Post #76 of ANNIE B.’s D.I.Y. MAGAZINE
Heather Acton is the webmaster of this website, and I started working with Heather about 3 years ago when I first decided I wanted to have a website for Annie B Music. Heather started out building websites for friends & family mostly for fun, and then started working for strangers for extra money… but again, mostly because she just loved it, and the little extra money coming in was nice.
Only a few short years later, she is the breadwinner in her home, supporting the family, while her husband’s role is Mr. Mom. She has several folks working under her now, and has built up a business she calls Helio Intercative Inc., and she LOVES her work. (Although she didn’t even know she loved it until she started doing it!)
She is an inspiration to us all… she decided to have some fun working on projects she enjoyed, and a few years later, she’s paying all the bills for the family with the business she has built! Now, she may not yet be a millionaire at this moment, but she gets to wake up every day and knows that when she “goes to work,” she’s really not working at all. She’s doing something she loves! I bet she doesn’t look at the clock every day thinking, “Only 2 more hours until that break for lunch…” She can take a break whenever she wants! (Well, almost… I mean, there are deadlines when you have clients to answer to!) And all the while, she’s actually enjoying her work!
Heather is very blessed (as am I) to be able to make a living doing something she loves. I asked her if it would be okay for me to send her some “interview” questions to help me share her story in this blog. If YOU have the same goal (doing something you love for a living), I hope you find inspiration and motivation in Heather’s comments & her story to take the first few steps in making it happen!
> 1. When and how did you decide to start up your business? What were the catalysts/inspirations for you to GO FOR IT?
Heather: It all actually happened by accident. I built a family website when I was off of work shortly after having my first child and found that I really enjoyed the process. Then, a couple family friends invited me to build their websites. It didn’t pay much at first but I didn’t care because I liked it so much and it was rewarding. From there, it was like a snowball effect. I kept getting referrals and kept building. 4 years later, I’m doing this full time while my husband is home with the kiddos!
> 2. What were the biggest challenges you faced in those early days?
Heather: Finding the time to do it all. I was home with my 2 little kids for the first 3 years of doing this. I did a lot of the work on nights and weekends. Again, I enjoyed it so it wasn’t a chore, but sometimes deadlines on projects conflicted with family things going on, or a sick child would slow down progress on a project. But, most people were understanding of the fact that I was an at-home mom doing this, so most times it all worked out just fine.
> 3. What were some of the things you had working FOR you when you first started up?
Heather: My dedication and willingness to learn, and the support of my family. This field was all new to me, so I had a huge learning curve when I started. From web development to running a business, it was all new. Luckily I enjoyed learning and wasn’t afraid to make some mistakes. And, I had a ton of help from my husband and extended family. My husband took on all of the duties at night and most on the weekends so that I could work, and my family was always there to watch the kids if I needed them. There’s no way I would have been able to build what I did if they didn’t support me in that way.
> 4. Did you feel like giving up? When? How did you deal with those times?
Heather: Ha! Not until lately as things are more established and I have more on the line have I thought about giving up. It is scary being the sole provider for a family, and having a small business be what we depend on for our food, house, and other necessities. Income is always up and down, and the cost to run a business is exorbitant. It does get tempting to go out and get a “normal” job, but ultimately I love doing what I’m doing, and I really like my boss =)
> 5. What are some of the biggest challenges you face with sustaining your business today?
Heather: Making money! I know this sounds so simple, but it’s the truth. I cannot believe how expensive it is to run a business, and how much is really working against small business owners. Insurance and taxes are a complete income-suck.
> 6. What are some of your biggest triumphs & things to celebrate?
Heather: That I’m able to do this at all, and that we help so many businesses meet their goals. This isn’t my background and it’s truly the first time I’ve been successful (in my eyes) in my professional career. I know my company does great work for people, and we volunteer a ton of time too, and that all feels good. But, the best is when a company really meets an important goal due to things WE helped them with. Awesomeness.
> 7. What advice would you give someone thinking about starting up their own business in web development & design / social media / internet marketing?
Heather: Be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever worked before. To really make a go at this and have a sustainable business, it takes a ton of time to build and run a business like this. Know that you’ll screw up lots of times, but make sure you learn from each of these mistakes. Move forward quickly.
> 8. Any final thoughts?
Heather: The only additional thing I have to add is regarding the importance of doing what you love, and making sure you know what success means to you. To some it’s money, but that’s not everything. Know what really makes you click, and do all you can to be the best at it. You’ll be successful, no doubt!