The physical deterioration from the disease in my body came the way change does, all at once, with no warning and with zero consideration for my aspirations. Long story short, sickness interfered with my career goals, or rather, it eviscerated them. From a steady, predictable gig in the corporate world, I was thrust into frantic scrambling to find any semblance of marketing work in mere months. I went from holding the position of web admin at a retail powerhouse to holding onto the walls to support myself when I walked. I eventually lost my job because I was not well enough to commit to the hours needed on site, and I am still not recovered enough to consider anything in that capacity. I may never be.
I won’t bore you with the devastation, but I will say I am impressed with my sheer determination to make it out of that dark place. That’s when a tiny seedling inside me began to sprout into an idea. Different and strangely hopeful, suddenly this future growth seemed possible. Was this the time to give that vulnerable plant the sustenance it needed? For years, I had contemplated working from home. Any marketer does, the flexible arrangement was born in this industry after all. When I shoved off to work, a cakewalk 9.9 miles from my driveway to the parking lot of corporate America, I considered what it would be like to have an even shorter commute, like the one I have now, roughly 40 steps from my bed to my recently revamped home office-used-to-be-a-bedroom.
I settle into the couch each morning instead of climbing into my car, write my to-do list and have a little party. Just coffee and me. Cherishing coffee is one boon I encourage while in this funny little limbo because it is a small delight and I have trudged through fire pits. You can celebrate those niceties when in the process of recreation. You have earned it… just as you have earned the right to worry about staying in the black.
Once my list is complete and my tank is full, I get to work within the walls of my home, launching another day of constant effort. I had to go at knife point to get here, but I am here and believe I will stay. I’ve realized I could have started my own business years ago had I just applied the energy and persistence, so I want to share what worked for me.
If you are considering opening your own shop, and trying to silence doubts, you can do it, and it’s not even that hard!
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for work.
I made a list based on some great insight, which came from a woman in one of my writers’ groups. She stated plainly everyone has at least 250 connections in their professional and personal lives. These people are all potential contacts. You might feel hesitant in reaching out to some to whom you’ve not uttered four words in the last five years, but that’s not me, and if you are fueled, it shouldn’t be you either. Professional accounts exist as tools people use to climb the ladder. Everyone knows it. So don’t waste a moment feeling unworthy, or shy. The person you send an email to, or the former co-worker you connect with when you seek job leads, might be the ones to make the difference. It happened to me. Hell, you may get a boost from a high school friend in charge of her own successful business.
2. Ask for help too.
Building a business is scary stuff, and to thank me for boarding this crazy train my brain sent all sort of nightmares to disrupt my sleep. The house flooding, fires, accidents, tornadoes, huge spiders swooping down on webs and hitting me in the face. My subconscious screamed, “This is terrifying! You’re out of control!” When I was stuck, I hit up friends and people in my network for guidance. There’s no shame in asking, “Can you tell me how to create a mask in Illustrator?” or inquiring about the best SEO strategies of 2015. People like to share and help. Take advantage of it.
You will get down. Not every prospect will become a yes. Some of the more surprising pitches pan out. You will be okay if you believe in yourself. If you work hard at your goals. If you make goals.
4. Refuse to fail.
It’s huge when you are convinced you are valuable and smart. You will succeed. It’s a mere matter of figuring out how. Plot out your objectives. What kind of work do you want to do? Who do you want to work with (B2B, C2B, partners, etc.)? Who do you admire? Ask people out to coffee if they are doing what you want, then listen to what’s in their head. Apply what’s relevant. Get up early as if you have a job (because you do!) Work late when you need to. Show your clients an ethic with a regular, natural rhythm comprised of doing what you say, of putting in more effort than most. Point out quick improvements, become valued. When I had a regular 9-5, I thought becoming an entrepreneur would require too much work, and I was already beat from the long workday, so I repeatedly reassured myself the day would come when I would work solo (but it wouldn’t be that day), and to take solace. I know now, if I had applied the same no-fail mentality, I would’ve been on my couch sucking down sweet, hot java brain juice that much sooner.
5. Ask for what you’re worth (finally).
I had a ballpark estimate in my head, but I had been quite hesitant to ask for it. I’d researched what freelance writers and marketers bill out, but always undercut myself because I felt like I would have a better shot of getting the job at a lower rate. One day I requested my fair price and guess what? No one blinked, called me an outrage, or insulted my mother. I actually landed the project. Now I can set a reasonable, yet competitive rate and that makes me feel pretty accomplished.
6. Join groups representing your field.
Get to know people. You might even nab a few leads this way. I did! Look for the opportunities amid the posts and threads and offer to help. I have met new friends, mentors and clients and you will, too.
7. Use available resources.
I went on unemployment, picked up small jobs here and there. If you need to pull a wedge out of your retirement pie, that’s okay. We sold some furniture. If you look around, you can find a way to stretch the months.
Big question marks are poised to rear their heads in the next several months of my entrepreneurship. It’s go time. Refer to point four as a part of my safety net is slated to melt away. The pressure will be on to secure long-term and repeat clients, but this time, I really think I can do it.
My bonus? Because I set my own hours, I can actually take the time to heal, to rest, to decompress and destress when and if needed. But really midday breaks on the porch, while the cool wind laps at my face? Much more effective than any yoga class I’ve attended.
Photo: Unedited: Flickr/Pink Sherbet Photography