August marked one year since I finished up in my corporate job. Holy moly, where did that year go?! You know what they say – time flies when you’re having fun.
While it’s been a year since I said ‘fair thee well’ to corporate life, I’ve only been in biz officially for six months because I had a big, much-needed (albeit, slightly longer than planned) break in between. In any case, I thought the one-year mark was an opportune time to stop, exhale, reflect on all that’s happened and share the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Last week, I came across a new word which seems the perfect way to describe my last year:
‘Metanoia’ – meaning ‘the journey of changing one’s mind, heart, self, or way of life.’
So, consider this my little tribute to ‘metanoia’, and a big, buoyant cheer of ‘I believe in you!’ and ‘You can do it!’ if you’re dreaming of making a similar change in your own life.
What actually prompted me to write this post was receiving a lovely email from a dear Instagram pal of mine. In it, she wrote:
“I just wanted to ask – what gave you the guts to jump into your own business? I’ve done well on a career path I now care very little about… needless to say, the pay allows me to be pretty comfortable. How do I walk away from that… and did you have these thoughts for a long time before you took the plunge? I guess I am just wanting to reach out to those who have succeeded after taking the risk…”
Of course, my answer to this was, ‘Yes, Yes, and YES.’ Talk about relate! In fact, it was like receiving an email from myself back in mid-2014 when I was pondering these exact same questions, sidling up to the sheer edge of a very big life change and then nervously retreating backwards. I did that anxious back and forth shuffle for a couple of months. Until, I just knew. Enough was enough. And I ran full throttle at that edge, leapt with all my might and trusted that the net would appear.
Of course, things didn’t go exactly to plan (hence that slightly-longer-than-planned six-month break between the end of my job and the start of my biz). But the net did indeed appear, and leaping has proven to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
So, how did I go from corporate 9 – 5 to freelance copywriter?
Like my insty pal, I largely fell into my corporate career as a Marketing Services Manager and for eight years it served me well and allowed me to be very comfortable. Until, I was no longer comfortable – just bored, burnt out, anxious and mildly depressed. My colleagues were lovely, but the job (and, in fact, the corporate world in general) was just no longer the right fit for me.
This all hit me like a sucker-punch in the nose when I returned from our month-long honeymoon in May 2014. My husband and I had the most amazing trip, taking a campervan up through central Australia to Darwin and back again. We swam in the crystal-clear thermal springs at Mataranka, saw huge crocs at Kakadu, and gobbled olives like lollies and toasted to us as the sunset engulfed Uluru. I felt so free, expansive and joyful, and it was a revelation. Back at work, the creative distraction of planning our wedding was gone, all my annual leave was gone and I realised in my 9 – 5 life I’d become utterly miserable. By staying in that job, I was slowly killing my spirit. And, like a tonne of ‘Hello! Are you listening?!’ bricks, it hit me. It was time to take control and change my life.
Since leaving my job at the end of July last year and then officially launching my business at the end of January, I can’t quite believe what’s unfolded – not to mention that lovely people like my insta pal are now reaching out to me for advice. Me? How did that happen?! I’m truly humbled.
So, without further ado, here’s what I’ve learned along the way.
Reflections & lessons learned
1 // Support is crucial, and I count myself so very lucky to have an amazing support network. My husband, family and friends have all been key to my success. Not only did they give me a much-needed boot up the you-know-what to get me started in the first place, they’ve supported me through all the highs and lows. I remember one night at the very beginning, I was stirring something on the stove and talking to my Mum. I was telling her how it was taking far longer than I’d expected to get my ABN, which naturally segued into, “My website is going to suck and I’m never going to get any clients and we’ll be financially ruined and I won’t be able to get another job and then we’ll be homeless!” (Did I mention I’m a worst-case scenario kind of gal?!). As an experienced freelancer herself (she’s a bassoonist), Mum smiled knowingly and simply said, “Sal, how about you just take it one step at a time and trust that all will be well.” She was right. Even in those moments of uncertainty and frustration, all is well and anything is possible. But, sometimes you just need a loved one to give you a hug, a cup of tea and a much-needed reminder.
2 // In saying that, I’ve also learned just how resilient I am on my own. When I reflect back on all I’ve achieved in the last year, ultimately I’m the one who’s put the blood, sweat and tears into this thing to make it happen and make it work. I am capable of so much more than I ever realised, and that’s been such an empowering realisation. If I can do this, I can do anything. And so can you.
3 // I need much less money to survive and thrive than I thought I did. In those six months before launching, we managed to live quite comfortably on my husband’s salary alone. Sure, I stopped buying so many clothes, but I truly didn’t miss them. That period was actually a great learning experience for us as a couple, because we now place much less emphasis on money – instead prioritising happiness and fulfilment. If we have enough to cover our mortgage and bills, eat well and do some fun stuff together, that’s all we need. If you don’t already, I highly recommend that you start regularly checking in with yourself to ask, ‘What do I desire?’ and ‘What makes me happy?’ Chances are, the answers won’t be monetary. And it might be time to rejig your priorities accordingly.
4 // But (what do you know!) life works in mysterious ways. Despite my willingness to take a significant pay cut, the universe has rewarded my courage with more abundance that I ever anticipated. Since officially launching six months ago, what’s unfolded has been quite mind boggling. I’ve been busy pretty much since I launched, I’m earning much more than I ever expected to (including cracking my first 5-figure month in August, after nearly getting there in July) and I have the potential to well exceed my old corporate salary, if I want to. And it’s that ‘if I want to’ that’s key, because as my own boss, the possibilities are limitless and I get to decide. I can push it as hard as I want to, or I can enjoy a cruisier ride. For now, I’m enjoying being picky about the projects I take on, working the equivalent of a four-day week spread over five days and enjoying a wonderful work-life balance. ‘Blessed’ doesn’t even come close.
5 // ‘Trust’ has emerged as a big theme, and in hindsight, I can see that all the dots connect. I believe I’m meant to be doing this, but I couldn’t have done it without the skills, experience and contacts gained in my corporate role, for which I’ll always be grateful. You could say all the highs and lows were meant to happen. This journey was all planned out and divinely timed, long before I understood it. And because I know how unhappy I can be, I’m truly grateful for how I feel now. Every day I wake up and think, ‘Oh my goodness, I can’t believe I’ve actually done it and it’s actually working!’
6 // Most of all, my eyes have been opened to the fact that the possibilities are infinite – creative, collaborative and financial. I’m doing what I love to do, working with the most amazing, inspiring clients and getting their positive feedback fills me with so much happiness. As my own boss, the sky’s the limit. I can keep working with clients on freelance projects, create an eBook or eCourse as a passive income stream, collaborate with other freelancers on fun projects, or work hard and then take a month off to travel or completely indulge my own creative pursuits. It’s completely up to me and I feel truly expansive, abundant and FREE.
7 // Finally, some short but sweet takeaways:
+ Leverage your existing network and make friends with your so-called competitors. Marketing consultant, Danielle MacInnis, has been a huge supporter of mine, and a massive help with her prolific client referrals. My copywriter pals Sarah Morton, Alyssa Martin, and Melinda Leyshon have been so generous with their advice and encouragement. And finally, Kate Toon’s Clever Copywriting School has been an invaluable resource. I’m truly grateful to each of these ladies.
+ Always, always trust your gut. That potential client that seems a bit cray-cray probably is! Say “Thanks, but no thanks” and trust that better work is just around the corner.
+ Set boundaries and keep them, particularly around working hours, contactability and pricing. I’ve been successful because I set my prices in line with my expertise and experience from the outset, and I’ve never dropped them for anyone.
+ Getting a website built will always, always take longer than planned (like, 2 months longer!) – hence the delay in launching my business. Accept this as an unfortunate, frustrating fact of life and plan accordingly.
+ Record your income and expenses down to the very last detail. Come tax time, I was so glad I did (that stuff is complicated enough even when you do have all your ducks in a row!).
+ Remember to keep it all in perspective and look after yourself.
+ Remember to refuel. Bananas, coconut Chobani yoghurt and the occasional (who am I kidding?!) sneaky line of dark chocolate are my weapons of choice.
+ And finally, have fun, relish the freedom and be grateful. Life is good.
So, there you have it – my reflections and lessons learned. I wrote this post not to gloat, but because I’m so passionate about the possibilities for everyone. If I can do it, so can you! Change is entirely possible, and yet so many of us stay put in jobs that suck our souls dry because we think that’s our only option. I was lucky in that I had a skill, a passion and experience that immediately translated into a viable business. But, if necessary, I could’ve gone part time while I built it up. Heck, changing your life doesn’t necessarily mean quitting your job. It may just be making a conscious decision to fill your free time with the stuff you love. Do an eCourse, write a book, start an art club. Whatever you’re dreaming about, you can do it.
If you’re contemplating this kind of life change, I’d say put it down on paper, create a sensible plan and then go for it. You are freer than you think, you have what it takes and – most importantly – it’s never ever too late. You can change your life, just like I did.
And you can start today.