There's probably not a person amongst us who hasn't fantasized about leaving their job at one point or another. (Make your own schedule! No boss!) And if you've been itching to go into business for yourself, you've probably thought about it A LOT. But for most people, it's a leap, one that doesn't usually come without weighing some serious pros and cons. My own path to going to in business for myself has been long and winding, so I'm always curious to learn more about how others decide to do it, and what they encounter along the way. I can tell you this- I've met NO ONE who says it's been easy!
If you've followed me for a while, you may have heard me mention my friend Alisha Johns, of LISH Creative, before. Alisha and I met over a year ago, through Instagram, because of our shared love of color and fun. We've since met in person a few times (most notably when we co-hosted our first LA Brunch Party... and stay tuned for another fun venture coming soon!) and have continued to hit it off. One of the things I like most about Alisha is her determination. She's the kind of person who never wonders "Can I?"- she just decides what she wants to do and starts grinding towards it. When she mentioned a few months back that she was thinking of leaving her 9-to-5 to go into business for herself, I knew it was only a matter of time before she did just that.
I asked Alisha to talk to me a little bit about what led to that decision, some of the challenges she's faced, and her advice for others looking to make a similar move. Keep reading to find out what she has to say!
1) OK, SO TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF! AND WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE?
My name is Alisha Johns, and I’m the founder of LISH creative, a boutique social media agency for fashion, lifestyle, and hospitality brands. I love color, I am a gluten free foodie, and I am a Virginia Tech marketing grad. I am based in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA, but I also work from Los Angeles for part of each month. I *just* recently took the leap to leave my advertising agency job and work for LISH creative full time so I’m still nailing down my day to day schedule. I’m working on a few ongoing projects for old and new clients and also doing a lot of outreach to get the word out about my services.
2) WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE YOU WENT INTO BUSINESS FOR YOURSELF?
I was working 50+ hours per week as a creative strategist in the advertising industry. I focused on social media and brand strategy, copywriting, and also elements of production like location scouting and prop styling for my agency’s clients. I wore a lot of different hats.
3) HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA TO LAUNCH YOUR BUSINESS?
I started as a freelance writer back in 2012 - it was something that I always did on the side. It wasn’t until I started using Instagram as a portfolio (as a way to differentiate myself when applying to creative jobs in my industry) that I discovered my love for styling and creating visual content. At the time, I never thought I could add it as one of my freelance services. I kept at it for fun, producing content on the nights and weekends, but when brands started contacting me and asking me to style their products, that’s really when it hit me. I realized the need for a full suite of social media services and developed a way to package up all of the knowledge that I had learned through my years working in the industry. LISH creative is a full-service social media agency that addresses every possible need a brand could have.
4) WHAT WERE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU CONSIDERED BEFORE DECIDING TO LEAVE YOUR JOB?
The thought of giving up a steady paycheck was definitely scary! But I felt like I had hit a wall. I was starting to feel really burnt out, and had to turn down a few projects because of my day-job. That was really the tipping point for me. I sat down and determined how many clients & projects I would need to get by (income wise) in my first year. When I had my first few months of 2016 covered, I felt more comfortable taking that leap. Reaching out to a few new clients and building that foundation before leaving was key. I’m more sure of myself. I’ve also done work for one client here in Pittsburgh since 2012! Relationships make such a difference.
5) WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST HURDLES YOU'VE DEALT WITH SO FAR?
My biggest hurdle right now is streamlining all of my processes and adapting to a normal schedule! Yes I was a business major, but no, I do not like accounting! I also made the decision to change the name of my business, and that was truly agonizing! My old business name was lishylishy. I knew there was equity in that so I had to keep it familiar but wanted to add a sense of professionalism. LISH creative has turned out to be the perfect solution, but that was a big decision to make!
6) WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST HIGHLIGHT SO FAR?
The biggest highlight is the added flexibility. I’m no longer restrained by working 9am-6pm and I will be able to travel to California more, which I'm extremely happy about. It was one of my main motivators, actually.
7) OK, SO WHAT WOULD BE YOUR BEST ADVICE TO SOMEONE LOOKING TO LEAVE THEIR 9-TO-5 TO PURSUE THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
Start pursuing your business way before you actually leave to work for yourself full time. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and never underestimate the value of a rocking portfolio coupled with notable press. Developing an online and social presence is essential for networking and for building your credibility - regardless of your industry, really. Without laying that foundation, I would never be where I am today.
8) WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE DOING IN FIVE YEARS?
I’d like to have a few team members and a studio space! I think those next steps would really enable LISH creative to take content production to the next level.
9) YOU KNEW I'D HAVE TO ASK... WHAT'S SOMETHING ABOUT YOU FEW PEOPLE KNOW?!
I was an extra in The Perks of Being a Wallflower and had the chance to meet Emma Watson, which was awesome because I am a total Harry Potter super-fan. The movie was filmed at my high school, actually! Pittsburgh is surprisingly quite the movie production town!
Thanks so much, Alisha!
I couldn't agree more on the importance of building relationships and an online presence, when you go into business for yourself. Just like coworkers and friends in your "real" life, great connections in your business life can bring so much- from networking connections to new creative ideas, and even real friendships. It's easy to feel like you're an island, just plugging away at your journey, but in my experience, taking the time to build those relationships can mean the difference between "ok" and "thrive'. (And "thrive" is always better!)