Interview with Jessica Lindgren, Gal Friday 612

Jessica V. LindgrenTell us a little bit about your entrepreneurial journey:  

Over the course of my career as an Executive Assistant, occasional freelance assignments have come my way. A project here, an event there … all of them were one-off projects that didn’t really lead anywhere exciting. Besides, I always thought that I would work for someone else until I retired. Being an entrepreneur was never part of my ‘plan’ in life, but side projects were fun and engaging, and a little extra cash never hurt anyone.

After hitting the ten year mark in my career as an Executive Assistant, I started to feel restless, and decided that it wasn’t a forever career for me, which was disappointing. No jobs on the market were exciting to me, as an Executive Assistant or otherwise. Instead of despairing at never finding my dream job, I decided to take the parts of being an EA that I loved, and go out and create my dream job!

Once the seed was planted, I spent a LOT of time outside of my day job creating my website with my web team, developing the look of Gal Friday 612 with my graphic designer, and saving as much money as I could to feel comfortable leaving my last full time job. Coming off of a twelve year career as an Executive Assistant, I feel very well-prepared for the challenge of running my own business, and I have been thoroughly enjoying every day since going solo.

Giving credit where credit is due, I could not be doing this without the support of my friends, family, and network at CoCo MSP. Special recognition belongs to my boyfriend and our cats, Thumbs and Spot, who put up with my odd hours as a small business owner, help with the laundry, and cook me tasty dinners.

How are you growing your business?

My business is growing steadily by word of mouth. My advertising budget is limited to having fancy business cards, and every client has been a direct referral from someone I know or have worked with in the past. Word of mouth referrals are worth their weight in gold, and are keeping me plenty busy!

What services do you offer?

Presently, I offer Business Concierge, Personal Assistance, and Event Planning services. I am currently juggling projects in all three areas, though I know I will have to focus or hire employees to be successful in the long run. I am really enjoying the Business Development piece that comes along with being a small business owner, but I also love hands-on client work. There is potential for me to continue on as a solo act, or to start hiring people to work for my company in the areas mentioned above and beyond, but I’m not rushing into anything.

How would you rate your success?

Since leaving my last position in December of 2013, I’ve been using 2014 as a year to play around and see what works. When I left my last full time position, I ended up keeping them on as my biggest client, which meant I was spending 3-5 days per week at my old job until they found my replacement, and didn’t have much time to spend on my new company. I’ve been able to devote 100% of my time and energy to projects and clients I love for about six weeks now, and am already operating in the black, which is pretty impressive for a new company.

Most people I know who have left their full time careers to start their own businesses spend a lot of time living off savings while bringing in very little billable client work, for up to a year or longer. I consider myself very fortunate to have landed some amazing clients off the bat, and that my past positions have prepared me so well for this new chapter of my life.

What advice would you give to a new business owner?

START and then keep going! Most people are too afraid to even try, but I figure even if you fail, at least you tried, and hopefully learned something along the way. If you succeed, that’s icing on the cake! My journey has taken over ten years, and I never thought it would include me being a small business owner.

Looking back over that time, it felt like things were going SO SLOWLY when I was working for other people and building my business on the side.  Now, I can’t imagine my life any other way – it’s exciting, engaging, and I’m over the moon in love with what I do for a living. You’ll look back one, five, and ten years from now, and marvel at how quickly the time went, how far you’ve come, and how much your plans and dreams changed.

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

My Google Calendar – I can’t function without it. I’ve got a shared calendar with my boyfriend, a personal calendar, and a business calendar. On the business calendar, clients can see when I am available for assignments and events. For the shared calendar with my boyfriend, we keep track of everything from what’s for dinner to our weekly date night.

Lastly, on my personal calendar, I pop in reminders for meetings, to-dos, follow up items, and time to do nothing. I’ve worked hard to carve out a healthy work-life balance, and I’m doing my best to maintain it. I know I could be working on more projects and making more money, but the time I spend knitting, baking, hanging out with friends and family, or even just lounging around the house is priceless.

On those “don’t feel like it days” what motivates you to keep going?

Most days, I wake up around 8am, make a smoothie, and check emails over breakfast. Then I exercise (usually a walk) for 1-1.5 hours, check emails again, make lunch, and go one of three places: to meetings, my co-working space, or my home office until 6pm-ish. If I’m feeling stuck, I will take a few hours off in the middle of the day to do housework, or even just snuggle with the cats over an episode or two of Doctor Who.

A change of pace is often just what I need to recharge and get back on track. It sometimes means working a little later into the evening, or putting in a few hours over the weekend, but one less load of laundry on a Saturday is worth working until 8pm on a Monday.

I’ll be honest – there have been days where I just don’t feel like it, so I just don’t, and I try not to beat myself up too badly over it. I’ve slept in until 2pm, stayed in my PJs all day, eaten pizza rolls for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and haven’t regretted a single minute of it.  Sure, I feel a little overwhelmed and behind the next day, but mental health days are a vital part of life.

Personally, I would rather take today off and catch up tomorrow than trudge through it and feel awful the entire time, so I give in to the “don’t feel like it days” when they come. I’m very fortunate in that they don’t come often, and I’m pretty sure I got most of them out of my system when Minnesota was experiencing consistent below zero temps this winter, but I know they’ll be back someday.

What has been your biggest struggle as a home-based business owner?

The availability of technology has been my biggest struggle. I own a MacBook, an iPad, an iPhone, and we have a desktop computer in the kitchen.  It’s very tempting to check email one more time before dinner, or to finish one more project late into the night when I could be relaxing or focusing on my family or getting ready for bed.

This ties back into maintaining my work-life balance, which isn’t always perfect, but is so, so important to me.  Most days, it’s as simple as remembering that very few emails will come in between 10pm – 8am that will make or break my business, and the people whose communication will make or break my business have my cell phone number in case something is on fire. I am very responsive to my clients during what I consider business hours (8am – 6pm), and am very up front about my working hours and turnaround times.

Connect with Jessica Lindgren of Gal Friday 612 …

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