Leaving the rat race was one of the most important things I did in order to bring purpose to my career and my life, but I’m not the only one who’s made a big change like that.
Today I’m talking to Becky, who left her own office job to work for herself and gain freedom in her life.
Tell me a little about what you do and how you got started.
Hi Seo! I’m working right now in two different ways: primarily in freelance writing with a travel marketing spin and part-time as a luxury travel advisor who specializes in using frequent flyer miles to pay for trips. I’ve been doing both of these for over a year after picking up small gigs that snowballed into great opportunities! Today, I’m transitioning more and more to travel writing full-time, which I love…but in general, working for myself is a great fit for me.
What prompted you to leave a traditional career – what caused you to make a change?
I worked in corporate finance from 2007-2014 before deciding to make a change. I left abruptly in order to pursue a lifelong dream of living and studying Spanish in Central America. I loved it, but when I came back, I was unemployed and had a big decision to make: go back to my career path or try something new.
I had always assumed I’d return to finance after my sabbatical, but after experiencing that freedom, the idea of conforming again sounded terrible. I spent a few months figuring out what I wanted to do next until finally admitting to myself that I hated what I was doing and that I should try and make a living in an industry I love (tourism!). It took a lot of thought — and a lot of mental struggles — but making that decision was the first step toward success.
What was the scariest part about breaking out on your own?
Once I started, I was scared of failing because that would mean I had to go back to the corporate world. That thought was worse than letting my family down, going bankrupt, or anything else, so I pushed myself every day to work harder than I thought was possible. I never realized I was so depressed in that position until I broke free. My old job was a significant stress in my life and without those shackles, I finally felt happy.
When I was in the midst of my new career, the scariest part was more about what other people would think of me. Small talk always starts with “what do you do?” or “where do you work?” and I wasn’t sure my non-traditional title or accomplishments would impress anyone. Eventually, I learned to let those thoughts go since I was proud of myself and that should matter more than what other people think.
Where did you get the money to get started?
Thankfully, what I do doesn’t have a lot of overhead. At the time, I was working as a waitress to make ends meet, so I used my tips to print up business cards and set up a website. I started building a portfolio while I re-invested my first earnings to attend a few conferences. Networking is EVERYTHING in my line of business, so spending that money is the smartest thing I could do.
I also did a lot of work on my own instead of outsourcing it and I took advantage of every free training or certification I could find, which helped build my credibility. But I’ll be honest: the first few months were financially rough and it would have been a lot harder to push through if I didn't have someone at home to split the bills with. I had a safety net that not everyone does, and I’m thankful for that.
Did you ever feel like your business would be a failure?
Absolutely. When I first set off on my own, I was targeting the wrong customers. I only made $75 in profit in the first six months (essentially, I was working for free).
At one point, with tears running down my face, I submitted a job application for a job I knew I’d hate because I just needed to make money. Thankfully, while I was waiting for an interview, I took a hard look at things, re-evaluated my target customer, and now I’m doing much, much better.
I still wake up some days during slow periods at work wondering if I’ll have to go back, but I harness that fear into motivation toward working on new business goals. Some have been unsuccessful but others have been great opportunities and that’s what lets me continue with this line of work.
At what point did you know you had something good?
When one writing client came to me and specifically extended an editing position (in addition to the writing I had been doing), I finally realized my work was highly valued. They trusted me enough to oversee other people’s work which reaffirmed I was on the right path. Since then, I’ve stopped editing because it doesn’t bring me the same professional enjoyment, but it was a real “feel-good” moment!
Please share with us the pro/con, rewards/challenges of running your own business in your own words, in your own life.
At first, my goal was to find work I enjoy doing since working is such a big component of my daily schedule. I love juggling clients since every day is something brand new to experience and it’s incredibly satisfying to tackle projects and learn something new all the time. You have no idea what you’re capable of until you push yourself!
One of my favorite rewards has been working remotely. I flex my schedule, work from other cities while traveling, and was able to take care of a family emergency for ~3 weeks without worrying about whether or not I’d get fired. It takes a lot of discipline (and I’ve been known to procrastinate at times), but if you can manage yourself, the flexibility is priceless.
But that said, running your own business is definitely hard. Along with the work I love, there’s a lot of other tasks that come with self-employment: I play marketer, accountant, tech support, and a million other roles, too. They’re not always glamorous and they’re not always fun, but it’s part of the package.
What was the single most important factor that contributed to your success?
I couldn’t have done this, not one bit, without a support network. My friends listened patiently to business ideas and talked through logistics. One family member in particular played cheerleader, no matter what, so I had someone to smile with when things went well and someone to lift me up when things went horribly. Plus my husband was there every step of the way, through my frustrations and my happy dances. I couldn’t have done it alone.
If you could go back in time to when you started, what one lesson would you share to yourself?
Work really hard toward balancing a workload. I have a lot of little clients, which means sometimes I have a lot of projects from different people all rolling in at the same time. Not wanting to say no to a paycheck, there were times where I was working 60-80 hours a week trying to get it all done by deadline and then other times when I had nothing to do (and thus no paychecks). It’s better to try and spread things out, but it’s hard to do when you get started.
Becky is just one example of a woman who chased after her dream of getting a kickasslife…will you be next?
Meet Seo Kelleher, an intuitive coach for life and business, committed to empowering women. "I am passionate about helping women find the courage to transform their lives by embracing their vulnerability and taking the responsibility."