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Kelly Vaughn for Ladybug Podcast

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How I became an Entrepreneur

This week on the Ladybug Podcast, we talked about my advice for becoming an entrepreneur. I also wanted to share my story of how I became a freelancer and eventually an agency owner.

My Entrepreneurship Story

I taught myself to code when I was 11. I took on my first freelance client when I was 14 years old. My dad's friend needed a website, and I was the only person who knew how to build websites. I got paid a t-shirt. I know, great deal. And beyond that, it's not even my size; it's my dad's size. But hey, I do still have the shirt.

I continued to freelance through high school, undergrad, and grad school. The real reason why I started freelancing? College is expensive. I needed money to pay for my tuition and living expenses.

In 2015, I finished grad school and started a fellowship. About 8 months later I bailed and started freelancing full time. It turns out I'm not really good at working for anybody but myself.

I found my first clients on Twitter. (Side note: social media is a really great resource for getting your first clients.) I was following a friend of mine who was already freelancing. He tweeted, "Hey, I have too much work. Does anybody want to take on some freelance projects?", and I'm like, "Me, please, I'm poor." So we connected and it's actually how I started really getting a lot more clients.

The hardest one, the hardest client to get is your first client. Once you're past that hurdle, and you have some work in your portfolio from actually paid clients, and you have a testimonial, then things just kind of take off from there.

That same person who passed freelance work onto me also gave me my first project on Shopify. I immediately loved the structure of building a Shopify theme and how all the template files separate into a really, really readable format. Liquid, a Ruby-based language that Shopify uses to communicate with their backend, was really easy to learn real fast, so that was a major plus as well.

At that point, I was focusing about half my time on Shopify, and half my time on WordPress, which really require two separate brains. It's super difficult going back and forth. I was popping PHP into Shopify themes, and obviously, it would yell at me. So finally, I decided to just completely cut out WordPress altogether and put all my eggs in the Shopify basket.

Another interesting fact... I actually did not originally want to start an agency; I wanted to just do full-time freelancing. It's kind of funny, back in 2016, MailChimp did an interview with me about it. In the interview, I said, "I like having this hybrid model of just working with other freelancers." I didn't want to form an actual agency; I felt it'd be overkill.

Maybe a month or two after that, I completely changed my mind. I found myself hitting a wall on the size of clients I could bring on with just being myself, especially when I wanted to work with larger businesses. Kelly Vaughn Creative sounded like I was just a one-woman show, even though I had other people doing the design or SEO or content strategy, whatever it might be. So, that's why I made the switch from freelancing to actually starting the agency. I wanted to form an actual team and sound like a more of a legitimate company.

Listen to the full episode

You can listen to the full episode all about my entrepreneurial journey wherever you listen to podcasts!

Top comments (7)

chrisachard profile image
Chris Achard

Great episode, thanks. You mentioned keeping lines of communication open with remote workers via slack. Have you tried any other tools for that as well? Or do you find that slack works pretty well for that?

harlessmark profile image
Mark Harless

I wish Discord was looked at more professionally.

kylefilegriffin profile image
Kyle Griffin

If they made a discord variant that was for business (literally just call it Discord Business) then it would be taken seriously for sure.

chrisachard profile image
Chris Achard

The one annoying problem I have with Discord is that it used a ton of my CPU and made makes my fan spin like crazy for some reason.

I know people complain about that with Slack - but Slack seems to work OK on my machine... idk if it's just my machine though, or if it does that for everyone 🤷‍♂️

kelly profile image
Kelly Vaughn

I haven't tried anything other than Slack, but I'm sure there are alternatives! It's worked great for us. Using video chatting tools such as Zoom are also helpful for some face-to-face communication.

umutahmet profile image
Umut Ahmet

I'm about to embark on my own journey. Thanks for sharing!

danjconn profile image
Dan Conn

Thanks for sharing Kelly, and I love the podcast too! I've learnt so much from you four since listening to it!