A little over two years ago (in the midst of the “Great Recession”) I finished my BA from the University of Washington Bothell. The degree was in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis in Society, Ethics, and Human Behavior. I looked around for work and I was prepared to except almost any kind of job, but I soon found out how hard it is to get any job at all these days. But with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, I kept thinking, who wouldn’t want to hire me?
Not only was I competing against others right out of college who had degrees people wouldn’t laugh at, but I was competing with others who had been in the workforce for years and had recently been forced to find new jobs because of the recession.
After sending out resumes, cover letters, and continual rejections, I realized that it was time for a new approach. I started to think that if I couldn’t get someone else to hire me I could just hire myself.
Well, it made sense at the time.
I set up Evan West Media, as a a sole proprietorship. I was able to get modest work doing digital media consulting for local bars, restaurants, and even with the City of Everett. I found most of my work through word–of–mouth. Luckily for me I had a fiancé (now wife) with a stable job and health benefits.
Over the last two years my business has been growing…slowly, but growing noenetheless. I have been able to save up some capital (because of the wife with the stable job and health benefits) and I recently decided to expand my business. I have spent the summer working on my business plan, turning my sole proprietorship into an LLC, redesigning my website, and creating new promotional materials.
I have also spent that time defining what I do, and what services Evan West Media LLC offers. In the past I have had trouble trying to explain what I do and what I study in graduate school at the Master of Communication in Digital Media at the University of Washington. I have told people that I do social media marketing, tell a business’ story online, or simply that I just do “web stuff”. What I have found is that the term “online marking” is all encompassing and pretty much defines what I do: creating online videos, optimizing websites for search engine optimization, creating paid search campaigns, and developing digital strategies.
Recently I made one of the scariest business moves I have ever made. I hired someone else to work for me. I am experimenting with Idea2Result, an appointment setting service. They find potential customers and schedule meetings where I can explain how Evan West Media LLC can help enhance sales and customer engagement. It is strange having someone else work for you, but so far our arrangement seems to be working out well.
So far there have been two major takeaways that I would like to share from this experience: The first is, it may take awhile but it is worth it for you to be able to define what you do in laymen’s terms. For example, most people have no idea what storytelling or “transmedia” mean. Find an easy way to describe what you do. Avoid jargon and empty marketing language. Help the client define what they want and reflect that back to them along with how you can help them get what they want.
Secondly, It may be scary to take the leap and start your own business, but the risk is worth it. It can be very rewarding to work for yourself, and if you never try, you won’t ever know if you could have succeeded.
I’m hopeful that I will be able to expand my business, but if I can’t, it has been a great learning experience. If I’m not successful, I may have to do something even more terrifying than starting my own business. I may have to get a real job.
Evan West is a graduate student in the MCDM program and will provide FtM readers with regular updates on his entrepreneurial journey.