The “back to school” vibes of September always make me get a little introspective. I don’t know if it’s because I live in a city with two Universities, whose air is filled with excitement and possibility at this time of year, or because I grew up in a family filled with teachers and I have some sort of internal timer that starts whirring as soon as we step towards autumn.
It always reminds me of the things I didn’t do, and the choices I made instead. It’s bittersweet, I’ll admit.
You see, I didn’t go to University as I planned. Not many people know this about me, but I’d applied to study Psychology and got into three different Unis, but then my personal life went into a bit of a tailspin. A lot of things that I hadn’t been dealing with started bubbling away and I didn’t trust myself to study the mind when I didn’t really trust my own.
Instead, I chose to study English Lit (with a side of Creative Writing) with the Open University. It felt like a safer option and I did really enjoy it, but I do sometimes what would have happened if I’d have been a little braver.
But then making that OU choice had a couple brilliant consequences that I may not have experienced if I’d gone down the traditional route.
Firstly, my course was structured in a way that allowed me to work full time, meaning I saved up and bought my first house the summer I turned 22. It also gave me an insane amount of (INSANE) experience working in a few different businesses. It taught me exactly how I do and do not want to be treated, and that’s a pretty vital thing to be aware of.
Secondly, it just so happened that when I started, the OU was doing a bit of a campaign to get younger people to study with them. One of the ways they went about this was to encourage their current students to start blogs… and that’s what I did. That’s how I entered this digital world. And I can’t imagine where I’d be today if that hadn’t have happened.
This lack of “doing things the conventional way” has followed me around for most of my life now, and that didn’t change when I started thinking about running my own business.
I freelanced on the side of my corporate day job for a good while, and I was good with that. I actually enjoyed my job a lot of the time – some of the people I met there are still among my best friends today. I didn’t have any real drive to work for myself full time. I was good with where things were.
But then there was an incident. I had a really awful altercation with my boss, that at the time felt like an absolute catastrophe. I was so upset – there were actual tears and everything. I remember running out of the office and phoning my boyfriend (now fiance) and he told me to quit. Just like that. “We’ll make it work”, he said. (And spoiler alert – we did.)
So the next time I saw my boss, I handed in my notice. I instantly felt lighter in that “I just did something unhinged and now I feel like I’m high” kind of way. I didn’t have a plan. I had a couple of freelance clients – enough to earn me some extra pocket money, but not enough to actually live on. I didn’t have the business bumph set up and in place. I didn’t have a pipeline, a strategy… I didn’t even have a planner. #sacrilege
But I knew I had to make a go of it, so I bought a puppy and got stuck in. (Yes, in that order.)
I hustled for a while and then I coasted. I found myself a whole bunch of retainer clients that would pay me consistently (which really was great for the “staying sane” part of the equation). And then I just let myself ride the waves for a good few months… but then I started feeling that itch again. Like there was something more I wanted to be doing. I like there was something more I *could* be doing…
I couldn’t really articulate the problem, but my income had plateaued and I wasn’t feeling madly excited by the work I was doing. Right at this time, my client Gemma had just finished launching her mastermind. We were chatting it up in Slack and out of the blue she asked if I’d like to join last minute – she’s intuitive, that one. I made the snap decision to dive in. I knew that I needed to take some sort of different action if I wanted the feels to change. So I did and they did.
I can say wholeheartedly that THAT was the single best decision I’ve ever made for myself and for my business. And I say that for entirely practical reasons.
- I put together my first ever rock-solid business strategy so I knew WHAT I was working towards and HOW I was going to do it.
- I connected with a complementary group of peers who were so willing to share thoughts and ideas as I tried and tested new things – that in itself was amazing.
- I learned a whole bunch of magical mindset tricks to help pull me out of the downward spiral I sink into every now and again.
- I got a handle on my finances, established real live boundaries and finally started to prioritise my own marketing.
- I also launched a podcast, an e-course, a membership programme and a handful of new services.
Winning all round, really!
The lesson here is not that overly shared thing of “you’ve got to invest in yourself and blah blah blah” because that implies that throwing money at a problem is the answer, and I don’t think it is. The lesson is that if you want something different, you need to do something different. That might mean making more time to focus on a particular thing, it might mean revisiting your business model, or it might mean applying for Gemma’s next mastermind (which you can do here, by the way).
As an added bonus for anyone who signs up through my link, I’m offering a done-for-you 90-day nurture sequence. That’s 12 weeks worth of emails to charm casual readers into committed customers. What are you waiting for?