Welcome to WebmasterWorld, elchenuk.
- what where the biggest hurdles you had to overcome in the early days?
Building the client base, cold calls, establishing name recognition.
- how long before you managed to get your head out of the water and start making profit?
Immediately -- because of the solid business plan.
- did you already have a customer base before you made the move to self employment?
Somewhat, yes. But very small. Personal savings were used during the initial growth period as opposed to borrowing. There are many options though. If you are in the US, the SBA (Small Business Administration) site is a great help. Shoot, if you aren't in the US it can still be helpful as far as ideas for business planning, etc.
- what advice did you receive and from whom?
Self-employed folks that ran a solid business. Friends that were financial managers and friends that were credit managers. The latter being the best advice I ever received. Bill due upon receipt whenever possible and keep the cash flowing.
- how did you market yourself?
Believe it or not, our client base grew almost entirely from references. Advertising dollars were spent and drew some, but nothing tops a quality service at a fair price and treating people like people.
- and if you work from home, how do you keep updated with industry news and topics.
Read to stay on top of things. Get on some mailing lists that apply to you and the services you provide. Get connected with others. Everyday application doesn't hurt either! Resources, such as WebmasterWorld are also a great help.
There are some other threads here on WebmasterWorld that apply to the same questions you have asked here. Search [webmasterworld.com] the forum and you'll turn up quite a few discussions.