4 July 2015 was my Independence Day from the corporate world. Yes, I had chosen the date deliberately, I was working in the US at the time.
When I made my exit, I didn’t have the full picture of what my next chapter looked like, but I knew I would figure it out. The possibility of being my own boss was exciting however the fear was also there in bucket loads. What if I’m not good enough, what if I can’t earn enough, what if I fail. But what if you get to build the life you want, to have the time to breathe and spend with loved ones. To meet Mr Right.
As I approach the 7-year mark, I wanted to take time to reflect and share with you what I have found hard, what surprised me and what I have learnt along the way.
Letting go of the 9 to 5 culture
I had worked remotely and managed my diary for years, but what I did struggle with was letting go of the 9 to 5 culture and if I am honest still do to this day. If I was not working between these hours, the guilt would set in. The negative nelly would be screaming at me – “you lazy cow, how do you expect to be a credible successful business owner if you stop to have a cup of tea at 3 pm in the afternoon.” The fact that I would have client appointments in the evening and at weekends was irrelevant.
I have made some progress in this area taking time back in the day for hours worked outside of the traditional working day, but my next step is to get my head around its quality not the quantity of work and actually this is something bigger than my business. It’s about creating the life I want, which means if I want to take an afternoon off and go for a walk along the beach that is ok! A key driver for me was to create freedom, freedom in terms of what I did, who I worked with and when and where I worked. (Although sand and a laptop are not a good combination, that is a story for another day.)
Holiday or money
Taking time out of your business is necessary for you and your business. Running your business can be exhausting, it can take over your life and mind and if you aren’t careful can become your only topic of conversation – think of that poor family member who politely enquired how you were doing, they were not expecting a 2-hour rant!
Not only do we need time away to recharge our battery, but it is also when we step away, that we find those moments of clarity and inspiration. My biggest tip here is to give yourself a holiday allowance as you had in the corporate world. Mine is 4 weeks of which I must have two instances of 7 continuous days.
However, here comes your next challenge as for many business owners including myself time off equals no revenue being generated. In my early days, I would calculate how much money I was losing if I took the time off.
As I progressed in my transition, I have factored time off into my monthly targets and I have also looked at when are the quieter times in my business making it easier for me to step away.
Saying yes through fear
Not every client or piece of business which comes your way is going to be right for you. Saying yes to everything is not always the answer and if you find yourself adopting this approach understand what is driving it.
For me, it was driven by the adjustment of not having a steady income. When approached by a prospective client and my gut was telling me they weren’t ideal because what they needed help with wasn’t what I really want to do, that little lie would pop out of my mouth “yes I would love to work with you.” All because I was fearful of where the next paycheck would come from.
I had to learn to trust my instincts, if I wasn’t at my best (if I had said yes to too many things) I wasn’t serving my clients to the best of my abilities. If a prospective client wasn’t at the right stage for me, it was about sharing my insight, connecting them with someone who was and knowing that I had taken the best cause course of action for all and trusting that they would come back or refer me.
If this is something you are prone to, reflect on this question. “What about this client/piece of work is important? How is saying yes helping and hindering you?” In my case, saying yes had the potential to bring in money, but it was hindering me by doing work which wasn’t my preferred area and therefore unconsciously I wasn’t at my best, damaging my brand and confusing people about my services.
Remembering your why
As we go about building our business and get caught up in the day-to-day activities, we can often lose sight of our initial reasons for saying goodbye to corporate and hello to being a business owner.
Remember to keep sight of what continues to be important (your values) about this decision. (Check out this blog for help uncovering your values.) To find fulfilment in our careers we need to align our actions with our values, otherwise, we can be at risk of putting a lot of effort but not moving to a more positive place.
I wanted freedom, yet working all the hours, taking limited holidays and saying yes to any piece of work coming my way was directly going against this.
Charging your worth
Promoting and selling my business was a whole new area for me, or so I thought, the reality was I did have experience doing this, I just need to open my mind to it.
I felt uncomfortable putting myself out there, however, I learned to reframe it. I wasn’t trying to force myself on people instead it was about being visible – being clear about what I do and how I can help and that there are career coaches out there who can help you figure out all those unanswered questions. You don’t have to do this alone.
When starting there can be a tendency to charge too little. Yes, you may be new but you are also drawing on your past skills and experiences, don’t forget them!
Secondly, your charges should not only reflect the delivery time but also your overheads, the pre and the post-work. A great piece of advice a coach shared with me, is you should always be a little uncomfortable with your price and when you are comfortable with it, it’s time to up it! Now I am not saying I always adhere to this, but it certainly is a good sanity check for me. If your prices are too cheap you could end up feeling aggrieved with your clients.
Creating your support
Are you keeping your plans a secret? Waiting until you are successful? Your network is a great resource and can be instrumental in helping raise your visibility, making new connections and reaching potential clients.
And if you don’t have a large network there are many free resources out there that you can tap into.
Get good at seeking out help, my friends and family have been instrumental in my business development. From feedback on various logos, and company names through to proofreading. In fact, my Gran at 94 found my first client. And today my partner, continued to be my chief proofreader, IT helpdesk and Career Change Bootcamp wingman.
So just to be clear, I am not a business coach (although I can recommend a few) I do, however, help people who are struggling with career challenges or are looking to take their career in a different direction. You can find out more here.
If you found this an interesting read why not check out these resources:
- How to identify a mentor to support your career development
- Can you find a job you love and earn a decent income
- 5 actions to take now if you think a career change might be the answer