07 January 2013

Struckman Consulting // One Year In

Today marks one year since I officially embarked on my own as an independent consultant with nonprofits as Struckman Consulting. I signed my first contract with the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. It was scary - I didn't know how long that contract would last and I didn't have any additional clients lined up. The good news is, I finished my contract with GDSF after about five months and managed to sign a long-term client. Since then, I've signed another long-term client and two short-term clients. Somehow things have worked out and I've been able to pay myself every month (a very good thing). I'm also learning as I go. Although I haven't necessarily been strategic in my actions, I'd like to record my successes and failures as reminders for years to come.

  • Network, network, network. I attended several networking functions throughout the year and met some really great people. I've even been able to refer some of the people I met to paid gigs of their own. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. Chit chat and small talk don't always come easy for me, so these activities challenged me - in such a good way.
  • Give back. I took on one pro bono client this year. Working with the Denver VOICE has been so rewarding. I love the mission and the people are fantastic. Not only that, but the contacts I've made by working with the VOICE are priceless.
  • Sell, sell, sell. Word of mouth is the most successful way to get new clients. Hence networking and volunteering. I pass my card out whenever I get a chance and try to meet with new and old contacts at least twice a month. I also printed holiday post cards to send to many of my contacts this year. I received great feedback on them - an inexpensive, yet powerful way to keep my name out there. Although I don't think it's necessary to have a website, I'm glad I designed one for the business. It's certainly easier to point people to my website than to lug around a bunch of writing samples.

I'm so happy with much of how I conducted business in 2012, but there's always room for improvement.

Try and Try Again
  • Manage time wisely. Time management has always been a weakness of mine. I tend to thrive on deadlines, so when there's not a hard-and-fast date for a project, I wait until there is one. This has led to some late nights. I can definitely improve on last minute rushes by preparing in advance. I also need to resist tidying the house up and other time wasters while working at home.
  • Keep good books. The small details - entering expenses and tracking trends - are also a weakness. It's not that I can't do them, it's that I leave them until last minute. I also don't have a good system to track these things outside of Excel and I can't justify buying a program - yet. On the same note, I tend to pay taxes at the very last minute as well. That's something I'm definitely planning on working out in the year to come.
  • Cut unnecessary expenses. Although I know that networking expenses are an important part of doing business, I'm going to try to stick to meetings over coffee rather than meetings over lunch. 

The perks of working for myself and at home are limitless. Here are the highlights:

The Perks
  • I can run during the day, which makes winter-time running possible. This is the first winter I've really been able to keep up on running and the flexible schedule is to thank.
  • I purposely schedule meetings within a five-mile radius of my house so that I can ride my bike. I can't remember a week when I didn't ride my bike to a meeting.
  • Sick days with the kids aren't so stressful because Nate and I don't have to juggle days off any more. Similarly, we don't have to piece together daycare when school is out and daycare is closed.
  • Most importantly, I can spend more quality time with my kids. 
  • My schedule is flexible so that I can accept adjuct teaching opportunities when they pop up.

Although I never planned for my professional life to look like this, I feel like it's balanced and rewarding - just what I need at this point in my life. Happy one-year anniversary to Struckman Consulting. Here's to many more!


Simply Bike said...

Happy One Year Anniversary to you and your business! I'm so impressed by what you're doing and it's really giving me hope for my own academic/non-academic future. Incidentally, I just got a very last minute course offer and so I'll be teaching this coming semester as adjunct faculty as well. It's a perfect gig because it's a two day a week class, so I can use sitters for those two afternoons a week and still be home with C. pretty much full time.

I have so much more I'd want to talk to you about on this topic but I need to get done with my blog reading and do some prep work for this class that's quickly approaching.

But on a quick last note: did you know that there are direct flights from Denver to Des Moines? Either you need to come visit your old stomping grounds of we need to make a Denver vacation happen ;)

Sara Struckman said...

I saw that you rode your bike to campus today! Woohoo! I'm a little jealous that you get to hang on such a gorgeous campus. The University of Denver is pretty, but the building I work in is very stark and practically annexed off of campus. And it's 8 miles from my house. My number one goal for the quarter: Ride my bike to campus.

People wonder why I adjunct for such low pay (not sure if ISU is the same, but DU is pretty dismal). I actually don't mind - it's engaging work and a nice way to keep my foot in the door. Plus, to be able to spend time with my kids: Priceless. So glad you'll be able to teach and hang with C.!

You know what? I meet up with three ISU alumnae in the spring every year. I think I can convince them to reunite in Iowa this year! I'll work on it :). We all have great memories from ISU!