When I left a pretty great executive position on my birthday two years ago, I didn’t see it as a gift.
In fact, I was initially terrified and then entirely focused on landing a better job (read: salary). When the offer came, I was unprepared for my own reaction.
It was an uneventful Tuesday afternoon, around 4 PM. Especially uneventful since I was unemployed.
I was sitting in my car waiting outside the fence of my daughter’s school for her to come dawdling out, always last. My phone rang and there it was: the offer I wanted.
Six figure salary plus all the typical health benefits, an embedded bonus structure, and even profit sharing. With one of the largest corporations in the world.
Despite the enthusiasm I expressed in the three interviews that precipitated the call, I asked for two days to think about it. I couldn’t ignore the fact that what I wanted and had worked hard to attain caused bile to rise in the back of my mouth.
Soaking in the hot tub with the mental lubricant of a glass of Franzia, I bounced what seemed like lunacy around.
Could this be an opportunity to obtain something even greater, something I hadn’t even considered?
Let’s blame the boxed wine.
I turned the offer down and set off to replace my former salary on my own, with the freedom and autonomy I hadn’t realized I was craving.
The initial excitement of sleeping in and logo mock-ups quickly progressed to sheer panic and constant self-doubt. This was not terribly surprising since I was entirely unsure of what product or service I would be offering an as yet unidentified market.
Coaching seemed like a logical combination of my education and skills, but I quickly got bored with what seemed like therapy with better dressed adults.
I hawked two articles to a local magazine for $40 apiece, for which I was never paid.
Then I started picking up odd jobs from various professionals – which started with copying and collating a binder for $20 and a personal copy of the content.
It took a challenging level of humility to let go of my hard fought power executive identity and literally accept every opportunity that came my way, all in the name of learning and introductions.
I’m an overly confident person. Yet, I cannot emphasize enough how difficult it was to press on with yet another website or “networking” event with just a few hundred in monthly income during that first year, or no income at all.
I asked myself multiple times if I was experiencing an early mid-life crisis; standing in front of a hot copy machine with two master’s degrees and a dozen paper cuts.
I thought I, of all people, could do this. But all evidence was to the contrary.
Fortunately, I always had two fans cheering the pathetic milestones. My kids were a source of endless motivation when I had none left.
Next week is the two-year anniversary of my last day of “employment”.
Unlike last year’s sad passing of a date I had hoped would mark solopreneurial success, this year there is finally cause for celebration…and relief.
I’ve reached my initial goal: replacing my former salary.
I wasn’t even paying attention, having succumb to the disheartening two steps forward, 1.9 steps back progress.
It was worth every set-back, every humbling task, and every disappointment.
The next goal? Fit that same income into 30 hours a week, or less.
In the meantime, I’m a big fan of delicious rewards.
Great post, Emily! Congratulations on replacing your salary on your terms. I’d love to understand more about what the current makeup is of your work now. ie What is your primary product/svc now and do you mostly get paid by project, retainer, hourly, or a combo? Thanks for sharing your solopreneur experience.
Great to hear from you, John! I know you’re busy! Nearly all of my consulting work is now within long-term contracts doing background capacity development and project management. About half with nonprofits and the other half with other solopreneurs and small businesses. It makes for an interesting day!
Most are on hourly rates, some have converted to monthly retainer rates. Always working to transition more and more of my income to passive products. Hope you are well! Would love to hear (and maybe share?) about how you’re own biz is going!
Thanks for the update, Emily, it looks like you’re making great progress with your solopreneur adventure. My mix is primarily with mid to large businesses where I help teams to work more effectively together. Specifically I help identify misalignment within members of a team and suggest ways to improve by building trust and getting to truth more consistently. I mostly work by monthly retainer. Best wishes, let’s stay in touch.
Your story is, and I mean to say this without it sounding cliche, truly inspiring. Congratulations on achieving your goal. I’m sure you’ll knock out the next one, too.
Thanks, DB40. Your own story is inspiring me to stick to it!
It seems good things take time and perseverance- I’m so happy you chose to hang in there; two years is a long time to maintain a dream- congrats!!!