The Side Hustle and Flow Interview Series is designed to inspire hard-working corporate employees to either start a side hustle if they are interested in eventually starting a business, or to keep going with their existing side hustle through the inevitable challenge of limited time and energy.
Today we profile Gwen Morrison, whom I learned about from her enthusiastic email with the subject line: “I’ve escaped!”
What was your former day job?
I was an online marketing manager for a large software company. They have a global client base of more than 6.3 million SMB customers around the world–with 13,000 employees. My role at the company was to manage the digital marketing efforts for the mid-market ERP. This included social media, search engine optimization, pay-per-click management, and content development for several websites.
What was your side hustle?
In my side business, I provided consultation on social media strategies and provided (and still provide) individualized social media strategies tailored specifically to meet their overall marketing goals, and get them in front of their target audience. I also provided social media training for clients, and set them up in systems that allow them to manage and measure their social media campaigns on their own, while still making myself available for ongoing support. Each client I worked was (and is) unique. That’s what I loved about it. Being able to get to know their business, and develop a plan to help them tap into the two-way conversations with their customers and increase their brand awareness.
When did you start working on it?
I’ve been working on the side biz, along with my full-time job, for more than a year. I was working from 5:30 am. till 10 p.m. every day — along with weekends. I rarely took time off as I knew my end goal was to launch my business–officially–within the year. And I knew it took hard work, and loads of pre-planning, to set myself up for success..
Did you tell your employer you were working on a side project? Why or why not?
No, I didn’t tell my employer that I had a side business. It wasn’t a conscious decision NOT to tell them, I just didn’t feel it was necessary to share what I was doing outside the 9-5. I didn’t make a secret of it, though. My LinkedIn profile listed my company, and I had a company Facebook page and a Twitter account where I communicated messages posted directly on my blog. The topics I was writing about were completely relevant to my day job responsibilities — social media, web content, SEO — and many of the employees in different departments who were managing the same for their division, were sharing my message. It worked for a long time.
How did you know when it was time to quit your day job?
I actually wish I had quit sooner. I think if I had to do it over again, I would have left at least two months sooner than I did. How did I know it was time? Well, I knew there would NEVER be a perfect time. I had been planning the work and working the plan for over a year, and my sister said to me one day “Did you quit yet?” And when I told her I had not, she said, “You won’t quit.” And maybe that did it. Maybe I don’t like to be challenged? Maybe it was one of those “I’ll show you!” moments, but by that Friday, I had given my notice.
It’s difficult to make that decision to leave a good paying job, with benefits and a great commute, to launch out on your own, but I knew that I had to do it if I didn’t do it soon, I might never do it. The idea of looking back two years from now and wondering what I was still doing there scared me far more than packing up my plant (which, by the way, struggling to survive under those florescent lights as much as I was) and leaving cubicle world.
What scared you about that decision?
I have a house and a husband and two teenagers still at home. That about sums up what scared me. We’re still paying for braces and college and have a mortgage. Having a steady paycheck helps. So, like most new entrepreneurs, I was a little afraid of the uncertainty, which is why I planned ahead. I highly recommend it if you’re thinking of leaving the day job.
There’s no guarantees, of course. No matter how much you plan. But I’ve worked in corporate America, and if you think that there is job security in that environment, think again. I’ve been through three rounds of layoffs and 6 bosses (or was it 7) in the past 3 1/2 years. One thing I know for sure: there are no guarantees …anywhere.
How did it turn out?
Well, I guess it’s likely too soon to call it, but I’m having a blast! The phone is starting to ring and I’m meeting the most amazing small business owners. What’s most gratifying to me is seeing the look on their face when, after I tell them about what I can do to help them, they look at me like they finally get it. I’ve even had some clients say “Wow. I wish someone would have shared this with me 5 years ago. It all makes sense now!” Not THAT is a good feeling. Finding that fit.
For me, there’s nothing better than waking up in the morning knowing that the day is filled with opportunity. You never know what that next phone call will bring. Maybe it’s that–the unknown– that drives me. I like surprises, and every day I learn something – or someone – new.
What are you doing now?
My company is called Endurance Marketing. We do all of the above: social media marketing and strategy development; content marketing; search engine optimization; custom Wordpress site development; press releases; ghost writing…and more. You can find me online, all the time.
What advice would you give for others who are working on a side hustle now that you have a bit of distance?
If you’re planning on leaving the day job, set a date and a plan of action. There will never be a perfect time, but when the clients start calling, you want to be sure you’re up and ready to go. Build a website. Order business cards. And then, go for it!
How can people find you, or hire you?
I’d love to help your readers discover new ways to reach their target audiences! Let’s talk!
You can reach me various ways. Go here to find out how!
Congratulations Gwen, we are so proud of your hard work and dedication to building a solid foundation for your emerging business. We wish you great success!