Five years ago I got a call that would change my life forever. It was from my sister, and she was calling to let me know our mum was in the hospital with stage 4 lung cancer. Within a week’s time, she had passed away. My whole world had been turned around, and after two weeks of bereavement, I was supposed to return to my role as a Project Manager at EMPIRE and somehow perform as if nothing had happened. After a few days of attending meetings, planning out release schedules, and working on advertising campaign ideas, I knew something needed to change, and that change was me quitting to start my freelance career.
Prior to my mum’s passing, I had considered quitting the music industry to explore another path. Afterwards, it felt like there was no other way. My mum’s sudden and tragic passing reminding me that there was no time like the present.
I knew two things: 1) I wanted to be my own boss, and 2) I wanted to be able to travel and live wherever I pleased. I put my notice in at work, and with those two priorities in mind, also took the two skill sets I knew I could market (social advertising and Squarespace design) and got to work
I was terrified to make the leap, but I told myself I could always go back to the workforce if I wanted to. My mum always pushed me to go after what I wanted in life, and it was now or never.
Five years later, here I am. I grew my initial seed of an idea into a fully independent freelance business, and now coach entrepreneurs and solopreneurs to do the same. Freelancing can be a wild ride with a lot of ups and downs and everything in between, but at the end of the day, the reward of working for yourself can’t be beat.
Here are the five biggest lessons I’ve learned since quitting my “9-5” to becoming a full-time freelancer:
- Life doesn’t wait for anyone: It took my mum to pass away to remind myself that life is way too short not to do something you love. We are here for a finite amount of time, so begin asking yourself: “Why not?” The hardest part is just starting. If you are ready to make a change, start by telling your close friends/family about what you want to do. This can help you work up the courage to tell your boss, client, etc. It can also help you feel more comfortable in your transition.
- Work hard, the rest will follow: Consistently do the work on yourself and your business, and opportunities will present themselves. It might not happen on your exact timeline and they may not be packaged the way you thought they might, but they will come. One way to help with this, especially on the hard days, is reflection. Take a few minutes at the end of each day and reflect upon what you did + how far you have come. Once you see that you have actually done a lot, you will be more motivated to keep going.
- When in doubt, ask: PSA: Asking for help is more of a sign of strength than weakness. Asking also allows you to connect with others for potential clients, projects, etc. As the old adage goes— if you don’t ask, the answer is always no.
- Share your story: At the time, I was the only one out of my immediate circle of friends and family who was freelancing. I wanted to share my experience with everyone to let them know that it was possible to make this a real career choice, and that it was possible to break free from the traditional workforce. I found that starting a blog account on Medium allowed me to get my thoughts out there little by little without having to worry about judgement via social media. There is no right platform to do this, it all depends on which one you are comfortable using.
- Don’t forget to rest: Running your own business is rewarding, but also can be extremely exhausting. When you are a one-person team, often it can feel challenging to take days off or just rest in between busy cycles. I found myself pushing and pushing past fatigue, but it eventually caught up to me like it does to everyone. What I learned is that it is just as important to rest as it is to do good work. If we’re looking to run a sustainable business, we can’t always be on the go. When your body is feeling tired, listen to it and recharge as needed.