February 1, 2022

What I've Learned After One Month of Self-Employment

People leave secure jobs for many reasons. My experience is no different; but rather than list them all (and that list would be long), I will tell you the one that matters most: I was uninspired.

Showing up to a job that doesn't move you or challenge you or encourage growth or empower you to do better is not a job; it's a chore. I gave almost two decades (my entire adult life!) to one place. Throughout those years there were indeed times that I was inspired, but it wasn't sustained and I couldn't give anything more when I knew I could show up to serve in other ways and in other spaces that didn't make me feel like my soul was dying.

It has now been an entire month of being self-employed. A few people have reached out to ask if I miss my old 'chore'. No, I don't.

Do I miss knowing there's a guaranteed pay cheque coming? Sure. Do I miss the human connection I got to make with some of my co-workers? Okay, a little bit. Do I miss the gossip? Yeah... that was kind of fun.

But do I miss invisibility? No. Do I miss the commute? No. Do I miss serving a database of over 500 people and being acknowledged by four? No. Do I miss the ghost who lived in the basement? No.

I am afraid to be out on my own. It's terrifying to think that my success relies on my showing up for myself, because showing up is hard. It is work. 

But it's not a chore.

I have found a way to focus my passion for igniting creative fires in others into a full time publishing career. No, it's not paying all the bills yet, but it is replacing the income I gave up, and that's enough motivation to find me sitting at my desk each and every day.

I made a couple commitments to myself when I decided to launch off on my own:

  1. I will not sleep in even though there's no boss to mark my punctuality.
  2. I will take a lunch break.
  3. I will allow (most) evenings to be consumed by family and not by work.
  4. I will keep my weekends work-free.
  5. I will be unapologetic and loud in my pursuit of the life I want to create.
  6. I will say no to the projects that don't move me.

3 and 4 have been the hardest challenges for me. I have worked on some weekends and I have spent some evenings pouring over manuscripts—but despite that, I feel like I am showing up for my family much more now than I ever was before. Balancing a day job and my publishing side-hustle meant that nearly every evening and weekend was packed full of projects. I was on the road to burn-out. Letting the thing go that was holding me back from the life I really wanted was the powerful step I needed to take in claiming control over my whole world.

 

So, what have I learned after one month of self-employment?

I've learned that my work is sacred, boundaries are essential, systems change everything, I am a brand, you have to spend money to make money, I keep showing up because I know my why, funnels matter, and my voice is not free.

Let me unpack those things a little bit...

My work is sacred

I am showing up to something that matters. It matters to me and it matters to the people I am serving. It has validated my existence in a way that makes me excited to wake up in the morning. I don't have to go to work; I get to. I get to be a change-maker. I get to light people up. I get the read between the lines and draw out the thing that someone doesn't have words for. I get to make dreams come true. I get to tap into the creative energies that make me most truly myself and see that mirrored in others who trust me to guide them on their journeys.

Boundaries are essential

When I said I wasn't going to work evenings and weekends I didn't understand that my work is sacred. It took going back on that promise to myself and then asking why I didn't feel guilty. Work CAN be soul-feeding. Sabbath matters but it doesn’t have to fit any mould but the one you need in the moment.

I do take breaks when I need them and I do make a point of having at least a 24 hour period when I don't step into my office.

Systems change everything

I am a strategic thinker. I like to envision the end goal and then work backwards, marking the steps I'll need to take to reach that goal. Last summer (when I made the decision I was going to leave my day job at the end of the year) I began building systems that would help me keep on track. 

  • I have a calendar system so I can see my whole year in one large view.  
  • I have a monthly system which helps me gauge how many new projects or clients I have space to take on.
  • I have a weekly system which focuses in on immediate deadlines (and a weekly meal plan so I don't have to spend mental energy on that each night - I'm not very consistent at that one yet, but at least I have the system in place and am working towards making it part of my routine).
  • I have a daily system that breaks that weekly one down into even more detail.
  • I have a financial tracker that lets me know how far off target I am on a daily basis based on the net income I have to make in order to replace the job I left.

I need lists to keep me on track—to know what I've completed and to know what is still to come. Having everything laid out systematically frees my brain from trying to juggle and remember. It means I'm not missing deadlines and it means I'm showing up organized for my clients so I can serve them best.

Tracking finances is SO important. There is nothing that lights a fire like a zero income day and in January, I had 14/31 of those. But I also had other days of 300%, 400% even 700% above what I needed. Being able to see that in real time keeps me on my toes and always pushing.

I am a brand

One of my priorities in this new lifestyle I've chosen is to carve out intentional time for reading. For the last four or five years my reading time has been limited to submissions. I did very little reading for pleasure because I was pulled too thin between all the things I had to accomplish. Now I make a point to start every day with my coffee and a non-fiction book that will inform my business in some way. And when I take my lunch break, you'll often find me at the table with a fiction novel that I am reading for (*gasp) pleasure. (I'm currently re-reading Interview with the Vampire for the gajillionth time and it's holding up as one of my all time favourite pieces of art.) Such a simple addition to my life, but it's really having a positive impact on me.

My morning read has currently been You Are a Brand by Catherine Caputa. It's teaching me the importance of establishing a personal brand and it has encouraged me to zero in on my approach, being much more vocal about my journey on social media as a method of building trust. And now, new potential clients are coming to me not just because I am a publisher looking for submissions, but because they already feel like they know me. I've named authenticity as one of the core values of my business. Showing up raw and giving a glimpse inside my world—both the things I am celebrating and the things that I'm struggling with—has opened some doors that would have remained closed otherwise.  

You have to spend money to make money

I hate this lesson, but I also know it to be one hundred percent true. If I'm not willing to invest in my own business, it's never going to grow. Yes, everything costs money, but most investments will yield more than they cost. I'm still at the penny-pinching stage of this journey and every time I have to spend money—even if it's just for shipping supplies or Sharpies—I feel annoyed and afraid. I am learning to push past this discomfort and trust the reward on the other side.

I'm showing up because I know my WHY

I have a vision and a mission and I'm being pretty loud about it. I have some experience being on a rudderless boat and it is not fun. There's no direction. You're at the mercy of the wind. Not anymore! I am very clear on who I am and what I want and why I want it. To do anything without a why just makes you a wh and that's not even a thing...

If you don't believe in the funnel, you're just holding a megaphone and yelling into an empty room

While away on a two day visioning retreat in January (investing in myself!) (that's where the photo above was taken) I cracked my sales funnel. It was a true light bulb moment (arriving fully formed in one big brain drop to which I exclaimed out loud: HOLY CRAP! paused the marketing training I was participating in, and filled a few sheets of a legal pad with the scribbly plan). That has resulted in an aggressive amount of work as I build it and get it ready to launch next month.

I've been seeing things about 'the funnel' for as long as I've had this little business on the side, but I always thought it was for big-timers who wanted $10K clients.

It's not. It's for me. I need it. It and another one and another one and another one.

Conversion rates are terrifying. 2%? I have a lot of work ahead of me, but bit by bit, brick by brick, I am building the framework for passive income.

My voice is not for free

One of my greatest weaknesses is generosity of time. You may think that's a nice thing, and it is, but it's detrimental if you want to scale your business. It's uncomfortable to ask people to pay me for my time, but it's also weird not to. Everyone is paid for their time. Anyone who has a job shows up in exchange for money—that's how an economy works. 

The first time I charged for my time, I felt like an imposter. The second time was less foreign. The third time seemed almost normal. And when I increased those prices by more than 30% and people still said yes, I realized my hesitancy had nothing to do with the people I wanted to serve, but everything to do with me.

I have to constantly remind myself that I am worth it. And I have to constantly remind myself that the value I have to offer is absolutely worthy of a price tag. My first instinct is still to offer it for free, and there are cases where that is appropriate, but on the whole, I need to keep fighting that instinct and to project my worth so that when someone asks what I charge I can tell them with confidence and know that I deserve it.

 

Was my first month a success?

  • I don't hate myself.
  • I don't regret leaving my day job.
  • I wanted to sign one new client and I signed two.

So yes. Yes, it was a success. I can't afford to travel three months of the year yet, but that's on my long-tern goal board. 

In 2022 I want twelve new publishing clients. I want ten new mentoring clients. I want 800 people to step through the first level of my funnel. I want to double my social media platform. I want to take four weeks of holiday. That's it. That's all. I have eleven months left to make it happen!

Here we go!

 

 

Thinking of publishing a book this year? Come check out Chicken House Press. My coop might be just the place you want to lay your eggs.

 

Links to the books I've mentioned in this post 👇 (Any sales generated by clicking on these links will put a few ad dollars in my pocket which I get to invest right back into my small business. 😘)


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4 comments:

  1. You are amazing! We are cheering for you!��

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  3. I've learned a lot in the past month of being self-employed. One of the most important things I've learned is that it's important to have a clear goal in mind for what you want to achieve. Without a goal, it's easy to get sidetracked and waste time on things that don't matter.

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