Can you make a living off of your own business? As a post-grad? With the right business plan, the answer is yes. Discover how this post-grad quit her 9 to 5 and now writes her own paycheck.
Have you ever thought about what it would be like to start your own business? This week's Advice Column explores just that with @emmakbarrera. Emma is someone I have known since I was a freshman in high school, auditioning for musical theatre. I am lucky to say that as post-grads we have reconnected and it has been an absolute joy to see her shine as the Founder and Creative Director of @righthandglam. (Yes, she is the girl I'm always hyping up on our Instagram for helping me achieve my dreams with Dear Diary through Engagement). Emma has an awesome story to tell and I have been dying to get her on this platform to give post-grads advice on how she built her business. Although starting a business might not be something that you want to do (or maybe it's something you might not want to do right now), her story will undoubtedly inspire you to bust your a*s a little harder at whatever it is that you are passionate about.
DD: Introduce yourself and what you do for our Dear Diary readers.
EB: “Hey y'all! My name is Emma Barrera and I’m an Instagram Coach + Social Media Manager! I spend my days coaching boss womxn to grow & glow on the gram to boldly and authentically share their stories online. I’m Philly born + bred and currently live in a converted yarn factory with my partner and our two cats! In my free time, I teach spin at a local studio and I’m a huge political junkie. Give me a margarita and blast Stevie Nicks and I’ll be a happy gal.”
DD: What has your post-grad journey been like for you?
EB: “Oh dear God, where do I start? Well, first of all, I hated college. I had, like, one semester that I enjoyed. I transferred from GW to Temple after 3 semesters and a Bipolar Disorder diagnosis. At that point, I just wanted to get in and out as quickly as I could. I graduated with my degree in Anthropology after just 3 years. And then the real rollercoaster began.”
“I got a job in June of 2019 working a customer service position at fintech start-up in Philly while also working part-time for SoulCycle. In the fall of that year, I traded in my yellow shirt for spin shoes and started teaching! I felt ALIVE like I was finally doing something impactful that helped make other people’s lives better.”
“My full-time job became extremely toxic and I left in January 2020. I started working four jobs to make ends meet. I taught nine spin classes a week, worked the front desk at a gym, and was hostessing two nights a week, all while I toyed around with the idea of starting my own business as a social media manager. Then the pandemic hit. And now? We’re here!”
DD: What inspired you to create @righthandglam?
EB: “I’ve always loved storytelling. I was a theatre kid for most of my life (we’re on a brief hiatus, there will absolutely be a comeback post-COVD), so I was constantly sharing stories. At its core, that’s also what Anthropology is. So helping womxn tell their stories online just seemed like a great fit. I’m not a good employee. Like, at all. But I’m damn good at managing myself. So that’s what I did. To date, I’ve helped HUNDREDS of womxn tell their stories, whether it be through coaching, workshops, content creation, or engagement services. I have watched people blossom before my eyes. I’ve seen people realize their potential and boldly share that. People are empowered to come out of their shells and step into the power of their voice. And that’s why I love waking up every morning to do this.”
DD: How do you financially support yourself, while being your own boss?
EB: “Listen, starting your own business is NO JOKE. There’s not a guidebook for how to do it. You have to learn as you go. In all transparency, I make more money now than I ever have before. In just eight months, I’ve been able to fully replace my income AND THEN SOME. Some days, I’m not sure how it happened. But then I think about how much work I put in every day, how committed I am to building not just a business but a community, and the way I show up as myself day after day. I used to think 'Just be yourself!!' was a load of sh*t, until I made it a key pillar of my branding. People love it…I love it. I know that people are drawn to working with me because I’m not gonna sugarcoat it. I’m booked out for some services to July because I will be your biggest cheerleader, but also give it to you straight!”
“I also make sure to frequently check my bank account. I’m always moving money around. It’s really important to me that I have more money than I need in my rent & loans account just in case all of my clients decided to jump ship at once. I’m building up my savings each week. And, because any day can be a payday, I can schedule my retainer clients accordingly so I can assure that I’m not going too long without getting paid.”
DD: Advice for anyone looking to ditch their 9 to 5 and create their own business?
EB: “JUST F*CKING DO IT! But have some kind of plan first. I didn’t have ANY plans. I just did it. And it can be exhausting. It IS exhausting. The rule of thumb (or so they tell me) is to have 3 months of your salary saved up before you leap. But you can also do both until you’re ready to fully transition! Your salary can support building your business and then, once you have enough systems implemented, you can transition.”
“Make sure you have a strong support system too. I have found an amazing community of female entrepreneurs and content creators who have become some of my closest friends. We co-work, we bounce ideas off each other, and we know a shit ton about each other’s lives…all because of Instagram.”
“The whole idea, the whole process, it’s scary. Especially if you’re still in your early 20s. Nothing is guaranteed at first. But you find your groove, you find your voice, you find your people, and most importantly, you find your confidence.”
DD: Number 1 tip for someone looking to grow their business on social?
EB: “ENGAGE AUTHENTICALLY! It’s not about having a 'perfectly curated feed' or fancy photos. It’s about showing people who you are, introducing yourself, and taking it beyond the business. I have clients that have become friends and friends that have become clients. I think that’s really freaking cool.”
“I like to put it like this: When you walk into Aerie, there’s always a girl at the front of the store pretending to fold underwear. She’s not actually folding underwear, she’s there to welcome you to the store. Think of Instagram as your office or store. Make sure people feel welcome! Remind them there’s a person on the other side of the screen.”
DD: Best and worst part about being your own boss?
EB: “Being on my own schedule. That’s my answer for both. I can work anytime and anywhere. But sometimes that means I don’t start working till 3 PM and then I’m up all night. It happens. The freedom though? It’s like no other. I won’t ever be an MLM gal but the one thing they’re 100% right about is how amazing it is to have control over your time and money. I never have to be anywhere or report to anyone. As long as the work gets done, my clients are happy!”
DD: Now for our final question of each interview, what now?
EB: “EXPANSION! That’s my word for 2021. And I have a lot planned. I’m currently on Week 3 of my first-ever group coaching program. I’ll be launching a 4-week version of it next month and already have inquiries about when I’ll be doing the 12-week program again! I also want to get myself into more of a groove…my goal is 6-hour workdays. I’m not far off from making that a reality. Just gotta get on my own a*s about it!”