How I accidentally started a business
Not long before I started my business I was a graduate student working full time. It was a pretty great setup… until April 2019, when I lost my job with 12 hours notice. I was told about my employer’s decision to let me go the day before my last day of work. I wasn’t given any kind of warning or severance pay. They left with the oh-so-kind words of comfort, “Don’t worry, we definitely want to hire you again when things settle down for us.”
“Get your shit together, get it all together, and put it in a backpack, all your shit, so it’s together.”
I had savings, enough to pay all of my expenses for a month — which I initially thought meant I would be fine. I searched for work, I signed up to tutor students locally and online, I did various odd jobs, I started doing online surveys for ten cents a pop… but options were limited and I wasn’t able to find full-time work.
Two months later I had a few odd jobs, but nothing even remotely close to being able to pay my bills. My rent was overdue, my electricity was 48 hours from being shut off, I had $0.33 in my bank account, and I’d been eating ramen noodles for 6 days. My landlord was leaving notes on my door threatening eviction and a lawsuit. I was in a complete state of panic. It was the kind of blind fear that freezes you, terrifies you, and makes you want to hide from the world.
I laid in bed staring blankly at the wall as my options ran in a loop through my mind: give up my independence and move back home, sell everything I own in the hopes that it’ll be enough to cover rent for one more month, get put on a waiting list for a women’s shelter so that I could at least stay in town until I get back on my feet, ask various friends if I could couch surf in their apartments… and then a realization hit me like a ton of bricks. If I lost my apartment I would have to rehome my dog. My sweet old man, the greatest dog in the world, my best friend. AbsoFUCKINGlutely not.
I shot out of bed, my mind clear from panic for the first time in months. Failure was not an option. I had to find a way to pay my rent. I’d Googled ways to make fast money online many times before, but this time was different. I found a place called SlaveLabour. It’s a part of Reddit that functions as a place for people to offer services at extremely low prices.
I spent about 20 minutes researching my target audience. Reddit is made up primarily of men, ages 18–35. What service could I offer them? My mind immediately jumped to my male friends, their sad attempts at online dating, and how much fun it was for me to fix up their dating profiles.
I took a deep breath, wrote a quick ad, and posted to SlaveLabour offering to fix up dating profiles for $5 an hour. Then I got up from my desk, microwaved a bowl of ramen, and refreshed the page 7 minutes later — and found 170 unread messages. As I read them, I broke down into tears… the heaving sobs kind.
I had a long, ugly cry, and then I got to work. 16 hours a day for two weeks straight. I had more clients than I knew what to do with.
I was able to pay my electric bill before it was shut off, and after selling some of my clothes to make up the difference, I was able to pay most of my rent within the two weeks. Bit by bit, I kept my landlord from filing for eviction.
“But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass.”
At the end of the two weeks I took a deep breath and posted to SlaveLabour again, this time offering more concrete services and asking for $8 an hour. I was swamped with clients and I spent the next few weeks working 7 days a week, 12–16 hours a day. I caught up on the rest of my bills, paid off the late fees, and started to replenish my savings account.
Another two weeks, another post — this time asking for $10 an hour. By now, I had dozens and dozens of clients who were posting glowing reviews throughout Reddit. They sung my praises on the new ads, and a few of them even gave my ads Reddit Gold, further boosting their views.
I quickly realized I was past the point of being able to organize my appointments in a Google Doc. I needed somewhere my clients could schedule themselves… so I bought a website and a scheduling service, then stayed up until 4am learning how to build it on my own. I raised my prices and linked my website for clients to make their own appointments. The website made my life so much easier, but the idea of this becoming a real job still hadn’t really occurred to me. I was still looking for more permanent work.
A friend convinced me to post to AMA (Ask Me Anything, a popular subreddit) and tell my story, so I did… and the AMA ended up on the front page of Reddit with 19,000 upvotes.
Within a few hours I was booked solid for weeks. I started getting crazy offers from producers at Netflix, requests for interviews with MSNBC, a producer from The Bachelorette wanted to talk to me… and I wanted to throw up. I was in shock. I was completely stunned with how drastically my life had changed in just a few weeks.
I declined all of those opportunities. This was just too much to wrap my brain around and these were decisions that came with long-term consequences (good or bad). I just needed space to think.
I worked 12 hour days, 7 days a week, for the rest of the summer. I fine-tuned my sessions, offered more services based on need, and learned how to use Paypal Business, Venmo Business, Google Pay, and Stripe. I learned about LLCs and Sole Proprietorship. I fell asleep reading business books. I hadn’t killed a vampire in Witcher 3 in a month. I was exhausted.
If this was going to work, it would need to be more sustainable. I made a business plan, gave myself time off, and hired an employee to work a few hours a week to help with answering emails, editing posts, and general badassery.
“Happiness can be found in even the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light.”
Fast forward to today. It was only three months ago that I made that first post on Reddit. Three months ago I was on the brink of losing everything, and a little idea on SlaveLabour saved me.
This is now my full-time job. I officially give myself two days off per week, I limit the number of hours I work in a day, I pay taxes, I made a budget, and I have a savings account. I’m learning how to be a business owner… it’s equally terrifying and exciting — but that’s progress. I used to just be terrified.
I absolutely love what I’m doing, and I hope to continue to do it for the next few years. Ultimately, my goal is a PhD in psychology, but I feel so incredibly lucky to be able to run my own business while doing it. I make my own hours, work in my pajamas, and I no longer have to send my sweet old man to doggy daycare everyday. I’m back to slaying vampires and playing D&D on the weekends. Life is pretty fuckin’ good.
“Never run when you’re scared.”
~ The Doctor, 11th
If you’d like to check out my services, I’d love to work with you. You can take a look at what I offer here.
And if you’re reading this as one of my OG clients from Reddit, thank you. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart. ❤
Originally published at https://www.advicebychloe.com on October 3, 2019.