Freedom from my job was coming and I think I could actually smell it.
Was I detecting the scent of new crayons, fresh wildflowers, just-out-the-oven chocolate chip cookies or even, impossibly, the soft, fuzzy crown of newborn baby?
It definitely wasn’t the smell of the worn polyester fabric of my ergonomically correct office chair or the can of anchovies my colleague down the hall liked to snack on.
Maybe it wasn't a scent so much as it was a feeling -- a feeling of possibility -- that I was noticing and trying to pin down. It was noticeable because I hadn't been this excited about the future and my work in a long time. I was jazzed for many reasons but most of all I felt a new clarity, a certainty about where my career was headed and that alone was an incredible feeling.
I was about to start the next chapter of my career, by far my most exciting career adventure to date: to become self-employed.
To be my own boss. To be an entrepreneur….
This was not an easy decision. I was giving up a lot. But I was heading towards something I’d always wanted to do, and timing was good. Plus, I had created a long, thoughtful list of all that I would be gaining versus losing.
So, with a firm belief in my long record of career success, my ability and strong desire to wear many hats and use and grow all of my skills, I was ready.
Unfortunately, I didn't see some things coming.
I thought I’d planned everything to a “t”, but there were a few I didn't foresee because there was no way to anticipate them.
Here is a list of things I wish I knew about becoming an entrepreneur:
1. Letting go of my identity as an employee was incredibly hard.
In the days and weeks after I quit, I was sadder than I ever expected to be about getting off the corporate bus. I thought I’d be doing the happy dance all day.
In fact, I grieved. It took me a long time to recognize that I was grieving over the loss of not just my title and associated status but of who I was and how I saw myself.
Now I had to figure out a “new me,” and as weird as this may sound, I didn't know who I was at work anymore. Yes, I could say to people “I am a coach.” but I think you’ll agree that by itself is a meaningless statement.
I didn't foresee that I had to do a ton of work to figure out who I was as a coach.
2. “Beginner’s Mind” is not always a bowl of cherries.
Going from knowing my job like the back of my hand and being “a pro” to being a total amateur with “beginner’s mind” was its own private hell even though everyone talked about how great it would be to start over.
I agree, some days – many days – it was great. But I would be remiss if I waxed poetic about it, because there were days that didn't roll along swimmingly.
In fact, this is how I became very familiar with something called the “inner critic” and that it would be my most formidable foe in terms of moving around this new work world.
As my new boss, I often set unrealistic milestones and criticized myself when I spun out or simply didn’t get something done. I now know how essential it is to be kind to myself.
Just as with starting a new job, it took a while to get the hang of things. Not only that, new things, new puzzles come along but I don’t take myself down through the process of figuring them out.
This is where having the right mindset is essential for navigating and mitigating the everyday emotional ups and downs of transitioning through change.
3. Everyone and their mother wanted to sell me something to help me grow my business.
And their solution wasn’t necessarily the right answer for my business or me. There truly is no one size fits all.
But more importantly, looking back, I didn't have to buy. That I could and should shop around (or just move along).
At first, I parted way too easily with my money. I was a little too trusting. That online course might actually not lead me to financial freedom.
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. What I know now is that you need to hit the pause button, sit with propositions longer, peel back the onion, and not buy right away.
Also, if there’s something I have already purchased, I need to consume that before I make any additional purchases.
4. Needing support and not knowing where to find it.
Yes, I wanted to wear my many hats, but there were some hats I definitely didn’t want to wear.
Going solo does not mean working alone or that you should work alone. I wish I had known about Fiverr.com, Upwork.com and 99designs.com which are potentially inexpensive options for finding resources for just about anything you need done in your business.
In addition to technical support, though, you will need moral support from friends and family to cheer you along and mitigate the crazy-making in your head that surfaces with thoughts about heading in a new direction.
5. Launching a website does not equal marketing.
Your website is simply your office in the sky. It’s where people will find you.
But you need to be find-able, and marketing creates the breadcrumbs people will follow back to your website.
Take it from me; just because you had a “big launch” in your mind it’s unlikely that you’re even a blip on a potential buyer’s radar (I’m not talking about you emailing your new URL to your friends and family to check it out). Marketing for the purpose of acquiring clients is truly a different animal altogether and there are no quick sound bytes for this one.
(Stay tuned for another blog post or series of blog posts.)
6. There is so much to learn.
And, it can be overwhelming. I don’t know about you, but when I’m overwhelmed I simply stop. And stopping equates to being stuck.
Most people learn in two ways: by acquiring new knowledge and getting into action. It can be really hard to get into action, though, if you’ve consumed too much information.
Where do you start? What’s the first step? Beware of overindulging to the point of becoming stuck.
Put yourself on an information diet.
What I do now is identify one or two teachers that I trust, follow them and then get into action. The days of subscribing to multiple email newsletters and signing up for every free webinar or online course are over, thank you very much.
I love my work and I love that I’m wholeheartedly leaning into my future. Looking in the rear view mirror with my first year of self-employment under my belt, I am better prepared for some curve balls, like the ones mentioned here. I am also way better at giving myself a break and taking what I know today into a better tomorrow.
After a major career or lifestyle change, what curve balls have you faced that you didn't anticipate and how did you deal with them? Share in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!