan.
Research Potential Clients
Always do your homework before going after a client. Research their web site, social platforms and check their LinkedIn to see if you know anyone that works for the company. All connections are key, no matter how slight or random they may appear to be.
I saved money for about a year to make sure I was financially stable enough to start my own business. This meant having money in my new business account when I started my company. Since I was uncertain about my future salary income, I gave myself a cushion of three months basic living expenses.
Working in the corporate world for more than 15 years, I was collecting a healthy 401K that was also being matched by my employer. Once I got on my feet with my own business, I created my own 401K that I could contribute to on a monthly basis. We all want to retire someday, so make this a priority and create your own version of a 401K that works for you financially.
Community & Colleague Support
I was pleasantly surprised by all the encouragement I received from my personal family and friends, as well as my social media followers, when I announced that I was starting my own business. People really went out their way to help me when I needed guidance, and love when I needed support.
When I told my then-CEO, he not only supported my future endeavors, but also asked if I could take them on as a client. It felt nice to know the company where I worked for so long still wanted me to be a part of their extended family. My previous employer is still a client and I love working with them — it feels like home and served as a perfect transition to this next phase of my career. Another unexpected surprise that has helped secure additional clients is my relationships with previous colleagues. Three of my current clients came by way of previous co-workers, who knew I was freelancing, and reached out to hire me at their new companies.
Nicole Neves is a lifestyle blogger, mama to two boys and owns her own PR business, Sequin Productions. In her spare time she is an LA Ambassador for heymama and discovering new adventures, here.