At the end of February 2020, I left an excellent and secure job with an excellent and secure employer to launch my own business. I’d been dreaming about being my own boss on and off for a long time and I was finally making it happen.
That first fortnight I was flooded with leads. I secured my first corporate client and my first international client, and my pipeline was so full I was starting to worry I wouldn’t have any time to work on the business. The following fortnight, the U.K. Prime Minister announced social distancing measures.
A week later the country (and most of the world) went into lockdown.
In terms of timing when to leave the certainty of full-time employment for the uncertainty of entrepreneurship – mine was impeccable. I lost a potential project immediately and suddenly it seemed unlikely that people would want to rewrite their personal or professional stories when they were busy focusing on their health, their incomes, their mental wellbeing and – for some – their toilet paper.
Many people asked if I regretted my decision to leave the security of a corporate job and my response surprised even me in its certainty – a resounding “No.”
Failing is part of the job description
I had a moment of shock and slight inertia in that third week of business (the first week of self-isolation with a 3-year old while my teacher husband was still at work) – “What am I doing?”, “What do I do next?” I had been so sure of myself, my skills and my message that it had not crossed my mind that I might not be immediately successful (Seriously. I know, I’m cringing reading that too). Getting knocked off that perch quickly was an important lesson in humility and a blessing in disguise.
The thing that really sets those who succeed apart from those who don’t is perseverance.
Persevering when things are going well is easy, it’s perseverance when things are uncertain that is important. If you’re up against a challenge, whatever you do – just put one foot in front of the other and repeat. Baby steps are ok, but make sure they’re steps – side steps, backward steps, forward steps – it’s all movement and that is important. Expect to fail and then get back up again and keep moving.
Shit happens and then you innovate
Shit always happens. It just does. Financial crashes happen, pandemics happen, life happens. Shit happens. And then you innovate. You do things differently, you think differently, you look at a problem differently. I have a friend who is a consultant with a brilliant and very active mind. We have been keeping in touch on the unfolding pandemic from our opposite sides of the Atlantic and he had been watching it with the lens of the constant innovator. He was the first person to say to me – people really need what you’re offering right now.
Entrepreneurs and innovators see problems and challenges as opportunities to create.
And so, I got to work. I hid away in my tiny little study and I created. I started with a blank Word document and within an hour or two had sketched out two entirely new programmes for my ideal client.
Jump with a safety net
Don’t leave secure income for uncertain income if you can’t afford to. Period. Before I left my job, I made sure I could withstand low to no income if necessary. I am married (and I know that makes a difference financially) and while losing my income would make a substantial impact on our financial situation, we planned for it. We saved a pot of money as a buffer and made some adjustments so that when I left, we could withstand any outcome (even if that outcome was no income).
Without that safety net, I wouldn’t have been ready to jump.
Quitting your job to work for yourself should never be a snap decision, it takes time and planning – make sure financial planning is a part of that. If you don’t, you put yourself at greater risk of stress and when you’re under stress you can’t work as effectively – it’s a dangerous loop. Self-employment can be a feast and famine – make sure your net can withstand the famine.
When in doubt, stay grateful
Launching a business on the eve of a pandemic created a lot of uncertainty, it took away several opportunities and put the world into a state of alarm. But it also directed my focus to matters of most significance. I could have spent my time worrying about loss of potential income, the redirection of my target market’s attention, no longer having any childcare – but having perspective is everything.
I had spent a lot of time examining what was important to me and what I wanted my career to look like – and I went after it. That hadn’t changed. My dogs had never been happier, I had sit-down meals with my family every day and I had more time to work on the deeper foundations of my business, thinking of ways to serve my clients even more powerfully.
In that first month I experienced a year’s worth of highs & lows and lessons in business.I’ve come out the other side clearer, more certain, a little poorer and a lot richer.
If you want to go after your dreams, make them just risky enough to excite you but not so risky that are dangerous – and then dive in with a big heart and an open mind!