Home business success stories are found everywhere. I was fortunate to make a contact on LinkedIn – Sarah Hagens – that owns and operates a successful website design business from her home in rural Alberta, Canada.
An ongoing learner, Sarah continues her education to improve her skills and product offerings. As a solo entrepreneur, wife, and mother, her story is remarkable and inspiring. Sarah brings talent, motivation, and a can-do attitude to the table. She was gracious enough to sit down and answer some questions about her story for us.
Thank you, Sarah! Homepreneurs wishes you and Homespun Webs the very best of success in your future endeavors!
Homepreneurs: Why did you start your own business?
I graduated university as a teacher, moved to rural AB to work, married and started a family. After my second child was born, childcare and managing a full-time teaching career was too much for our family. I took a LOA to give our family time to re-group. We decided it was best for our family for me to stay home. I knew that I needed to do something, so began to explore options that favored my skill-set, knowledge and interests. I came across a one-year, online training program for Website Design – sounded like the ad was written for me lol. I signed up for the fall and graduated the following spring, and voila, my home-based career was born!
Homepreneurs: What makes Homespun Webs different from other web developers?
I am a sole proprietor, so all dealings are with me; I offer start to finish service. I am huge on SERVICE, so work my tail off to ensure my clients feel respected, understood, and satisfied with the end result. I host client meetings in my home, I visit homes and offices, I use all forms of communication – whatever is most convenient for my client at the time. I am patient and tolerant. Sometimes a project gets delayed or needs immediate attention, and I work hard to deliver. I make sure my client understands that the work is for them, they need to be satisfied, so if we need to revise, revise, revise, that is fine; I do not take change requests personally. I do my best not to overload my plate (work on 2-3 projects at a time) so that I am available.
Homepreneurs: You have a variety of talents – why website design?
I can’t really explain it. I like computers, I am a creative person, I like to make others happy – not always a possibility when teaching lol. The web design kind of found me; I certainly wasn’t looking for it. When I saw the ad, bells began ringing; the prospect of exploring some of my untapped “talents” combined with the reality of working from home and maybe making a few dollars really clicked. Coincidentally, here in Rural AB a new initiative called Return to Rural was getting underway (returntorural.ca). The Alberta Special Areas were and continue to be committed to helping youth “return” (also youth retention) by bringing high speed Internet services and many other resources needed to “make it” in rural.
Entrepreneurs do well here. Oil, gas and agriculture are our primary industries and now we have all sorts of entrepreneurs. Because of the Internet and the social media explosion, people can do anything here, and I am one of them! Because of this, I have found a niche, helping to bring existing businesses into the now with a website and help new businesses establish themselves too. I am finding work developing business presentation PowerPoints, some graphic design, and have recently be contracted to get an e-newsletter up and running. Pretty exciting!
Homepreneurs: What are the greatest general challenges you face? (e.g. marketing, ideas, money)
I do find that work can be erratic or more so the payment schedule. Work seems to come in waves – all at once, then a break (which I need to get caught up on laundry and mowing ;)). Because my husband works, I admit I take for granted that the bills will get paid. When “my” money comes in, it is a bonus at this stage, which isn’t really fair. Truly, my marketing efforts stink. To date, I have been successful primarily due to my small-town connections and reputation as someone who gets the job done and done well. This could run out, I know. Marketing takes time and money, which I haven’t committed to yet. I do have a FB business page, my own website with blogging function (don’t use), have begun TW, but there is always more. Because I am a one-person-show, I am responsible for everything, so that can be challenging, when I am mom and wife too.
Homepreneurs: What are advantages to self-employment? What are the drawbacks?
I work my own schedule and have HUGE flexibility. I can be everything and everywhere with and for my family while fitting work into the gaps. My youngest child is not yet in school full time, so I am grateful for the flexibility. I have logged in umpteen “post bedtime” work hours since beginning Homespun Webs. The home office is just a few steps away, and this can be a drawback. My kids will attest: “mom is always on the computer”. Full time school schedules will be the reality next year and my goal is to develop a proper working schedule for myself during the school day and off when the kids are home. Wish me luck lol.
Maybe one more drawback from time to time, is working alone. I don’t have co-workers to bounce ideas off or to team problem solve with.
Homepreneurs: What tips and/or suggestions do you have for others interested in starting a business?
You must consider the long term when staring a business. Great that you have work today, but what are you doing to ensure that you have work tomorrow? You need earmark time and money for promoting your business, making new connections and keeping up-to-date with your knowledge and skill-set. And just as important – make sure your business adventure is something that you LOVE doing; you want to feel good about how you are using your time.
Homepreneurs: How do you use social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)?
Likely not that well lol. I have an account on LinkedIn and use it to “link” to people I know and or potential clients to let them know who I am and what I do. I have a Homespun Webs FB account. There I post links to the new sites I have launched; I help promote my client’s products and services (what goes around comes around), and I share information about website development and the benefits of having a website. I have been most focused on TW of late. I like that you are limited to a set number of characters, so must be short and sweet. Again I let others know about the work I am doing, share helpful website hints and tips and have been making connections with template developers too, which is great! The guys and gals out there developing the tools and resources that I use on a daily basis need a shout out too, applauding their talents. All in all, my goal with Social Media is to let people know that I am working; that I am doing what I promote – legitimate.
Homepreneurs: Where do your customers come from? Word of mouth, networking, social media, advertising?
As I mentioned, my customers mostly come from word of mouth with some via social media and networking. I live in rural, so people know people… word of mouth works. A young lady recently began publishing “The Coffee Break”, an area newsletter full of fun facts, puzzles, etc. and ad space. It is more economical than the newspaper and many small businesses are buying space in it. It is free of charge for the reader so people are willing to grab it. I am currently running my ad every other month – my first bit advertising step lol.
Homepreneurs: If you could change one thing when you started, what would that be?
I don’t know. If I had marketed myself more aggressively, I am not sure that I would have had the time and flexibility to evolve and learn as I have. My business has really been a growing experience for me – I am not doing exactly what I thought I would be doing when I received my certificate. I jumped into a world that was already doing things faster and more efficiently than the html programming I had learned. I dabbled in php, but looking at code day and night is not for me; I like the creative side – using the tools made by programmers to create. I was forced to sink or swim and I do well under pressure. After a few conversations and some trial and error I embraced the world of content management systems and WordPress has become my love. The skills and knowledge I gained in my training have only enhanced my work… I just keep adding pieces to the puzzle with each new project and work-related experience.
There is the time management roller coaster, but again, with my family’s busy schedule and kids home, I’ve been grateful for the flexibility. In the future, yes, I need to work on scheduling my work hours and walking away when times up!
Homepreneurs: If you need information or help with something, where do you look? Why?
I Google and YouTube everything! You can find almost anything on the Internet. I need to see it in action to understand lol, so YouTube is my saving grace. I contact developers via the Internet and ask direct questions and forums too. People are so gracious! I have received so much help and support out of kindness over the years, so do my best to pay it forward whenever the opportunity arises. I cannot emphasize the goodness of others enough!
Sarah (Thompson) Hagens is the founder and owner of Homespun webs in Alberta, Canada. She can be contacted via the following:
My site: http://www.homespunwebs.ca
LinkedIn: Sarah (Thompson) Hagens