Three years ago, on September 27th, 2005, I published my first post to Girls Can’t WHAT? At the time, I had a pretty crappy website, a couple of designs in my shop and I really had no clue what I was doing. I had no money to spend on advertising or training and I was lucky if I even made $10/week. I had no formal education in computers and no experience whatsoever in graphic design or web development. Nada. That is not an exaggeration. I started this business with nothing. Today, I am still working my tail off, loving every minute of it and I’m making more money than I thought possible. A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to share my success story in a spontaneous one-on-one conversation. In celebration of the 3-year anniversary of Girls Can’t WHAT? I’d like to share it with you.
While sitting in the hallway of my church, I was approached by a gentleman who was quite interested in what I was doing on my laptop as I waited there. I told him I was a graphic designer/web developer and I was coding a web site for a local business. He mentioned that he was really interested in programming and wanted to learn more about it. His problem, in his own words, was that he was homeless (currently living in our church’s shelter) and had no money to get an education or buy a computer, etc. Basically, he was starting with nothing.
Rather than brush him off, I told him I started my business with nothing three years ago. That surprised him so I explained that I had no formal education in computers and I only knew what I had taught myself. When I decided to start the Girls Can’t WHAT? site, I went to the library and checked out every book available on web design and various drawing applications I would need to do everything myself. I had NO money to start with, not a single dime. Yes, I had some computer experience from school and through a job where I taught computer applications, but I knew absolutely nothing about web design, programming, graphics applications, css, php, seo, etc. I didn’t let that stop me.
Through trial and error I began developing this site. The first year was rough. I barely made enough to pay my monthly expenses. At the end of that first year I made just over $200 and not a single penny went towards my salary. I persisted and continued to check out library books and read through web site tutorials and forums, soaking in everything I could to make the process more efficient and to bring my dream into reality. At the end of year two I had earned enough to buy myself a souped up MacBookPro laptop, new software, an iPhone and several other tools to help me grow my business. All that and with cash in the bank to spare.
Fast forward to today – the end of year #3. Through a combination of work doing the Girls Can’t WHAT? drawings and freelance web design for small businesses, my earnings since January 1, 2008 are equivalent to a modest annual salary for some people. I don’t say that to brag about it, but to show that I am a living example that you can turn a dream into a reality. You can start with nothing and grow it into something amazing.
You don’t have to have a degree. Although college is a great opportunity and I highly recommend getting an advanced education in something you enjoy, you don’t have to wait for that diploma to start building your dream. My advanced degree is in music. I have zero formal education in computers. None.
You don’t have to have money. Many things in life are free if you just look around. Need to learn? Check out the library. If they don’t have the books you want, they will order them for you. Get books on tape if you struggle with reading material. They even have videos at the library that can teach you to play drums, learn woodworking or paint a masterpiece. You can use their computers to do research or even do freelance work right from the library. It’s all there at your disposal. The Internet is a never-ending channel for learning. YouTube and Google are fantastic resources for video tutorials, but don’t stop there. There are so many other sites that offer advice and help and there are experts out there willing to let you pick their brains. Some even share their knowledge openly on their blogs. Take advantage of that.
You don’t have to have experience. You don’t have to have a job to get experience. Find people who do what you want to do and pick their brains. Work alongside them as a volunteer and learn the tricks of the trade. Nothing is more valuable than hands on experience. Not only do you learn, but you can add your volunteer work to your resume! To build my website and hone my skills, I hung out in tech forums and talked to other coders. I learned new skills daily and applied them to my own site. Once I was confident I could venture out on my own, I started doing some freelance work here and there to gain experience. Before long, I had a portfolio of designs to show people and suddenly I was getting referrals from other businesses for more work!
Be Persistent. Time is your friend. Be patient. It may seem like a hard row to hoe at first, but trust me when I say it will pay off. It wasn’t rewarding back when I was earning about $3 per day and struggling to work on a super slow windows laptop with no backup drive and a mouse that only worked half the time. But today, my persistence is paying off for me in so many ways. I get emails every week from people thanking me for creating this site or for designing a particular Girls Can’t WHAT? character. It keeps me going and motivates me to draw more characters and push for more interviews and exciting content for the site which only increases the return on investment. It’s proof that we can do anything.
Give back to the community. I refuse to be selfish with all that I have learned. I want to be available to help others achieve their dreams as well. That is the main focus of this site…to encourage girls to accomplish their dreams. The Girl Talk forums are the perfect outlet for discussion. Post your questions, frustrations and comments there and I will be more than happy to help you work through the barriers until you find success. Don’t ever let anyone say you can’t. Girls Can’t WHAT?
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