What do you do?
I manage an online music community, SongMeanings, focused around the discussion and interpretation of lyrics. What started as a hobby to learn how to code turned into my passion and full-time career.
Why do you do this, and what drives you?
I’ve always been passionate about music and to be able to share that with millions of users is really an incredible feeling. We’re a small company so this allows me to wear many hats. I have the ability to write code which enhances a user’s experience, I’m able to then market that new feature or enhancement with drivers user’s growth and engagement. I’m able to get in with the users as a community manager. There are so many aspects that drives me each and every day.
Do you have any inspirational quotes you like to follow?
Marc Andreessen wrote an article (http://pmarchive.com/guide_to_startups_part1.html) and said, “You will flip rapidly from a day in which you are euphorically convinced you are going to own the world, to a day in which doom seems only weeks away and you feel completely ruined, and back again. Over and over and over. And I’m talking about what happens to STABLE entrepreneurs.” While not exactly inspirational, it’s a quote I continually read to help keep me grounded; to make me realize that these crazy feelings I’m having, which change from day to day, are feelings that many other people, just like me, are experiencing. It helps me stay away from wasting time on the what-ifs and should-haves, and just focus on the goal or problem at hand.
What is your favorite part about working for yourself?
The flexibility it can provide in terms of when I can work and such. The various industry people I’m able to meet and network with.
If you couldn’t do this, what do you see yourself doing?
I’d love to still be in the music industry, perhaps working for another music start up; project management perhaps, community manager too.
Was there a turning point in your life that led you to go out on your own and work for yourself?
I was working my day job and doing fairly well, seeing raises every year and promotions too. But it wasn’t me, I never felt happy doing what I was doing nor did I feel I was giving the company 100% of myself. Towards the end of my time with this company, I realized with every task I was doing, I would end up saying to myself, “if I wasn’t here, I could be making SongMeanings even greater than it currently is.” Eventually that all just took a toll on me, I couldn’t do it anymore.
Do you have any advice for others who might want to work for themselves? Something to encourage them, or something for them to be cautious about…
John Burroughs once wrote (and Jason Mraz once sang, which is why I know this), “Leap, and the net will appear.” I think if you know, and you feel, you have something special, go for it, take the jump. I know this is a lot easier said than done and it took me years to realize it, but sometimes you do just have to take that leap.
As for being cautious, you have to realize that being self-employed, you’re still going to have those times when you lack motivation and just want to relax. Accept it’s going to happen and take a break. Don’t let it get too out of hand, but allow yourself to turn your brain off every now and then.
What has it allowed you to do that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do?
I get to spend so many hours with my son. My wife works part-time, so I’m within him in the morning and early afternoon. I’m so grateful to have that opportunity these last 3 years. Once he goes down for nap, I work. As soon as my wife gets home from work, I go to work. It’s a weird schedule we have going on, but otherwise I’d likely be working+commuting 50 hours a week and missing out on many milestones.
If you could choose again, would you?
I’d do it at a younger age. I waited years to make the jump and occasionally I’m left thinking, what if I did this earlier in my life?
Who were some of your biggest inspirations in life… people you looked up to?
I’d say my grandmother. She was the first female taxi driver on Staten Island and she was always very proud of that. She was only making a decent living doing it, but she always felt successful and accomplished because of it.
What are some things outside of your work that keep you going?
These days it’s spending time with my son, Easton; making sure he’s happy, having a good time and he’s always learning. I also like following other startups; I try to learn from what they’re doing (or not doing).
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Being an online company, the industry is always changing, there is always someone there waiting to take your spot. So you always have to be willing to adapt and change on the fly, you have to be willing to take risks and learn what works and what doesn’t. Also my niche is very saturated, so retaining users and growing brand loyalty isn’t always the easiest.