When the "Rest of My Life" Began.
If a person stopped you on the street and asked you to describe what you do for a living, most would answer "banker", "lawyer", or "nurse". For the past eight months, I have been doing freelance work for local businesses and non-profit organizations in Charlotte, NC, and Houston, TX. I do a variety of jobs from web design to Social Media Marketing.
For the past 19 years I have managed limited service and extended stay hotels, in August of 2016 I lost my job. In February 2017, I started my own consulting business, Socialpath Media Marketing.
I have redesigned my life and have taken an entirely different career path. This is how the "Rest of My Life" began. It started with a blog.
How My Life Changed In 5 Steps
Each morning I would roll out of bed at 7 a.m., grab a cup of coffee, and sit down at my computer and begin scrolling through pages of emails, searching for job leads. Most were advertisements for insurance companies and "get rich quick schemes". Halfway down the page, I noticed an email in black bold lettering that read "How to Start A Blog" by Darren Rowse founder of Problogger.com. For an hour I devoured the article which covered the 5 Steps to start a blog:
- Choose your blogging platform
- Secure a domain name and get hosting in place (Go Daddy, Bluehost, HostGator, etc.)
- Configure your blog
- Design your blog
- Start creating useful content that serves readers
Rowse recommended WordPress as his blogging platform of choice for the following reasons:
- It is free to use (although you do need to make a small investment in a domain and a server)
- It is easy to set up
- It has been around for many years and is a robust and secure system (although you do need to keep it up-to-date to maintain security)
- It has a whole industry of tool providers, designers and developers around it that will help you to customise your blog.
On December 7th, 2016 I did research on the best price for WordPress web hosting, which I went with Go Daddy, registered my domain name and downloaded the WordPress software to my desktop and started creating my blog.
Failure Leads to Opportunity
Five months after starting my blog, and several failed attempts to monetize it through affiliate marketing I needed to quickly find a way to make money. At this point, I poured my soul into blogging, It was an endorphin rush everytime I hit the "publish" button.
I joined blogging groups on Facebook and attracted readers who commented on my posts. I collected emails and sent announcements to my "readers" about my latest work. I felt as though this was what I was supposed to do. I dedicated hours towards producing engaging content on a consistent basis several times a week.
Then the comments stopped, the emails I sent out not opened, and readership for my blog plummeted.
Hard as I tried to make blogging work, I could not avoid the inevitable. I needed to find a job. I was back to square one. Frustrated with my situation I began applying to online job boards. Falling back on over 20 years of management experience in the hospitality field I started filling out electronic applications to several hotels in Charlotte.
The few management companies that did respond to my applications through a form email thanked me for "taking the time" and " showing interest" in their company but they were sorry to inform me that I " was not qualified for the open position" and " good luck in my job search". Plus, each email stated that they were moving forward with a candidate that had more experience and was more qualified. I did mention that I have over 20 years of management experience?
Experience does not always define our path in life.
WordPress was originally designed as an open source blogging tool, which means there are hundreds of people all over the world working on it. (More than most commercial platforms.) It also means you are free to use it for anything from your recipe site to a Fortune 500 web site without paying anyone a license fee.
The more I learned about WordPress, through hours of watching Youtube videos and listening to podcasts, I discovered that the skills I learned creating my blog could be easily adapted to designing websites by using templates, also known as themes, widgets, and plugins. The best part, most Theme, and plugins are free and can be easily downloaded right from the WordPress dashboard. I could create professional looking websites using free tools provided by WordPress, without any previous experience in web design.
With some additional training and practice, I knew that I could turn this new skill into a business.
Friendship Can Open Doors to Success
Marketing your services with no or little experience proved to be difficult. It was one thing telling someone you designed websites, it was something completely different when you are asked to show examples of your work.
One night during dinner, a close friend and local business owner had stated that he was not receiving sales leads from his company's website. The submission form was returning an error message to interested customers who submitted their personal information. Before I realized what I was doing, I offered to look at it. Having no idea what I was looking for or how to fix it, I sat down one Saturday morning, logged into his web hosting account and clicked around the backend of his site.
Four hours later, I discovered the submission form was not forwarding customer's information to the designated email. I deleted the old submission form, uploaded a new form, and fixed the problem. Satisfied with the job I did, he asked if I would like the opportunity to redesign the look of his site, make it more user-friendly and professional looking. I agreed and one week later I received my first check for my services. I was hooked.
How To Market Your Products and Services
One project under my belt did not make me a web designer. I needed to advertise and find clients.
Social Media was the first place I turned. One night, laying in bed, a friend of mine forwarded a message to me she found on LinkedIn. It was a consulting agency in Houston, Tx that was needing help with a client's WordPress event site. I quickly responded. Two days later I was given the job.
Happy with the end result, the owner passed my name onto another organization that she worked with, resulting in signing another client. Since I started working with the consulting agency, she has referred me to other businesses in the Houston area. To this day I continue to work with both clients.
With four websites under my belt, I decided to turn my WordPress blog into a website showcasing my work.
Each project I take on is a challenge. At times, when a customer asks me a question that I do not know the answer to, I feel like I am a fraud. Then I look at what I have accomplished in such a short period of time and that doubt slowly goes away.
If you were to tell me that I would be designing WordPress websites a year ago, I would have thought you were insane.