Interview with Carrie Smith – Digital Strategist, Entrepreneur and Financial Writer

Interview with Carrie SmithTell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey.

I’m a twenty-something small business accountant turned financial writer and entrepreneur. After getting divorced when I was 25, I decided to change my life and do something a little bit more adventurous. That’s when I started my blog CarefulCents.com and created my freelance writing and consulting business.

Ever since I was in high school I’ve been fascinated by numbers and the business side of doing business. Handling the finances for small business owners and freelancers is something I’m very passionate about. Once I discovered that a lot of people need that kind of expertise, I wanted to fill the void and help their businesses succeed.

What did you do before launching your own business?

Before I started my online business, I did small business taxes and accounting for Oil & Gas companies here in Texas. Actually, I still do this on a freelance basis for a few of my regular clients.

My ultimate goal is to create full-time income with my online business and be able to quit my accounting job. I’ve already grown my online business to support myself part-time and within the next year I should be able to follow through with my plan. 

How did you fund your business? 

I funded my business the old fashioned way – by bootstrapping and with sweat equity. Since my freelance business is mostly based on services, it’s easier to start with a very minimal investment. All I had to pay at the beginning was a couple hundred dollars to buy my website domain name, hire a web designer friend and launch the site.

Even now, I still have pretty low overhead. However, I do have a few more expenses for marketing, advertising and I’ve created a much more custom website design since I first launched it over a year ago.

Another smart strategy I applied at the beginning of launching my business was to work as a marketing assistant for a big name blogger. I learned the ins-and-outs of working with an editor, creating marketing and guest posting campaigns, and becoming connected with other big name authors and bloggers – all while getting paid. It’s a great way to build your portfolio while bringing in some revenue to build your business.

How many hours do you work a week and how much is spent is your home office?

Right now I work about 15 – 25 hours per week, mostly on the weekends since I still have a day job that pays the bills. I spend most of that in my home office, but since my business is done virtually, it’s easy to take my office on the go.

I spend a lot of time traveling to conferences, networking with other female entrepreneurs and doing speaking gigs across the country. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to make your business evolve around your lifestyle instead of the other way around. 

How would you rate your success?

I feel very blessed with the amount of success I’ve had so far. My work has been featured in sites like The Huffington Post, Yahoo! Finance, Lifehacker and more. I still have a lot more to learn and more I want to accomplish, but I’ve had some good success along the way.

What has been your biggest business struggle as an entrepreneur?

A couple months ago I fell into a big career slump with my personal brand and online business. It’s difficult when you work at home, alone all day, and it takes mental strength not to get discouraged.

I had a big client basically screw me over, never pay me for the work and took credit for the stuff I did. It was heart-breaking and I didn’t want to work with other freelancers and entrepreneurs after that. But thanks to my mentor and the supportive community I’ve built at Careful Cents, I bounced back and now have a better sense of purpose.

What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur? 

Start small and as your business increases, you can grow your resources with it. Don’t go into debt for your business – especially not your first one. You’ll learn vital business skills, how to be scrappy and think outside the box, if you don’t just throw money at your business issues.

And don’t give up! Generally, right when you’re about to throw in the towel and give up, your business will have a breakthrough. And that’s what happened to me! After I got burned, I almost quit. But I’m thankful I stuck through it and my business has really taken off since then.

How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?

I’m a very organized person, mostly because you have to be when you run your own business, or you’re likely to go crazy! I keep a calendar in my office of all the projects I have going on at any one time. I also have a calendar on my iPhone that sends me reminders about things that need to get done, so I don’t miss any deadlines.

I’m also a big fan of to-do lists. It’s important to get everything out of my head so I have room to be creative and brainstorm new ideas and products for my clients. I’m always thinking outside the box, and staying organized helps me to do that.

Connect with Carrie Smith and Careful Cents…

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