As I opened my Facebook app the other morning, a reminder popped up, that informed me that 2 years ago “on this date” I quit my full time job, and became self employed. As I know this is a dream for many, especially in the field of Auctioneering, I thought I would write a “Lessons learned” post for those that are thinking of making the leap. Some of what I share here, is actually quite personal, and the first time I shared some of these thoughts with anyone, but if I’m writing an honest assessment of my experiences here, those thoughts should be included
First off, I would caution anyone doing this to not make a rash decision. If you like your job, it makes this decision harder to make. I wouldn’t say I hated my job, but it was definite becoming a job, and the whole reason I wanted to become an Auctioneer, was to do what I love. Also, I still don’t feel like I’ve made it in this business, nor do I write this to brag about success. If you know me well, you know I try to live as humbly as possible, although I always struggle saying I’m humble, because then I wonder if you really are. Taking a leap into self employment, is not an easy thing, and can be greatly underestimated about the strain it can put on finances, and health. TRUST ME, I KNOW ON BOTH POINTS
Lesson 1…..MONEY IN THE BANK
If you have a dollar figure in your head right now, and you are thinking that is the number you’ll need to survive, until your business picks up, I would encourage you really examine that number. I had a number in mind, and had that much money in the bank, but it wasn’t enough, and made me have to take gigs that weren’t really worth it, but I needed the money, and that made it tough to focus on growing my business because I was doing things to just pay bills.
Lesson 2…..DO WHAT IT TAKES
I honestly don’t think I struggled with this one, but you aren’t too good for anything, YET! This is kinda contradictory to what I wrote in lesson 1 but, I took every gig I could, and was always willing to do anything. Where this is important, is you want to pick up gigs, where you can make some decent money, and work with guys who will take care of you. I have worked with some great guys, and not so great guys. I have worked under some industry giants, not because of my bid calling abilities, but because I’m willing to do the less glamorous work. I am willing to run computers, clerk, ring, cashier, whatever it takes, and no job is beneath me. Again, as I mentioned earlier, make sure you’re not being taken advantage of, but when you have a “no problems, only solutions” (don’t steal my catchphrase!) attitude, it goes a long way in whether you’re called back or not.
Lesson 3…..LEARN EVERYTHING YOU CAN
This one is simple, take every opportunity you can to learn new techniques and software. If someone calls and asks me, “can you do that?”, I want to be able to say yes, or I’ve run similar software, and will learn it before the auction day! I would warn you though, if you say you can do it, you better be able to do it, otherwise, that will spread through this community faster than anything, and you will be sunk. No-one will call you if you screw this up, auctioneers love to talk, and to each other
Lesson 4…..DON’T BE LATE!
This is a simple lesson in any career, but if you’re late, you’re putting someone in a bind. I strive to be first onsite, when called to work an auction, and I don’t leave until someone says I should. I don’t want to be known as the “last guy in, first guy out”. This is a good place to mention this as well, but always be busy. Even if it’s picking up trash, it will go a long way in whether you’re called back or not. Nobody wants to pay a guy to stand around and BS all day!
Lesson 5…..PARTNER WITH GOOD PEOPLE
You’re phone will not start ringing, just because your business card says “Auctioneer”. I resisted helping other auctioneers early on, because I felt it was kind of dumb to help your competition. BUT, you’re now self employed, and that means the only paychecks you get, are the ones you go out and make. You need experience. I thought I had experience, but I was WRONG. I made it through that first year, but it wasn’t easy. People, even your closest friends, remember you as that guy who, “drives a forklift, drives a truck, swings a hammer”, or whatever it is you did before you became an Auctioneer. They don’t yet know you as the guy who sells things, so it takes a while before they think of you first, before calling someone else. You have to become known as an Auctioneer, and what better way to do that, than to help other Auctioneers? Where else do you get your “war stories”? Help them out, partner with them, whatever it takes, and you make some money in the process! Let’s be honest, most of us want to make money.
Lesson 6…..NETWORK, AND JOIN YOUR AUCTIONEER ASSOCIATIONS!
I am going to leave the title alone, but I will separate those 2 terms. Because they are largely different, yet the same. Network! You can never network too much. You should be a apart of anything that gets you in front of people. If you can present to a crowd of people, DO IT! (However make sure you do it right. You are supposed to be used to being in front of a crowd, so you’re presentation must be good. You are expected to perform in front of crowds, even though we all know this is the smallest part of the job) I am a member of an entrepreneur group that meets every Thursday called AmSpirit Business Connections. We have a small group of individuals, one in each distinct business category, and we exchange referrals. More importantly, I’m known in that group as the Auctioneer, not the guy I used to be. It’s a great place to get exposure, and have a sales force, where people talk about you and what you do. See Lesson 7, for more on Auctioneer Associations
Lesson 7…..JOIN YOUR STATE AND NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF AUCTIONEERS (NAA)
This is the one Lesson, that several Auctioneers will argue over. Nothing ignites a lengthy conversation in the Auctioneers group n Facebook, than a “Why should I join the NAA” post. First off, let me say that my first year in any associations were a waste of money! That’s right, I’m putting that out there. This wasn’t their fault. It was mine. Just like I mentioned earlier, just because your business card says Auctioneer, your phone doesn’t start ringing just because you paid your dues to an Association. It doesn’t work in any other associations, so why should dit work for us? You have to be a part, and the education is top notch! When I finally started hanging around and networking with other Auctioneers, my career changed for the better. Auctioneers want to work with friends, and people they like. They don’t pick up the phone and call strangers, they call friends. If you are not hanging out around other Auctioneers, you’re not going to get phone calls from them. Some of my best friends in this world are Auctioneers, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I will expand on this in further lessons
Lesson 8…..SAVE FOR RAINY (SICK) DAYS
This is true of any profession, but especially when Self Employed. Also on my memories from August 12, was a 1 year ago memory of my time spent in a hospital. I contracted pneumonia, and was so busy hustling to make money, (because I needed it to pay bills) I ignored the symptoms and let it get worse and worse, and before I knew it, I had a Pleural Effusion, and Sepsis. I spent 6 miserable days in the hospital, was on the edge of death, and came back. BUT, it took a toll. Emotionally, Physicaly and Financially. I wasn’t prepared, and it showed. I was piecing my life together commission check to commission check, and had gone through my savings by this point. Not only did I spend 6 days in the hospital, but it took me several weeks to get back to full strength, which meant I didn’t do much for almost a month, and there is no Paid Time Off when you’re self employed. It was a gut check time for me.
Lesson 9…..DON’T BE STUBBORN
I was dead set on being an Auctioneer. Nothing was going to stop that. Even lack of money. But I was always willing to do take a part time job if I had to. And almost did. I was looking for a part time job when my fortunes turned. I had to swallow my pride a bit, but it was all worth it. Remember when I said you need to known as an Auctioneer? Well that time came, when someone found my LinkedIn profile and sent me a message offering me a Contract job for their company, and it included a monthly salary. It seemed like a stroke of luck, but I’m certain it was God helping me out in my career. This job, in the auction business, and doing what I loved, required minimal monthly hours, but it gives me a nice stipend that allows me to follow my passions and dreams. This was my watershed moment. I had been showing up at auto auctions, almost weekly, hoping for a chance to get one of these regular gigs, that was sustainable income. Finally my fortunes had turned. Along with that, I have been working for my friends, while building my own brand and starting my own auctions. I will touch more on this in my conclusion
Lesson 10…..GO TO CAI
Wondering what CAI is? You likely aren’t a member of the NAA and should be if you haven’t heard of it! This is the time of year that CAI starts recruiting. I have seen several Facebook posts about it over the weekend. CAI stands for Certified Auctioneer’s Institute. Look it up on the NAA Website, and sign up while you’re there! It was a game changer. I made some very good friends there and work with them all the time. I bounce ideas off them, and they are fun to hang out with. I learned some good business skills there, and it gave me confidence to do things on my own. I have started doing my own auctions, all online, but am not afraid to tackle anything. I planned to do one auction, and others keep popping up! They aren’t barnburners, but they pay the bills, and I make sure I’m not selling junk. I have focused on selling shippable collectibles, and it is slowly growing! And soon will include other Estate Type Auctions! More on this will come later!
WRAP-UP OF MY THOUGHTS
It’s very difficult to sit down and collect all my thoughts, and I’m sure I’ll think of more once I publish this, but this is getting fairly lengthy, and long winded. My phone now rings with somewhat regularity, either with potential clients, or with other Auctioneers asking for help. It’s a good feeling. I’ve still not made it big time, but I do have an income, and I can sustain myself. I no longer need to look at part time jobs, and can focus on being an Auctioneer. Some of these points are I make, may not work for everyone, and this is certainly not a 10 step guide to becoming a Self Employed Auctioneer. Like anything, read through this, take the good, and leave the bad. What you use is up to you. I had read through blogs like this before and found things that helped me, so I thought I’d write down my thoughts. If you need to discuss any of this stuff, I am always a phone call away. Or send me a facebook message. If you’re reading this on a mobile device, a “Call me” button will appear.
Again, these are my thoughts, and experiences. Yours may be largely different. I wish you all the best in life and your careers!
Until Next Time!
Charles is a Licensed Auctioneer/ Real Estate Agent in Central Ohio. Charles has been in the Auction Business since 2014. He is currently attending Certified Auctioneer’s Institute, and will graduate in March 2019.