For some time I have been writing about how I quit my job and made the transition from competitive to the creative life. It might sound like; I walked to my boss’s office, handed in my resignation and stormed out never to come back. That is not true.
I didn’t quit my job on a whim and then sat at home twiddling my thumbs thinking ‘what next?’ I planned it and gave myself two years to transition from a competitive to a creative life.
The transition was not easy. While planning on my own, I wasn’t sure whether I was covering all the grounds. Imagine my surprise when I found out that there is a ‘coach’ out there who specializes in helping people ‘quit’ their jobs.
I found Blaire Palmer who runs a website A Brilliant Gamble and coaching business after I had already quit my job and established my business. But Blaire has more than twenty years of experience helping people to do just the same.
Many of my readers want to get out of their jobs to lead lives inspired by their creativity but find it too hard to break the cycle.
I decided to ask Blaire how she did it and how she advises her clients to do it. Below are her responses.
Would you please let us know about your own journey from competitive to a creative life?
I was a BBC Journalist for a decade before starting my coaching business in 2000. Having said that, as a student I’d been a volunteer for a student counseling service called Nightline. We were trained by The Samaritans in non-judgemental, non-directive questioning to access the wisdom of the other person so coaching was kind of in my blood from a young age.
But when at the age of 29 I read a newspaper article about the new profession of coaching, I realized that it was perfect for me. I got a coach (the one from the newspaper piece) and started planning my exit from the BBC.
Having trained with Coach U I grew my business to nearly seven figures before having another change of priorities and deciding to reduce the size of the business and get back to my roots – coaching and speaking rather than running a business where other people in my team got to do the work I loved while I spent hours on budgets, salary negotiations and trying to pay the bills!
When you decided to make the transition from competitive (job) to creative (leadership coach) life, what planning you did? How long it took you to make the transition?
I decided to become a coach about a year before I actually left my job. I had done some coaching first to ensure it was the right choice for me and then began my training about 3 months later. I started working with non-paying clients first just to get some experience but quickly felt like I was adding value so I started charging.
After 6 months I had 6 clients, paying me the equivalent of half of my BBC salary, that I was working within the evenings and weekends. I’d been saving that money to build a financial runway so that I had a bit of money to live on once I left my job and then felt confident it was time to leave. I couldn’t take on more clients AND keep my full-time job.
It took another 3 months to get all the pieces in place (I tried to negotiate to go part-time or taking a sabbatical but my organization wouldn’t agree) so I handed in my notice in the August of the year and was sitting at my desk, at home, thinking ‘What now?” by the September.
What are the main key areas to plan during the transition to lead a creative life?
The money! That is critical. It can take a year or more to get your business off the ground. And even then you’ll have bad months. Lack of cash flow kills businesses even if you’ve got a healthy pipeline and you don’t want to pressure clients to work with you before they are ready just because you need their money. So get some savings in place, cut your outgoings if you can, have a backup plan if things don’t work as quickly as you hoped.
Test out your business model. You might know what you’d love to do instead and think that other people would be willing to pay for it. But you won’t know for sure until you try. Start your new venture as a side hustle and see if you can get customers or clients to part with their cash. You might have to tweak your idea or think again until you find the right services and products.
Create networks. This might be a network of people who can refer business to you, a network of your ideal clients/customers and a network of other business people who can offer support and advice. You’ll need all three! And the earlier you start the better. Their advice and feedback will be really helpful and later you can give others the benefits of your experience.
Financial worries are the main reason that stops people from quitting their job, what advice do you give people regarding that?
Yes, you’re taking a financial risk when you quit your job. But you’re also giving yourself the chance to earn more doing something you love.
Everyone worries about money. Some worry so much that they stick with a job or lifestyle they hate just because it’s relatively secure. For me, security isn’t as important as some other things that matter to me. I’d rather live with the insecurity than do something I don’t like and that I can’t change.
With a business of your own, if it’s not working you rethink, pivot, do some more selling, change your pricing…you have options. It suits my character better because I trust that I will be able to come up with ideas and just keep plugging away until something works.
So if security is top of your list of priorities running a business probably isn’t for you. If it’s up there but other things are more powerful for you, then you’re more likely to take the plunge.
Plus, you do become more comfortable about the insecurity the more you live with it. You’ll get more risk-tolerant with time. But it doesn’t suit everyone.
What are the pitfalls of earning a living from your creativity one should be aware of and plan for?
While you left your job because you wanted to be more creative there’s a lot about running a business that isn’t creative at all. Budgets and finance, sales and marketing, answering emails and dealing with customer queries…You only get to spend a small proportion of your time doing the thing that makes the money. The rest is all the other stuff that keeps the show on the road.
Someone I spoke to a few days ago who has a very successful VA (Virtual Assistant) business aid 80% of her time is marketing, creating content to promote herself and her business, handling queries. Only 20% is the actual VA work. I’d say this is pretty typical. So when you imagine your day just crocheting baby booties or coaching people or teaching the violin to kids remember that’s just a small part of running a business.
Another pitfall can be that the thing you love turns in to your business which might make it less fun. Now you’re doing it because it pays the bills. You can’t just wait for your muse to strike. You have to get yourself into the right frame of mind like it or not!
What rewards you had for making the transition to a creative life?
The biggest reward for me is the freedom to make my own choices. Having run a business for 20 years I’ve changed it many times. I’ve had to adapt to changes in the market, my life circumstances, my needs…but all of that is in my power.
I don’t have to ask permission to change the copy on my website or create a new product or take a course. I don’t have to do office politics, or presenteeism or apply for a promotion. I choose my clients as much as they choose me. I don’t think I could ever give that up!
That makes sense.
The decision to quit your job and being an entrepreneur or a solopreneur is a big one and not to be taken lightly.
It is worth reading Blaire’s post signs it is time to quit your job and getting her free Escape the Rat Race Checklist to have a handy list of tasks and questions you need to consider if you make the decision to live the life you want to live.
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