A woman I once met at an event said, “Omigosh, you have my dream job!”
Most days, I think that too. In fact, during a conversation about “the best thing that’s ever happened to you,” I realized that launching my business 28 years ago this month is my “best thing.”
However, I didn’t wait for it to happen to me. I deliberately took a leap of faith – and it’s one I have never regretted.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t as fast as a leap. Maybe it was more like stretching and warming up and slowly building up to a hop over the fence.
I agonized about it for more than a year. I registered the name Get It Write in January 1990 and signed up for a tax number the following December. The business was officially active on January 15, 1991 and the first invoice went out the next day. I haven’t looked back.
Among the best things about running my own business:
- No commute. Getting to or from my previous job could take half an hour (on the best of days), or three times that in ugly traffic on far too many days; I never knew which to expect. Plus I didn’t realize how much of a toll this took until I stopped doing it.
- More control over my day (mostly). Research shows that people who feel they have no control over their jobs are more likely to be stressed. As the boss of me, I’m in control. I can choose to accept an assignment, or I can turn down work that isn’t a good fit. I can decide in the morning to finish a specific project that day, and do it. Sure, there are still days when I am running flat out to meet several deadlines, but those days are balanced by calmer ones with nothing due that day.
- Variety. I can take on different work that interests me, and for a variety of clients. While I enjoy working on employee newsletters, I’ve been able to use the same writing skills to explain complicated research or capture the essence of a program in a concise summary. I can also distill information into “snackable” content like infographics and social media posts.
- Flexibility. Although I usually stick to a 9-to-5 type of schedule, I can start later and make up the time in the evening, or get errands done over an extended lunch. I can work flat out on a project for one client in the morning and a different client in the afternoon, or goof off when I need a break. When my sons were small, I sometimes volunteered at their school or helped chaperone field trips, making up the work time later. For a while, I also took weekly ski lessons, Thursdays at 11 a.m., so I could keep up with the boys on the slopes.
- Work/life balance. I’m not gonna lie; it’s hard to have it all, and all at the same time, especially with a family. But this is the closest I’ve ever come to balance. The early years with two small boys and a husband who travelled a fair amount were easier when I worked in a home office. Being home also meant we finally got a (much-longed-for) dog, and he was a great help in making sure I took regular breaks and got some exercise every day over nearly 14 years. Rain or shine! (I still miss Jake, and can’t read what I wrote about him without tearing up.)
If you’re thinking about launching your own business, too, I have lots of encouragement and advice. In 2016, I answered some questions in How to take the leap to the independent life. In a post marking 24 years in business in 2015 (I’m not waiting for LinkedIn to say congrats), I boil it down to four main areas:
- Be visible (go to networking events, have a website, be on social media).
- “Old school” still has value (meet in person, write thank yous, volunteer, have a business card).
- Spread the word (find work through connections, networking, word of mouth, prospecting, letting friends and family know what you do).
- Build a virtual team (get an accountant and other support; meet and partner with others).
A post written on my 23rd anniversary in 2014 (Thinking about hanging out your shingle? Start here) has more specific details, and colleagues share more great tips in the comments.
These days, you’ll find lots more resources and groups supporting freelancers than there were even 10 years ago, including IABC/Toronto’s Professional Independent Communicators and my local Communicators Connection.
If you’re hesitating about taking that leap, I encourage you to explore the possibilities. And let me know how you do!
Updated January 14, 2019.