During high school I had quite a few career aspirations. First I wanted to be a teacher (until I remembered I wasn’t really a fan of children). Then I wanted to be a lawyer (until I realised I’d end up with a student loan on par with the debt of a small country). Then I wanted to be a policewoman (until I discovered my inability to do press-ups). Finally I settled on becoming a writer, although back then I had no idea what that might look like.
When I was growing up, it never occurred to me that owning my own business was even a thing. My parents come from a generation where you got a job and stayed there forever. I did not grow up with an entrepreneurial spirit; I was not a child who sold lemonade on the side of the road. But now I’m proud to say that I don’t work for The Man anymore; I work for myself.
In a nutshell, here’s how it happened. Studied English at uni because it was my favourite subject at school. Discovered Media Studies so double-majored in that because … watching movies … enough said. Finished a BA but had no idea what English-related jobs were out there, other than journalism and teaching (no thanks). Went to film school to put off making a decision about what to do with my life. Got my First Real Job as a presentation director at Sky TV. After six months, became a director’s assistant at 3News (now Newshub). Did a smattering of blogging on the side to quench my writing thirst. Decided that was what I really wanted to do. Tried to move into television producing, to no avail. Took voluntary redundancy after four-ish years to pursue writing. Didn’t know how, didn’t know where, just knew that I needed to write. Freelanced as a director’s assistant at various places while I worked on the writing thing. Finally landed a job as the very first copywriter at GrabOne. Loved writing, loved creativity, loved job. Moved into management and marketing after a few years which was good for the CV and bank balance, but after a while, not so good for the heart. Started getting itchy feet because I felt trapped in management. Spent more time moaning about my job than doing anything about it. Kept dreaming of ‘being a writer’ but still didn’t know what that looked like or how to make it happen. Was seriously challenged by the sudden death of my friend, aged just 25 years, who didn’t have the opportunity to do the things he really wanted to do. Finally quit my job after four-ish years to set up a copywriting business called Lingo. And here we are.
Going it alone is bloody scary, particularly when self-employment has never crossed your mind before. I remember telling a successful businesswoman I really admire, “No! I don’t want the pressure of running my own business!” then sheepishly telling her just a few months later that I’d quit my job and was going it alone. When I took voluntary redundancy from TV3, Dad was like, “Follow your heart”, but Mum was like, “Whatareyoudoingjobsecurityareyoucrazy.” It all worked out though, so when I quit my job the second time they were both like, “Sweet as. Pass the wine? Cheers!”
For me, quitting my job (both times, actually) was about taking control of my own destiny. It was about taking a risk and taking back ownership of my life, rather than letting life just happen to me. It was about feeling fulfilled and being happy in an occupation that took up more of my time than my family, my friends, my sleep, my life did – all the good stuff that I found I often compromised because of work. My ovaries were also ticking so I figured doing my own thing might be helpful when the time came to multiply. And the death of my friend who had so much vision but no opportunity to do anything about it reminded me that life is too short to muck around with stuff you’re not that passionate about.
I had no office. I had no money. I didn’t have much, actually. But I did have a computer, and I had a lot of people. In my past life as an employee for The Man, I’d made a real effort to establish great relationships and develop a great reputation, so when it came to Lingo I knew I’d be able to find at least a handful of people who’d hire me. I emailed friends and strangers every day of the week. I hired an accountant because there’s a reason why I majored in English and not anything to do with numbers. I took business owners who’d been doing their thing for far longer than I had been out for coffee, and absorbed any kind of advice they could offer me. I started attending a weekly business breakfast with men who were old enough to be my dad. I took a genuine interest in what anyone around me did, so I could try to learn something off them. I worked my arse off during that first year of self-employment. And in that first year I earned just short of what I’d earned working for The Man the previous year.
Working for yourself is not easy. In fact (with the exception of having a baby and trying to be a great mum while finding the energy to also be great at my job), it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And if I’m totally honest, I’m still not sure what ‘being a writer’ looks like. Sometimes my day is filled with writing words for other people. Sometimes it’s filled with writing words for me. And sometimes it’s filled with Netflix (I call it ‘looking for inspiration’; my husband calls it ‘not having any work’).
But the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is one I’ve poached from Nike and turned into my personal mantra. Just do it. Just do something – anything. Because everyone has the right to own their own life. Because what’s the worst that could happen? Go and find another job?
Because YOLO. Literally.
This was originally published on Silver Minutes – read it here.