When I was in college, I was notorious for picking up all sorts of odd jobs around campus. I worked in the housing office, reviewed resumes for the computer science department, managed the student newspaper and anything else that came my way. When I graduated, I didn’t think I would have any problems working a job.
It took me almost two months to land something and by that point, I was feeling pretty uncomfortable. I had money coming in (I had been a freelance writer all through college and kept going after graduation), but I figured I needed one of those “real” jobs everyone was so found of.
The job listing was for a writer/researcher and during the interview, the manager swore it was more writing than anything else. But on my first day of work I found out what was really expected of me. I was to call up businesses and ‘research’ who made buying decisions in the company. I had a list of companies to work on every day and — here’s where the writing came in — I had to fill out a form about each company.
Culture clash is how I’d describe what happened next: I got the feeling that I wasn’t really their type. But I kept trying. At the end of my first week, I got assigned a well-known corporation. I started making calls and working my way up the corporate phone tree. I got some advice from my manager, along with the expectation that I would do what it took to get the information on this particular company.
So I lied. I suggested that I was a student doing research for an MBA, that I was compiling statistics. No, I was not compiling a database for salesmen to use to get past all the gatekeepers that are intended to keep annoying salesmen out. And I got every last piece of information I needed. I knocked the socks off my manager and headed home.
By the time I got home, I felt like throwing up. I knew I had done something incredibly wrong. I knew that if I kept working there, I’d need to lie like that every day. No company gives out information on decision-makers like I was asking for just for the heck of it.
That night, I started looking even harder for writing clients. And the next day, unable to face going back, I quit, without notice.
Freelancing full-time wasn’t a bed of roses, honestly. I had clips, but nothing that would immediately land me the sort of gigs that would pay all of my bills. But I worked at it. I followed every freelance writing board, picked up odd projects — including creating organizational rosters — and built up a client list.
The hardest part was not having the security of that job. I’ll admit, that I applied for a few full-time jobs while I was looking for clients. I took on work for a couple of content mills. But my big break came when I found a gig blogging for a productivity site. I figured out how to transform that gig into selling myself as an expert in online content creation.
Within eighteen months, I had matched my salary as a writer/researcher — without needing to feel uncomfortable with what I was doing. Within three years, I had other writers working for me. Business today is great, even if the way I really got started came straight out of a situation I felt like I couldn’t even face.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organisation comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business’s development and growth.
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