From Spreadsheets to Successful Author, Small Business Profile: Lela Davidson

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Lela Davidson is an award-winning author, public speaker, freelance journalist, and regular contributor to iVillage and Huffington Post. She entertains her audiences with her wit and humor as she speaks on motherhood, family, marketing, and being over-40 in a Botox world.

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Less than a decade ago, Lela was pushing the pen as accountant for a big firm. She took the leap from addition to essays and hasn’t looked back. She now successfully runs her freelance writing and media business from her home office—keeping a firm eye on two kids, a husband, and one dog, and a neighborhood full of funny stories just waiting to be told. I caught up with Lela just long enough for her to share with Project Eve readers about her road to entrepreneurship.

You left an accountant position with a major firm to become a writer. What made you do it?

I started my job right out of college, and did consulting work as I followed where my husband’s work took our family. I ended up working for a couple of small firms when my kids were little. It was okay, but it didn’t love it. Because of moving, my opportunities were limited. I was also doing all the work of the manager—training new people, taking on his roles and responsibilities—yet advancing in the firm was not going to happen.

One day, I realized that at the same time the following year, I would be doing the very same tax return for the very same business, so I left.

How did you make the transition?

I started writing part-time, and tried my hand at home-based businesses: Southern Living, Pampered Chef. I learned a lot about direct sales, met lots of people. It was great practice for public speaking. The direct sales satisfied the businesswoman in me and stirred my entrepreneurial spirit, but I loved the writing. It took lots of discipline, but I was soon able to replace some of the direct sales income with online writing gigs.

How have you used accountant experience and direct sales experience for your work now?

From accounting, the knowledge of spreadsheets and the financial know-how to run a business has been an invaluable skill. I use the organization to keep myself on track and prioritize. Working in consulting taught me to juggle projects, so the analytical nature of what I used to do helps me decide what jobs to take and organize in a business-like fashion.

From working direct sales, I learned about sales being a numbers game. I have to send out a lot of submissions, and be willing to get lots of rejections. Presenting products to groups also provided me with speaking and networking experience. I also learned the importance of nurturing relationships over long periods of time—a key ability for business ownership and marketing.

In what ways did you and your family have to change roles, expectations, and schedules to make your career move work?

This wasn’t a big factor until after my first book came out, and I started traveling to promote it and network with the blogging community. By then, my children were older. My husband travels some for his job during the week, but is home on weekends, and I travel on many weekends. The greatest thing is, my work is 100% flexible.

What advice do you have for other women wanting to take the jump from full or part-time work to having their own business/working from home?

• Ease in and don’t expect that income to be replaced right away.
• Do your work in the evening, part-time—whatever works. If you need that income, set it aside and learn to live on the lesser amount. Starting your own business is “unknowable”—you don’t know in a few years what it’s going to be like.
• Invest a lot of time and resources into training yourself—that’s probably the best thing I’ve done. Search out coaching, training, classes, and then DO IT.

Lela is the author of Blacklisted from the PTA, and Who Peed on My Yoga Mat? Her humorous essays are featured in family and parenting magazines around the country, and in Chicken Soup for the Soul: New Moms. Her book marketing advice has been featured in Writer’s Digest. She wrote Sexy, Smart and Search Engine Friendly: Get Found Online Without Losing Your Mind or Wasting Your Time for authors, artists, and small business entrepreneurs. 

She is also an owner and founder of Peekaboo Media Group, a women’s media and marketing agency serving Fortune 500 companies who want to connect with women consumers.

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