Lisa Ng is a woman that goes after what she wants. She’s never worked in a corporate office, she owns her own DJ company, Hello DJ, and she’s not afraid to take risks. But how did she do it and what’s it like?
How did you start working for yourself?
I launched my DJ company, hello DJ! in June 2005 while working towards my Honours BA in Political Science and Cinema Studies at The University of Toronto. It started out as a way to pay for school and by the time I graduated, the business became so successful that I was able to work for myself full-time. I found a niche being a hip, fun, non-cheesy female wedding DJ in a male-dominated market. Finding a niche is the most important thing you can do when launching a business. How can you differentiate yourself from what is already out there?
What were you most worried about when you started your own company?
That no one would actually take a chance on a new company like mine and book me for their wedding or event. It did help that we charged a very reasonable amount of money when we were first starting out to reward the clients that were willing to book with us. We delivered an amazing performance and from there word-of-mouth spread, we were slowly able to raise our rates and gain more clients. Today, we are one of the top wedding DJs in Toronto. My advice is to be the best that you can be and the money will follow.
What’s your typical day like?
I am a night-owl because I usually work until 2 or 3 in the morning when I DJ on weekends. It’s really hard to get back on a ‘regular’ schedule during the week. I usually get up at around 10 AM, eat breakfast then check my iPhone to make sure no one has an urgent need. I relax until about noon when the majority of my emails have come in and take 30-60 minutes to knock them all out of the park so I can move on with my day. I will listen to new music, go to the gym, work on my blog, hang out with friends, network with entrepreneurs and simply live my life. Since I give up so much time on the weekends, it’s really important to claim back what I can during the week. I will check my email throughout the day to set-up consultations and respond to new inquiries. I try to only sit down to answer emails again at 4 PM and 10 PM. I don’t want this to dominate my life, so I try to work as efficiently as possible.
What’s your favourite thing about working for yourself?
The lifestyle! I never had a ‘real’ corporate 9-5/40 hour a week job post-university. I am really grateful for this and enjoy being my own boss. You can also be picky about when you want to work and can take as many vacation days as you want during the year, as long as you are still making decent money. If it’s sunny outside, I’d like to take the day to find a great patio or go for a walk. Life is all about balance, make sure you work to live and don’t simply live to work. But when you are working, make sure you are busting your ass 150% to do the best possible job you can. Mediocrity never got paid well and does not translate into good word of mouth or more business.
What’s the thing you enjoy least about having your own company?
Well, if anything does go funny for whatever reason – you are ultimately the person who has to answer. I answer to my clients only and I try to make sure I only work with great people!
What advice would you have for women that wanted to start their own company?
Crunch the numbers, make an excel spreadsheet and make sure that your venture is profitable and will not just be a glorified hobby that will leave you poor and stressed out. What kind of money does your competition make? How saturated is the market? Could your partner or family support you financially while you are in start-up mode over the next year? Don’t be afraid, but be realistic. I come with tons of ideas everyday, but not all of them good or necessarily profitable.
What are the most influential books that you have read to help get you started or keep you on track?
Don’t be afraid to pick up a couple of the top business books out there and educate yourself! Ask your network what some of the most influential books are and start from there.
Lisa Ng is a freelance writer and DJ based out of Toronto, ON – Canada. When she isn’t DJ-ing at a non-cheesy wedding, Lisa is scoping out the best urban eats and fun travel spots on her lifestyle blog, The Hip & Urban Girl’s Guide.