Today, we connected with entrepreneur Nicole Gittleman. Nicole is the Founder and Chief Strategist of Say Hey Social, a social media marketing agency that helps local Jersey City and early stage startup brands create an effective marketing strategy and increase engagement within their communities.
We talked to Nicole more about where she gained the inspiration to become an entrepreneur and how she navigated this desire through the pandemic, advice she would give to someone looking to start their own business and what living a Lux Life means to her.
Where did you find the inspiration to become a solopreneur?
I spent 6+ years working at marketing agencies, helping Fortune 500 and household-name companies build and execute social media and influencer marketing strategies. Through my agency career, I was fortunate to work with all sorts of brands across all sorts of industries (beauty, food, entertainment, sports, and more). As I developed as a professional individually, I recognized a strong and constant desire for 2 things: 1) 100% transparent communication with my internal and external partners and 2) to do really good work that genuinely and efficiently solved the needs / problems of these partners. Corporate / agency politics made it incredibly challenging for those desires to be a part of my regular reality.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, I felt a strong pull to use my small platform on Instagram to support local businesses. I was sharing as much as I could about how my favorite local spots were pivoting and proceeding in uncertain times. After 2020 especially, I am eternally impressed with the integrity and drive of small businesses owners. When I started a new job (entirely remote!) in June 2020, the pang of poor agency culture hit me hard in the face pretty quickly. Between both frustration from my situation and inspiration from local entrepreneurs, I started to question what self employment could look like for me.
In November 2020, I began to identify potential clients for 2021, focusing first on the local business community in Jersey City.
In early January, I quit my full-time job and officially kicked off with a handful of projects and clients. By February 2021, I had a waitlist! I sometimes joke that I brought my skills from the big brand stage to the small brand stage, but helping local and early-stage businesses has been so much more rewarding thus far.
How would you describe your style and where do you gain style inspiration from?
I would say I have a pretty classic, girl-next-door style. I like to keep my outfits simple, and use a statement item or accessory (jewelry, shoes, headbands / hats) to enhance my look day or night. I’m a sucker for a great pair of high-waist, bootcut jeans and a tucked-in white tee. Things I typically grab for in my closet weekly include vintage band tees, bike shorts / leggings, blazers, blue and black jeans, shirtdresses, breezy jumpsuits, my go-to black cashmere cardigan from Madewell and, of course, my jean jacket.
A lot of my inspiration is drawn from street style and the 90’s. It may sound silly, but growing up as a redhead with not much representation on screen, notable auburn-haired actresses Julianne Moore and Julia Roberts became my style icons. Princess Diana always comes to mind, also.
What is your favorite aspect of social media and what drew you to a career in social media marketing?
Social never sleeps. It might sound like what makes working in the industry grueling, but the excitement of working in a medium that frequently changes is invigorating. It forces you to keep on your toes and means there is always room for growth professionally as our social platforms evolve.
Beyond that, I’m really drawn to social media because I love storytelling. We live in an era where Instagram is the first place consumers go to research a brand before they hit Google search. Being able to help small businesses tell their stories as directly as possible to their audience through innovative, unique content is so fun and equally as rewarding.
What advice would you give someone looking to start their own business?
There are SO many questions you’ll ask yourself as you navigate this path, but thankfully there are also many great resources online to help solopreneurs. It can be overwhelming, but making a checklist and allocating time for business planning really helped me. I try to remind myself that there is no rush since I am in the driver’s seat, in business and in life. I will advise that making a rash, unplanned decision to leave an unsatisfactory job is never the right move! I spent 2-3 months brainstorming and preparing. Here are 3 main categories of questions I asked myself when planning:
Business - What am I offering? How will I structure and determine my fees? What documents / templates will I need when working with clients?
Financial - What is the minimum amount you need to make to cover your personal expenses? Do I have savings to rely on as I grow? How / how much / when do I pay the IRS for taxes?
Legal - Do I need to create an LLC? What is important to include in my contracts? Am I working in an industry that needs certifications?
How has becoming a solopreneur impacted your life?
When you create a business, it becomes your baby (cliche, I know). I’m so proud of what I’m growing that it’s definitely re-shaped how I think about work life balance. I used to hate having to sign on late at night for something “urgent”, but now I feel a sense of pride that I can be a support system to a small business when they are in need or when inspiration strikes at an odd hour and I need to put pen to paper. At the same time, I’ve appreciated the newfound ability to set business boundaries with myself and my clients.
I’ve also really enjoyed meeting fellow solopreneurs! I thought I knew plenty of self-employed creatives and consultants until I became self-employed myself. Building a network of like-minded solopreneurs has really helped me maintain a sense of community, is constantly inspiring, and is a reliable resource for support or feedback. I really believe that collaboration is so much more fruitful than competition for solopreneurs, especially.
What does living a Lux Life mean or look like to you?
To me, living a Lux Life means living in comfort and I think comfort means something different for everyone.
For me, comfort starts with feeling confident in my own skin and being healthy mentally and physically, but extends to my preferred lifestyle choices.
Being able to enjoy a few nights out per week and a few vacations per year, having a car that allows me to see my friends and family regularly, treating myself to self care periodically… and so on. Those are the things that make me feel luxurious and comfortable. And, I’ll say this: the Lux Life might come easy to some, but I think life is that much more “lux” when you work for your luxuries yourself!