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I Found Freedom: Sierra Elmore

When you’re itchin’ to make the leap into full-time freelancing, there is nothing more inspiring than hearing stories of people that have done it themselves.

The ‘I Found Freedom’ Series is all about telling those stories. 

Everyone prepares for the leap in different ways, but often we go through the same ups and downs to make it happen. Hopefully you’ll be as inspired by these stories as I have.

Today we’ve got a bit of a unconventional story, as Sierra didn’t make the leap from a day-job, but rather started her business at 16 years old while still in high school! I’ve been super impressed watching her grow and I think her story is an inspiration to anyone who thinks they’re too young to get started with entrepreneurship.

Here’s  Sierra Elmore’s story.

I Found Freedom: Sierra Elmore

When did you make the leap exactly and how does it feel?

In March 2014, when I was sixteen, my mom told me that it was time for me to get a job. I’m super-shy and just transferred from public high school to cyber-school, so I wasn’t sure that I would be a good fit for a traditional work environment. Aside from that, I really didn’t want to flip hamburgers or deal with bad retail customers all day. I wanted a job where I could use my talents and natural knack for entrepreneurship (13 Elm Streets is actually my third business!), so I created 13 Elm Streets.

What kind of freelancing do you do?

I own 13 Elm Streets, where I create playful and profitable PDFs for creative experts. I also do various graphic design jobs for a small design studio. I used to be a “catch-all” freelancer, doing branding, social media, and PDF design, until I found my niche in PDF design. I think it’s really important for freelancers to find what they’re REALLY good at, because that’s what makes us stand out.

How long did you plan before making your leap?

I think I planned for 1-2 weeks before I officially launched! I kind of just got my licensing and went with it. My first official day was March 31, but I didn’t get clients for a few weeks. I needed that time to learn about entrepreneurship, create some systems, and learn the art of hunting down work.

In which ways did you plan/prepare for the transition?

I prepared to open my business by:

  • Getting my local business licenses.
  • Applying for (and winning!) a small business grant.
  • Setting up my very first website, a Wix creation. (I quickly upgraded to WordPress, but I did a pretty dang good job!)
  • Reading practically every business/freelancing article on the planet.
  • Learning more about graphic design and making an education plan.

Did you have a savings or buffer fund to start your business?

I think I had…$5 in my bank account?

What was the hardest part of making the leap?

The hardest part was balancing business, high school, and a personal life. I had to really sharpen up my productivity and figure out that whole life-balance thing quickly.

What’s the best part of finally freelancing full-time?

The freedom and flexibility of my schedule. I can go grocery shopping in the middle of the day, wake up at 5 AM to knock out a blog post, or complete my school assignments at midnight. Although I love my regular routine, it’s nice to know that I can bend the rules a bit and not have consequences like missing school or being late to work.

What is your advice for others wanting to find freedom through freelancing?

Have a plan in place, but don’t drown in the planning stage. You don’t need a 30-page business plan, fancy office, or a killer website yet. Although you should know the basics like your ultimate vision, who you serve, and your services, you need to take action and create opportunity for yourself. That’s the only way to get unstuck and find the freedom you’re dying for.

11082654_723483801102974_8501347746484842785_nHow did you celebrate?

I didn’t have a proper celebration until my one-year bizaversary. I bought myself a cake and a fitness tracker (the irony still makes me giggle), and treated my mom to TGI Friday’s.

Thanks  Sierra!

Sierra Elmore is a high school senior and the owner of the 13 Elm Streets graphic design studio. 13 Elm Streets creates playful and profitable PDFs for creative experts to create amazing client and customer experiences. She created three successful businesses by the age of seventeen and is in the process of starting the Sierra Elmore Organization, a loving resource for homeless LGBT+ teenage girls. When she’s not obsessively designing, she loves to study psychology, read and write young adult literature, and play with her cat, Bronx.
Connect with her on Facebook , TwitterPinterest, Instagram or Linkedin .

 

 

Leah Kalamakis Leah Kalamakis is the founder of The Freelance To Freedom Project and a web designer/developer for brilliant entrepreneurs. When she’s not hanging out in the FTF Community, you can find her people watching on the streets of NYC. Come say hi on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

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{ 1 comment… add one }
  • I have loved watching you network and grow your business in various FB groups I am in, Sierra! It is inspiring! I had a business at your age as well – an eBay clothing one. This was 12 years ago so online business was a lot less developed than it is now. But it was so freeing to make my own path and be able to quit my then grocery store job. Excited that you have found your niche and are pursuing your passion!

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