Hi! I’m Ron Stauffer.
I’m a web designer, web developer, and digital marketer, and I work alone.
I never actually set out to be self-employed. Actually, I never wanted to be an entrepreneur at all. But after being laid off four separate times, I gave up on chasing after the illusion of “job security.” These days, I’ve just accepted that the “normal” plan most people have of picking a career, going to college, earning a degree, then getting a job at a company that offers health insurance, paid vacation, and a retirement plan would never be in the cards for me. I guess I’m just not wired that way.
It’s not like I didn’t try; I did. I’ve worked for a variety of companies over the years: I was a marketing manager at a VC-funded Canadian software startup, a marketing manager at a coding Bootcamp, a marketing director for a privately-owned construction company, and a marketing director for a digital agency. I know how to collaborate with co-workers, I’m a good team member, and I keep it fun. Really, ask any of the people I’ve worked with—they’ll back me up.
In the past, I liked working for an employer where roles were clearly defined and tasks were neatly delegated among multiple employees in different departments. As a manager, I’ve had people working under me, and I learned lots of skills like project management, public communication, administration, and customer service.
But it’s a whole different ball of wax when you become self-employed. Certainly, some of those skills are transferable, but it’s not enough. Being a freelancer or solopreneur requires a whole lot more. You have to do everything: making sales, keeping track of the books, invoicing clients, making financial projections, paying taxes, performing job costing analysis, and all kinds of things that really have much to do with what it is you do for work.
This is true of almost any industry. Being good—or even being excellent—at creating a product or providing a service does not mean you’re good at running a business. Take plumbing, for example: being a good plumber requires going to trade school, learning the ropes through on-the-job training, getting apprenticeships, taking exams, and acquiring licenses. At the end of the day, in order to be a good plumber, you need to be an expert on plumbing. But quitting your plumbing job and starting your own plumbing business? That’s is a world apart: that requires a whole slew of skills you can’t learn in trade school, in addition to a whole host of good habits that nobody can train you for. Those you have to learn on your own.
My point is, in my case, being good at marketing and being a good marketing company owner are two very different things. As I said, I liked working for other people in marketing roles at companies owned by other people. Reporting to work on time and putting in a full day’s work then going home at quitting time? That was easy.
But due to market forces or the missteps of others, those companies had layoffs and they ended up kicking me to the curb. So much for “getting a real job” to make my parents happy, right?
What I learned from my experience over the years is that telling yourself that getting a job at someone else’s company is “safe” is just a fantasy. Over and over, I saw that I had no power and was completely at the mercy of other peoples’ decisions, and those decisions often hurt me. Over the years, I learned innumerable lessons about how to run a business, and, even more, how not to run a business, which served me very well when I finally decided to take control of my future and put my destiny in my own hands by starting my own company.
This was SUPER difficult, though. I had never taken a class called “how to start your own business” or “how to work for yourself” until after I already had, and I had to study hard to try to catch up and make up for lost time. It was tough, but I was able to survive.
Throughout that process, I’ve come to two major conclusions:
- It worked! I could do it after all. (I’m living proof of this: I am able to support myself plus a wife and five kids through my business to this day).
- It’s very hard, and there are few resources for people like me to learn the skills needed to be self-employed. Most of the things I know are what I’ve learned through expensive and painful trial and error.
The biggest challenge with all of this is that I have to keep reminding myself that nobody who has a “normal” job has any idea what my life is like or how people who are self-employed get by. They can’t imagine a world without a dependable, steady paycheck, an employer-sponsored health insurance plan, an employer-matched retirement fund, and a few weeks of vacation each week where you can turn off the phones and ask a coworker to take your calls and check your emails.
Even things others take for granted—like going to college—were hard for me. I got married when I had barely turned 20 and my wife and I had five kids in six years. I didn’t really have time or money to go to college so I had to slowly earn a degree over a period of sixteen years of night school and weekend classes. By the time my oldest child became a teenager, I decided: “This is ridiculous—let’s just finish this and get it out of the way,” so I enrolled as a full-time student at a university, while working for myself, full-time, and supporting six other people.
It took me two years of insanity, working full time, going to school full time, raising a family, and singing opera on the side as a way to inject some fun into my life. I ended up earning a Bachelor of Arts in Storytelling. (Yes, that’s a thing: the university helped me create it as a customized degree—I’m still the only person who graduated there with a degree like that).
You may notice that for whatever reason, I don’t “fit neatly” into pre-defined or culturally-acceptable boxes. It’s hard for me to summarize who I am and what I do in just a sentence or two: my experience is so varied and my hobbies are so unconnected that it sometimes doesn’t even seem to make sense to me.
But here I am now, over 15 years after starting my first company, still going strong. I’m still here; I’m still kicking, and I want to help other people like me who, whether they want to or not, find themselves working as freelancers or solopreneurs. I want to be to give them assistance, guidance, or even just quietly say “I feel you” or “I know what it’s like.”
Let’s go through this journey together. I’m looking forward to meeting you. Contact me at any time. Really, I’ll respond. I’m here to help.