Growing up, I always wanted to celebrate my birfday with a pool party. I imaged children in brightly colored swim suits briskly walking around my neighborhood pool to avoid the "no running" rule to get to my birfday cake and everyone riding home with a party favor wearing a beach towel as not to wet the car seats.
There were a few issues with my plan. 1 - my birfday is Dec. 22 and 2 - I can't swim.
My desire to have a fun and sun celebration marking an occasion inspires me to do things in the warm months. Good thing there are PLENTY in South Carolina. A. Allen Consulting LLC is my most notable summer accomplishment. One year ago today* I introduced my bouncing baby bundle of joy business to the world. Today that dolphin angel turns 1. I can hardly believe it.
I'm really out here.
Since I'm a blogger, I'm marking this accomplishment with a new post as bloggers are want to do. I should inform my 12 loyal readers that this post exists only to congratulate myself for starting and growing A. Allen Consulting LLC and thanking everyone who's supported me. If you're looking for a lesson, there isn't one.
The past year has been a lot. Get into this A. Allen Consulting LLC tea!
I started this whole shabang with little idea what I was doing beyond creating a way to make money. Really my entrepreneurial debut was sort of a "performance art" piece to display my skills and attract potential employers. I figured I could pitch it as "I did all this for myself, I can do it for you. Give me health insurance thanks!"
As I have talked about many times, I did not graduate Howard University or Clemson University with any job offers. I had submitted roughly 200 applications, went on a few interviews, both sketchy and legit, had been told I had plenty of knowledge but little experience, and had been rejected. It was rough. I'm blessed that my parents welcomed me back home and my mother let me have my old job back as her temp assistant which paid for my gas and groceries. Otherwise I felt effectively useless.
The one-off projects I was doing and working on my blog and website are what got me through the funk. It was my mother who encouraged me to start a business for the things I was doing and fronted me the LLC application money. My father read all my blog posts and always had a kind word. Things were looking up.
I settled on the name A. Allen Consulting LLC because I signed all my emails "A. Allen." It had become my nom de plume. I've always been OBSESSED with my name. I love it's symmetry and alliteration. Shoutout to my grandfather for putting sense into my adults who wanted to call me "Amanda" or "Olivia." I rationalized that my services are signature and uniquely me so I should use my literal signature. Kind of cheesy, but fancy cheese like Asiago.
I spent my days researching business structures. I made a bogus business plan. My service list was way too long and my prices were way too low. I had joined all the #girlboss, black business woman, freelancers together, etc. groups I could find. Sure I was naive but I was doing it. I had a reason to get up in the morning.
Everything was coming together. I got my LLC and EIN. I got a business paypal account, I had Upwork, Thumbtack, and Fiverr profiles, and a logo. I blogged about how scared I was to start but I did the damn thing. I leaned in, blind and minimally informed though I might have been.
The first money I ever made under A. Allen Consulting LLC was $150 for designing a resume/CV and an album jacket for $75 a pop. Nobody could tell me nothing. I was on.
For some reason I felt $50 was a fair price for most things. A lot of people got signature A. Allen work for $50. Lol never again. That'll get you literally 49.8 minutes of my time now. I did a few of those then an angel spoke to me. @XOBritDear is the angel and every so often she gently reminds us all: "Raise your rates."
I went up a whole $25 across the board. Wow professional. Much economic empowerment. Such acumen.
Hhahahahahaa I was so dumb. I'm still kind of dumb but I at least know now to add 25-30% to the amount I need so I can pay my taxes and still clear a fair wage.
My big break came when my client for my thesis project signed me to a year contract. It was amazing. I was pulling in actual cash I could spend on Forever 21 clothes and my monthly website subscription. Things were slow but the jobs found me. My family and connects took chances on me and I showed up and out. The National Council of Negro Women booked me to do a 2-day promotion gig in Atlanta at the ultra modern Rolling Out RIDE Conference. I was working!
The one time and term clients kept coming. I was taking myself on Ave-cations (even if they were only 1 or 2 nights in Atlanta, it still counted). My Google Analytics numbers were slowly but steadily climbing up. The vision was clicking.
What touched me the most is my city receiving and supporting me. I'm blending and spreading. My connects refer me to their connects and everybody comes up. My influence is growing. I am far from my ancestors' wildest dreams but I feel like I'm doing what they want me to do. I've done communications for my friends who are venturing out on their own endeavors. The flexibility of my schedule allows me so much freedom. I've been invited to speak at Youth Day events and people look up to me. My best friend reads all my posts and gasses me up every time, even though she lives on a whole other continent.
I'm really out here.
I'm writing from my apartment I finally secured saving what I've brought in from the client's I've won and funds I'm managing. I'm not the woman or business owner I want to be yet but I'm close. I'm getting misty as I type this because I made a way on faith. I feel God in this overpriced, undersized apartment tonight.
At one point I was serving two masters: applying for "regular"** jobs while trying to honor my own hustle. As you know from my storytelling blog, I realized I already had a "regular"** job and needed to be more successful. I would be lying if I said I don't send a few applications a month just to cover my bases. I'm no dummy. It's been so freeing to not be pressed. I much rather worry about pitching clients (which I do worry about because I can't decide if its good business or rude to pitch someone I see posting ugly fliers).
Everyday as a freelancer brings something new. A new victory, a new bag, a new failure, a new realization. Some days I feel like a genius, some days a scam. That's part of the regular ebb and flow I suppose. One thing I do know is I am grateful for everything. My advice for anyone starting out is to stay the course. It's hard. You'll want to quit and wonder why you can't just get a "regular"** job and be happy. You can but this is what you wanted to do. Or you can do both. It's all up to you.
Thank you to everyone who's supported me thus far. I want this endeavor to not only bless me but bless my community. I'm writing grants and continuing to develop my roster so I can expand and bring others, preferably young black women, onboard. I want to grow. This has been a crazy ride but I conquered my fear of rollercoasters in 2006 at summer camp when we went to Carowinds so I'm good. That same faith I stepped out on has been tested and developed over the past 12 months so I'm extra good.
August 10 is officially from this point forward known as A. Allen Consulting LLC Day. It's a reason for anyone to celebrate growth and accomplishments in the late summer sun. I'm not throwing a pool party (UGH) but I am having a cute Sunday afternoon block party sitch in September. So yeah I failed pretty hard at making baby Ave's dreams come true but did a great job creating a day for the people. Drake isn't the only one who can turn his birfday into a brand. Technically, I'm 4.5 months too early but hey, I tried.
* - You loyal 12 who've read From the Desk of A. Allen from jump might have noticed a discrepancy. My ACTUAL founders day is June 14. August 10 is my launch anniversary. I couldn't get myself together in time for founders to celebrate because hashtag booked and busy. You WILL deal 😘
** - All jobs are regular. 9-5, freelance, whatever. As long as you're legit, you're doing amazing, sweetie!