By Chuck Sink
In massive debt with no money in the bank (except maybe $400 or so to my name), my boss walked in with an envelope in his hand meaning that it was time to pack up my office. We both tried hard for a year & a half to make it work but on that day, we simply shook hands amicably and wished each other well.
So there I was — no job, no money, a hefty mortgage, consumer debt, 2 cars, and 3 kids in college with a fourth heading there soon enough.
It was a big relief! I wasn’t worried – a miracle.
I felt excitement and freedom. I wouldn’t have to work in a job I hated anymore. “The money problem will handle itself,” God’s whisper told me. I had a pretty good business network, my own email newsletter with almost 2,000 contacts, and about 25 years of sales experience.
Now for the real test!
Could I start up a business with heavy debt, no revenue stream, no capital and still make ends meet in my dire situation? My faith in God kicked in and seemed to remove all rational financial thinking from the equation. It was as if I was offered a reprieve from the laws of mathematics. I wasn’t even interested in job hunting even though my sales background was highly marketable.
My mind seemed to focus only on this: I am self-employed now and I’m going to start making some phone calls immediately.
I prayed. Then I contacted several friendly contacts in my network that afternoon and explained my situation – I am for hire as an accomplished writer of advertising, editorial and web content. One of the contacts (the one with whom I was least acquainted) promised me contract freelance work at an attractive hourly rate. In less than a week, his company gave me almost as much work as I wanted to take on and it lasted for several months.
The following day, a guy I sold a website to a few years before called my cell – out of the blue – and asked what I was doing. He said that he needed a part time marketing manager; someone to ramp up a digital marketing program. This “guy” happened to own a large manufacturing company. We started doing project work together at first which later led to a good paying p/t contract position that lasted nearly a year.
Back to that first week, yet another opportunity came knocking. I got a LinkedIn connection request from some guy I met once who formerly sold software. He happened to own an architectural rendering and web design business in an early startup phase. He wanted to meet a content writer in the area. We met for coffee and he hired me for a project on the spot. Additionally that week, I was randomly interviewed by brand storyteller Dan Freund on the street and gained some welcomed online video exposure.
Faith with works is unstoppable!
A month or so later, I acquired my first “retainer” client who needed someone to manage weekly social media postings. Then another monthly fee-based client came on board that included a now popular home remodeling blog. Lots of small projects started to fill in the gaps between serving the steadier clients and handling all the other time-consuming requirements of running a business such as accounting, marketing and sales. Frustratingly, even with revenue slowly growing, the income side of the ledger never seemed to be enough to keep up with debt and mounting expenses.
Some days I would look at all the bills due, the bank account and the receivables and just think “this is clearly impossible!” Adding up the bank balances and any receivables wouldn’t even come close to covering all the bills due.
At that point, I would just drop to my knees, put everything in God’s hands and press on with the work in front of me for that one day and not worry about tomorrow. I can count at least 6 of these occasions. In every single case, within a day or two, money – just enough – would become available to cover the immediate need. In a couple of instances, it came as the result of confiding in friends and humbly asking for some help. In a few others, it was from taking on even more debt. But several times during my most dire financial predicaments, a new business project came out of nowhere with a client who was happy to write a check on the spot.
Somehow, defying every rational prediction, I remained current with all of my debts and bill payments. Quite miraculously, I always had barely enough to satisfy all the relentless financial obligations of a relatively big family but only for that given day.
At a couple of business low points, I reconsidered the job market but had to think long and hard about it. I enjoy serving clients and growing a business far more than selling the services of someone else and hoping they can deliver. If I’m going to be held accountable for my work, I want to have a say in how it gets done. In my experience, clients tend to be much better bosses to work with!
As I refused to give up my entrepreneurship, clients started pulling me into additional kinds of services like website design, SEO, advertising, blog management, social media and email marketing. This unplanned evolution of my company into a marketing services firm was extremely welcomed and has allowed the business to be more profitable and grow well beyond what I could accomplish as a one-man freelancer. I was even asked to teach business communications at my Alma Mater University and have found teaching on the side to be very rewarding.
Nowadays, revenue is steady and has been continually growing, opening new avenues to expanding services. Among the best things to happen over the last 6 years has been teaming up with some wonderful associates. Today, most of our clients hire us for ongoing marketing communications and pay monthly service fees. It’s a great business model that keeps us accountable to each other. Our clients are all doing great and the business is growing nicely this year.
An Attitude of…
Seeing things through the lens of gratitude, even during the most difficult times, can summon a spirit that will help you make better decisions and act in productive ways that you found difficult in the past.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to you for being in this audience. Becoming a business owner was made possible in large part from your responses to this blog and our semi-monthly newsletter publication that we’ve managed to keep going for over a decade now.
Thank you very much for staying connected with Chuck Sink Link!