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Publication: SoHo News and Tips
Earning More By Going Solo

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                   SoHo NEWS & TIPS
Helping You Make the Most of Your Small Office/Home Office


Have you thought about going solo but worried about making 
it? Today's interview might help you make that big decision...


P.S. You can discuss this issue or any other topic in the 
new SoHo News & Tips forum. Check it out here...

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- A former Staples VP has been charged with 
embezzlement, to the tune of nearly $600K...

- Charter Communications announces it will close 
six of its call centers, a move which affects 
1,000 employees...

- PatchLink's former CEO Moshir sues the company 
after his ouster...

- Timbercreek Software goes out of business...

- Hanesbrands Inc. said it would cut costs and 
streamline its manufacturing operations by closing 
two plants in the United States and one in Mexico...

- Health Care REIT announced that it will acquire 
Windrose Medical Properties for $877 million...

- Internet services provider VeriSign Inc. will 
sell a majority stake in its Jamba mobile content 
unit to News Corp...

- P2P firm eDonkey agrees to $30 million settlement 
in copyright case, becomes latest victim of illegal 
file-sharing crackdown...

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Earning More By Going Solo 
Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal. 

In 2000, Les Kollegian resigned from his chief 
creative officer post at an advertising agency to 
start his own shop in San Diego with a goal of 
increasing his earnings. The 36-year-old says the 
experience was challenging and stressful, but his 
take-home pay is now approximately $300,000 before 
taxes -- triple his previous annual income. His 
firm, Jacob Tyler Creative Group, named for his 
young son, employs three full-time advertising 
professionals and several long-term contractors. 

CareerJournal: What were you earning before you 
went solo?

Mr. Kollegian: I was earning about $125,000 a year 
as the chief creative officer for a West Coast-
based interactive advertising agency for three 
years. Before that, I lived in Arlington, Va., and 
worked for an East Coast agency for seven years. 
I started as a graphic designer and worked my up 
the ladder to creative director. I have a master's 
degree in graphic design. 

CJ: What prompted to go out on your own?

Mr. Kollegian: I wanted to make more money so my 
son could have the opportunities in life that I 
didn't have. I had very little money growing up. 
I started working at age 12 and continued through-
out high school and college. I missed a lot of my 
childhood by working and didn't want my son to 
have to experience that.

Another reason is that clients were being billed 
at approximately $250 an hour for my work, but I 
was getting paid a quarter of that. I figured I 
could go out on my own and bill clients at half 
that rate, provide just as good service, and make 
more money. I was getting calls from headhunters
about job opportunities, so I saw that there was 
a need for people with my level of experience. 
Many of them wanted to see samples of my work, so 
I built a Web site to showcase my talent. When I 
did that, I found that not only were headhunters 
trying to recruit me, but so were potential 
clients. That gave me the confidence I needed to 
leave a paying job.

CJ: How did you get started?

Mr. Kollegian: I didn't take any clients from my 
job with me. It wouldn't have been appropriate. I 
knew I could go out on my own and get clients 
based on the merit of my work. However, I certainly 
used my former clients as a reference for attract-
ing new clients to work with my firm.  Before I 
resigned, I began telling friends about what I 
wanted to do and they referred me to potential 
jobs within their companies. I was able to sign 
contracts with two clients right away. 

I registered with the state of California as a 
sole proprietor and set up a home office with 
about $5,000 of my savings. I offered to meet 
clients for lunch or at their office because I 
didn't want them to know I was working out of my 
house. I'd meet one to two a week and I 
significantly reduced my prices to get started. I 
was charging between $65 and $75 an hour for work 
that I now charge $150 for so I could convince 
clients that it would be worth the risk to give me
a chance. As business grew, I started charging new 
clients higher rates and told my older clients that 
I would increase their rates annually. 

I was extremely relieved when my first few clients 
were happy. I delivered what I'd promised on time
and within budget. That gave me confidence that 
this was the right direction for me and that I 
could handle my own agency. 

CJ: How long did it take to equal your earlier 
income? What do you earn now?

Mr. Kollegian: Probably a year and a half. I now 
take home about $300,000 annually in gross pay. 

CJ: Do you consider yourself happier now that your 
earn more in salary?

Mr. Kollegian: I've always been a pretty happy 
person, but I'm able to do things now that I 
couldn't have done with less money. I can travel, 
enjoy new restaurants and spend time with my son. 
Two years ago I took my family on a two-week cruise 
in Tahiti and we experienced some of the greatest 
scuba diving and island culture -- that's something 
I could never have done before.

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Another great thing about having more money is 
that I'm able to donate to charitable causes. My 
mom was diagnosed last year with breast cancer and 
my firm is donating $1,000 to a charity in her 
honor. I was diagnosed in 2001 with bilateral 
testicular cancer and it forced me to reflect on 
my life a little bit. I was on my wife's health-
care plan through her company at the time. 

I couldn't work for a couple of weeks and I didn't 
have disability insurance, so it took a toll on my 
firm's cash flow. I had to work twice as hard to 
catch up, but I managed to recover. Having cancer
gave me the feeling that I'm not immortal and I 
need to enjoy every minute of life that is put in 
front of me. I knew I needed to make more than 
what I was previously earning, and that I could 
by continuing to be on my own.

Last year I purchased a 1,500-square-foot office 
in downtown San Diego. I love it. Because we own 
it, we get to decorate it and tailor it to our 
needs. It's got 20-foot ceilings, large windows 
and a full kitchen, so it's a home away from home.

I own a house in Maryland that I stay at when I 
visit family about once a month. I own another 
piece of property that I rent out. It's the first
home that I bought. When I wanted to upgrade to a 
bigger house -- went from a 1,500-square-foot home 
to a 3,600-square-foot home -- I was able to rent 
it out rather than sell it. 

I can set my own time schedule. My typical work 
day is from 8 to 6, but I have the ability to 
modify as needed. On a whim, I could take a day 
off. I could leave the office for two hours to run 
errands and make up the work in the evening.

CJ: How has the business evolved since it launched 
and what are your future goals?

Mr. Kollegian: I now have three people and several 
long-term contractors. When I first started out I 
had between one to two clients a month and now 
we're juggling 14 right now. Most have come via 
word of mouth.

For now I'd like to keep the business small 
because I like to give each client my personal 
attention. However, I do anticipate in the next
two years hiring two to four people so we can 
expand our client base. We haven't hit the 
million-dollar billing mark, and that's what 
we're shooting for by 2007. We're about $100,000 
away from that goal.

I've reached my income goal, but all that really 
matters is having a good quality of life. I'd like 
to spend less time on day-to-day tasks and more on 
creative direction and graphic design, which is 
what I love to do most. I'd also like to be able 
to spend more time with my family and to travel 

CJ: You make it sound easy. 

Mr. Kollegian: No. It was scary. When you have the 
backing of large firm, you have more confidence, 
because of the resources the company brings to the 
table. But when you're on your own, you're essent-
ially saying I can deliver all of that, too. At 
first I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to 
have enough business to pay the bills. But that 
in turn forced me to work harder. I developed new 
skills in business development and sales.

Before I went solo, potential clients would come 
to the firm, and I'd sell our creative ability. 
After, I had to approach potential clients not as 
large firm, but as a consultant who could deliver 
the same results. I also have to handle all of the 
administrative work, such as answering the phones 
and filing invoices. All of that had been handed 
to me on a silver platter before. Now if a client 
doesn't pay on time, I have to follow up and 
attempt to collect. 

Starting a business isn't for everybody. Some 
people are managers and some are workers. You need 
to be entrepreneurial and really think outside the 
box as to how you can grow your business and make 
money. You have to be tenacious and constantly 
push to get the job. Then you have to get it done 
right, because if you want repeat business, you 
have to deliver.


Successful entrepreneur boredom is a scary thing and a 
condition that is often left untreated until it is too late. 
Entrepreneur owners must understand that it takes a unique 
employee to tell the boss that he/she is driving the company 
to financial ruin. You have to monitor yourself.

So what did you think about this issue? Drop me a line and let 
me know at mailto:mandi@gophercentral.com 

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