Many of the readers who frequent this blog (God bless you, by the way), have come to know me as Kimba: King Salmon Slayer; Estate Sale Junkie; sometimes writes books . What some of you may not know is that I also have a day-job working in public policy.
For the first forty-four years of my life, I was a “rules girl.” I traveled from high school classroom to college lecture hall to workplace/government cubicle. The schedule of a 9-to-5 job matched my sensibilities for changing the world: one project and policy at a time. This left-handed Virgo thrived in environments that were stable and predictable; working from agendas, time-frames, task plans, and to-do lists. So how did this all change four years ago? Well, I bought a pair of fuzzy bunny slippers and jumped WAY out of my comfort zone.
This was not an easy transition. There was incredible risk in giving up everything with which I had become familiar, based upon one premise: I wanted to do something that would make me happy. The last “office job” that I held just wasn’t cutting it. After quite a bit of soul-searching, I came to realize that instead of beating my head against the wall trying to change that environment, what really needed to change was… drum roll …. me!
Since I took the leap to being my own boss, many of my gal pals, sitting next to me here in the middle-aged cheap seats, have also contemplated work/life balance and have made some changes to their lives. Is it our age, or is it something else? Hmmm…
I’m happy to report back that, going on my fifth year as an Independent Consultant, I’m still LOVIN being out on my own. There have been some important “aha” moments for me along the journey. What’s described below might not be accurate for everyone who is their own boss – these are some of my personal self-truths:
- Do your homework before you jump. To be honest, I wish I had done more research before I gave up my full-time job. Regarding the logistics, I was lucky in that my husband had already started our company to promote his project management consulting. It was relatively easy to expand the company to include public policy and create a portfolio for my new independent work. If you are starting from scratch, you’ll need to learn about establishing a business, tax ramifications, attaining health insurance, developing a business plan, etc. There are some excellent resources for small businesses, women entrepreneurs, and Independent consultants. Some of my favorites are:
Part II of your “homework” needs to be researching the field of work that you want to pursue. As an Independent, you’re going to be selling, in part, yourself. You need to know as much as possible about your sphere of influence before you can successfully maneuver. This leads to my second “aha”…
- It helps to stay “in-field” – work what you know. I worked in public policy for over twenty years before I went solo. I had built a network of connections and colleagues and a fairly strong yet informal support system. I’m not saying you can’t go from nursing to being a stockbroker; it’s just more difficult to change fields/professions AND go independent at the same time.
- Be prepared for what it’s like working from a home office. You need to be realistic and honest about your own needs and strengths. Working as an Independent can feel a bit isolating at times – if you need to be around other people every day; working from a home office might not be for you.
The “attention deficit disorder syndrome” can also kick-in: it is very easy to get distracted without the formal confines of a workplace. What has worked best for me has been to:
Ø create and keep a calendar;
Ø adhere to a schedule; and
Ø build out a portfolio that keeps me in touch with multiple clients most weeks.
For additional insight and recommendations, here is an excellent article from the Wall Street Journal on this subject: “Working From Home Without Slacking Off.”
Once I found my balance, I’ve come to enjoy and appreciate the benefits of working from a home office. This is where my fuzzy pink bunny slippers come in: I can do a load of laundry during a conference call or make cookies while listening to a webinar – and never have to put on a suit or drive that crazy back and forth, to and from the city. I now have an easy five minute commute: out of bed; slippers on; down the stair to my desk (with coffee); and the computer booted up. This has proven to be hugely beneficial to my health and well-being. I can also work when I’m inspired to work; as long as I meet the deadlines and expectations of my clients. This flexibility has also enabled me to dedicate more time to writing; something I never thought I would be able to do until I retired.
I have additional suggestions for working successfully as an Independent, but I’ll leave that to a future blog topic – perhaps the top ten ways to build a client portfolio. For now, I would like to hear back from you:
Cheers, and I hope you receive those fuzzy bunny slippers in your stocking this year,