From waitress to wealth

Why Millennials Are Struggling to Make Money
Why Millennials Are Struggling to Make Money

The story of a college-dropout waitress who, in six months, worked her way into the top 1 percent of Millennials.

Lauren Holliday was working more than 40 hours a week as a waitress in Pompano Beach, Florida. She had no college degree, no network, and very little professional experience. "I had just dropped out of college because I couldn't support myself," says Lauren, "and was forced to move in with my dad. Talk about a [bad] situation."

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She decided that she needed to move out of her parents' house and that she would do it by becoming a full-stack marketer. "Full-stack derives from web developers, who can do a project from start to finish without assistance because they know front-end and back-end programming languages," explains Lauren. "Full-stack developers are purple unicorns, meaning they are extremely difficult to find. Similarly, this is the case with marketers--especially for marketers whose clients are small businesses and startups. If you're a full-stack marketer, you can complete everything your client needs from start to finish. This means more money, because the majority of marketers specialize in things like social media and SEO."

Lauren learned marketing skills by registering for online classes,and gained real-world experience by offering to do free work for her family and friends. This was her plan:

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  1. Get just one project that would add a quality piece to her portfolio, and then get just one more project that would expand her skill set.

  2. Design solutions packages, and document her procedure for them. She would start charging clients for her services immediately upon completion of step 1 and would focus on one paid project at a time.

  3. Finally, she would design her digital footprint, and then she would start marketing herself.

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Lauren created a simple WordPress site for her father's dry cleaning business and got her first paid client when the business next door saw the website. Lauren dedicated one to two hours each day to cold-calling local businesses that didn't have any social media presence and persuading them to hire her--this was on top of her full-time waitressing.

All that hard work paid off: Six months later, she had negotiated a $72,000 salaried marketing director position with $3,000 in relocation assistance, which moved her to Boston. "Since then, I've gone out on my own, and I'm now in the top 1 percent of Millennials," Lauren says. "I'm bootstrapping a startup called Freelanship, which my co-founder, Jonathan Schummer, and I started to help the 19 million students who can't afford to intern every year gain experience through flexible, remote freelance projects."

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As a woman who isn't an alum of a prestigious university, or the graduate of a famous accelerator program, Lauren doesn't resemble most startup founders, but she thinks that doesn't matter. "When it comes down to succeeding in life, it's all about GSD," she says simply, "I think everyone makes their own luck. I'm not smarter or more talented than anyone else. I just work harder than a lot of people. Doing what I did wasn't easy. It was really hard."

"My boyfriend dumped me because I work too much," says Lauren. "I don't see my friends as often as I like. And I work on holidays and weekends, when my friends are out meeting people. Some people choose to work, and some people choose to have a work-life balance. I choose to work, and I give up a lot for that choice. Some days it sucks, and it's lonely as hell. But, for me, the pros outweigh the cons."

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