Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi there! My name is Stephanie and I am The Professional Friend, your empathic life consultant. What is a Professional Friend/Life Consultant? I am a trained listener, life consultant with unbiased advice, mental health advocate, and friend. I offer life consultations via phone, video chat, and text for anyone 18 and older!
The Professional Friend is my consulting business. The definition of a consultation is a meeting with a professional for purposes of gaining information or the process of discussing. During your consultation with me, we can talk about whatever you want! I can offer advice within the scope of my knowledge and experience. You can talk and I can listen; just as a good friend would.
The Professional Friend has evolved into a platform on Instagram where I post daily!
- Music Monday: lyrics to songs that have gotten me through hard days
- Tumblr Tuesday: evocative art from my personal Tumblr blog The Art Diary
- Wisdom Wednesday: wise quotes from wise folks
- Theme Thursday: a weekly video where I share my personal experiences with a different theme each week
- Fun Fact Friday: interesting fun facts to learn something new
- Sexuality Saturday: information on human sexuality to promote a sex-positive culture
- Self Love Sunday: positive affirmations to as a reminder to love yourself
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I'm an empath! Empaths are highly sensitive individuals who are attuned to the emotions and energies of others. For as long as I can remember, I've had a natural ability to connect with people and to put myself in their shoes.
My fascination with the human experience led me to receive my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a Minor in Human Sexuality from California State University Northridge in 2017. Aspiring to become a therapist, I received my Masters of Science in Counseling from California State University Long Beach in 2019. Shortly after graduation, I realized that it wasn't the best fit for me.
During the rise of the pandemic, I used all the time at home to create a career that I enjoyed and looked forward to. With our world in its current state, isolation and loneliness are impacting so many. I thought this would be the most ideal time to launch a consulting service for people who need someone to talk to. I thought “Why not try something non-traditional?” I wanted to utilize my specialized knowledge and people skills in a way that felt more authentic for me.
In June 2020, I coined the title The Professional Friend. I chose this title because I felt it described my role perfectly. In graduate school, I would joke with friends that I felt more like a professional friend than a therapist so I chose that as my title! I offer a free 30 min Initial consultation over the phone to determine if my consulting services are a good fit for us both! I offer 1, 2, and 3-hour life consultations via phone, video chat, and text.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I created my website in June/July and officially launched it on July 20, 2020. I’m still in the growing phase, so I currently have two clients. I'm learning something new every day so I’m always updating and evolving my website, my brand, etc. I put a lot of thought, effort, and time into utilizing Instagram to build my business as well as using it as a networking tool.
Fortunately, this was a very budget-friendly business venture. Larger costs were manageable because they were broken up into smaller payments over the next couple of years. I invested in making business cards and paying to have a functioning booking calendar. I chose to invest in these things to create a legitimate and functioning service.
The biggest lesson from the launching process is that you may never feel ready to launch; you just have to go for it! I’ve accepted that I’m new at this and I will learn new things as I go. You will evolve just as much as your business. As long as you make it authentically you, you cannot go wrong.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I have been working non-stop to attract more clients for my consulting business! I use Instagram as my main way of advertising and reaching a large audience. I create content to connect and be a part of the huge mental health community on Instagram!
The Professional Friend Instagram has evolved into an amazing platform for me to express myself, connect with others, and educate others! I love the business insights feature on Instagram. It shows you how many people your post has reached. I pay attention to what day and times my followers are on and I post accordingly. I utilize hashtags to try to reach a bigger audience and will update old posts with new hashtags I discover!
I registered my business on Yelp and Google which both give you some traffic insight. I joined an online business directory called Chamber of Commerce. I’m currently trying some professional apps to network but I don’t have any recommendations just yet. I have new ideas to bring in more clients all the time; Starter Story was one of those ideas! I am looking forward to the next opportunity I discover.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
About a month after launching, I’m still in the very beginning stages. Being such a unique and unconventional service, I am grateful for the support I have received and the two clients I do have! Growing a business and clientele can take time. My fees are hourly and on a sliding scale; I do my best to make my services affordable. Since my fee can vary, my average fee currently ranges $30-80.
Being a part of the Instagram community, I’m interested in using this platform to advocate and raise awareness of Human Trafficking. It’s a difficult topic of conversation but it’s up to us to advocate for the vulnerable populations who cannot advocate for themselves. Please take the time to visit the Human Trafficking Advocacy page on my website.
I have thought about expanding onto making Youtube videos. I’ve always wanted to and I hear it’s a very good place to reach a large audience! But for now, my Instagram is keeping me plenty busy.
Short-Term Goals for The Professional Friend:
- Grow Instagram presence
- Increase the number of bookings/clients
- Get more involved in Human Trafficking Advocacy
Long-Term Goals for The Professional Friend:
- Have a full-time schedule of clients/bookings
- Start The Professional Friend Youtube Channel
- Reach a Large Following on Instagram
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Being your boss is so much fun because you get to wear so many hats. I love getting to work in marketing, advertising, business, research, graphic design, social media, customer service; the list is endless! Needless to say, I am learning something new and useful every day. I believe a recognizable brand is important; something that makes you stand out and be unique. Being an artistic and creative person who has always had an eye for aesthetics was useful when designing my website and creating graphics for Instagram.
It was challenging for me to put myself out there on social media to spread the word about my new business. I chose this as an opportunity to challenge myself and become a mental health advocate sharing my story. Hopefully, I can empower others to be authentic, vulnerable, and love themselves for it. Developing The Professional Friend helped me confront those fears and doubts I have in myself. It's challenging me to be my biggest supporter and to believe in myself. For that, I’m grateful for this experience because it's helped me grow into the person I want to be and I’ve never been happier.
Since I created my business during the pandemic, people have been socially distanced and lonely. I created a business that is pandemic-safe with a service that could be very in-demand right now. The timing may work in my favor, but we shall see!
Around the time I launched my business, I discovered bullet journaling. I loved the method and how people made it their own. Inspired, I use it to organize my thoughts, my to do’s, home projects, calendar, gratitude list, and even use it as a mood, sleep, energy, and habit tracker to gain insight into my wellbeing. It’s been a helpful organization tool for me and my business. I start my morning with my bottle of H2O, turn on some music, check-in with myself, and journal for 15 min before I start my tasks for the day.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I used Wixto create my website, purchase my domain, and functioning a booking calendar. I have loved it and have no complaints. I use the SEO Tools; I am not very tech-savvy and it was very easy and straightforward to use. I can also look at the analytics of my visitors, get notifications of when I get a visitor, and more.
When I don’t like the free photos on Canva, I use photos from PixaBay. This is how they explain it on their website “Pixabay is a vibrant community of creatives, sharing copyright-free images and videos. All contents are released under the Pixabay License, which makes them safe to use without asking for permission or giving credit to the artist - even for commercial purposes.”
To Find the Most popular hashtags I use Best Hashtags. I like that I can type in a word and it gives me the Most Popular and Second Most Popular Hashtags related to that word.
To make my Instagram Graphics, I use Canva. It's free and easy to use. I can use the app on my smartphone or my Chromebook. Great for designing your graphics!
I use Google Voice for a free phone number that connects to your cell phone. Two separate lines so you can keep your cell number private. I also like that it can give you transcripts for voicemails.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I’m not a big podcast person and I’m not an avid reader so I don’t have anything influential to share. Google search is my best friend and biggest resource. I use my knowledge and ability to find good, reliable resources to help me learn what I need to learn. That’s how I’ve learned how to run all the different departments of starting your own business. We live on an amazing day in age where any resource can be at the tip of your fingertips, you just need to know how to find them.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Utilize Instagram and all of its features. Use hashtags, tag location, use stories, etc. All of these are tools to reach an audience and promote your business. I recently learned that you can now see what hashtags people follow. When I search for fellow consultants or life coaches, I click on who they follow and it shows what hashtags they follow! This is a great way to find community-specific hashtags that reach your customer demographic.
Self-doubt is normal. I’m sure many would agree that it’s normal to doubt yourself at the early stages. I have thoughts like “What if this fails?” Then I have to remind myself, “Why would I let it fail?” Anything I put this much time, energy, and passion into is worth fighting for. So keep at it and have faith in yourself.
Accept advice and help from others. Even if you don’t like the advice, listen to it because you never know what amazing idea could spark in your brain from this new perspective.
Be authentic and make it to yourself. I was afraid my idea was too unconventional, weird, not useful, etc. When I first brainstormed what kind of content I wanted to post on Instagram, I came up with these great ideas for daily posts but I found myself not getting excited to create them. I realized that I was trying to make content that would be popular instead of making it mine. I started over to create content that mattered to me, that I was passionate about, and that made my brand original!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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