I’m going to get a little personal here today, I hope you don’t mind. But I’m celebrating a rather unusual milestone, and I’d like to share it with you, in the hopes that it will inspire you during these still uncertain times.
Ten years ago today, I fled corporate life for the last time.
Oh, I had been an entrepreneur off-and-on since before I was old enough to order an adult beverage, but somehow every so often I’d get lured back in to other people’s companies with promises of “opportunity,” titles and, yes, a steady (and healthy) paycheck. I can assure you that none of the three was worth the price of my soul, which is pretty much what I had to give up each time I allowed myself to be persuaded to leave my happy little cocoon of entrepreneurship.
But on September 27, 2002, I left and never looked back.
I began to build a business that combined my passion (marketing) with my strengths (creativity, an embracing of new technologies, and a seriousness of purpose tempered by a sense of humor), and I networked for all I was worth. It was refreshing and energizing to share my vision with former employers, co-workers and colleagues, many of whom hired me or referred my services to others in their networks. This, combined with innovative online and email marketing, and I was at six figures in almost no time and loving the challenges that came my way.
Over the last 10 years, I have had my ups and downs – like every business owner – and some of them were pretty serious, as you can imagine, considering the financial events of the last few years. By now, everyone’s familiar with the term “real estate bubble,” but when the bottom fell out of the real estate market, literally 100 percent of my clients were home builders. I felt the pain almost immediately.
As someone who had done more than her fair share of market studies over the years, I recognized the first subtle, tell-tale signs of a market sliding. And while I can’t claim to have known immediately how severe the downturn would be, I did find myself warning clients, colleagues and even some of my competitors of my growing sense of foreboding as the months of bad news wore on. I kept seeing interviews with so-called icons of the industry, in which they assured reporters and business analysts that “all was well,” that it was “just the cyclical nature of the business.” One of the most prominent men in the home building industry actually went on national television and said specifically, “There is no ‘housing bubble.’”
Having been on the inside of that industry for so long, I knew it just wasn’t true. I knew what had really happened. And while it was shocking how quickly things were going seriously bad, in some ways I wasn’t as surprised as some of my peers who seemed to have bought into the myth of ever-increasing real estate values and the Utopian vision of full home ownership for all. I am sad to say that some of the home builders I knew well lost their businesses; virtually all of the rest downsized severely and are not yet fully recovered. Many of my former colleagues still are not working.
So why am I still here? Because I did more than worry and warn.
I took action.
I took positive steps to diversify my clientele. No longer would I have all my invoices in one basket!
More importantly, however, I began to re-imagine my business – my brand – as something that could transport me to places I hadn’t been before – and one which I could take with me, wherever and whenever I chose to go.
I started taking steps to transform my business for portability, because the concept of location-independence really appealed to me and there seemed to be no better time than the present to make some wholesale changes. Thus, my brand (providing marketing strategies for home builders) was re-imagined as one focused on helping entrepreneurial businesses of all types harness the power of social media, online and email marketing to create more leads, sales and profits.
So, here I am, 5 years after the first signs of the financial crisis, with a business that is literally contained within my technology – laptop (soon to be tablet), smart phone, the cloud. Thanks to Skype, teleseminars, webcasts, podcasts and online conference services, my clients and I save appreciable amounts of money on travel, since face-to-face meetings and training sessions are necessary only occasionally.
Having created a location-independent lifestyle through my business, I am now able to live in my version of paradise, in Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island, Maine, home to Acadia National Park, which is quite literally in my backyard. My husband and I are in the process of launching a second business – a unique blend of travel, photography, and education – the progress of which I’ll keep you apprised here as it develops (no pun intended).
I like to say that, after 10 consecutive years, I am now officially unemployable.
I can’t imagine going back to a job where my activities and my earnings are dictated by someone else. No longer am I willing to be tied to one location because “that’s where my clients are.” This is the life I had imagined – and created for myself - and I’m loving it!
So, as I look back on the last 10 years and assess what I want the next 10 years to look like, I have been asking myself:
What do your clients and prospective clients want from you next?
I actually started keeping a record of the kinds of questions I got that had nothing to do with my primary offerings of social media and email marketing. What I found was that not a week goes by that a fellow entrepreneur (or entrepreneur-in-waiting) doesn’t reach out to me and ask, “How did you do it?” Some want to know how to start a business; others are currently “stuck” in their existing business and don’t know how (or in which direction) to push forward. There are a few who would love to start the next chapters of their lives in a new location, but fear the unknown.
Some of the questions I receive rather routinely include:
- Is this the best time to step out on my own?
- How do I turn my knowledge into an actual business?
- I’m not that tech-savvy; what do I have to know and what can I delegate to others?
- Where do I look for clients – and what’s the most effective way to reach them?
- How do I set a value on my products and services? What terms should I insist upon, and how do I broach that topic with a prospective client?
- How do I go about selling my home in the current market?
- What is it really like to…? [pull up stakes, downsize, relocate, start over somewhere new]
- How do you handle the naysayers (who are often those closest to you!) when you decide to act boldly and live life on your own terms?
Have you ever asked yourself any of these questions?
What dreams are you holding inside? Do you need help unleashing them? As I move forward into the “second decade” of this chapter of my life, I really want to help as many people as possible achieve their dreams of business ownership on their terms.
I’ve been where you are, undecided, feeling “stuck,” not sure if maybe I’m not just a little crazy for wanting something different.
As I announced here earlier this year, I’m in the midst of re-imagining my brand. What’s come out of that process is a desire to address these and other questions with those who want to blaze their own trail and take control of their future.
This is why I’m celebrating! Knowing precisely what you have to offer the world and how you will deliver it to those who need you the most is powerful stuff!
You probably noticed a slightly different look to the masthead of this website and my free eNewsletter. These are interim changes that are just beginning to reflect my new sense of purpose and the fresh new approach I’m taking to my calling. Watch for more changes in the coming weeks and months.
I’ll still be providing marketing expertise, of course – but I want to integrate that into my larger purpose of helping entrepreneurs conceptualize, develop and grow their businesses, whether in a more traditional model or as the catalyst for a location-independent lifestyle.
I need your input.
So would you join me in celebrating my first decade of true freedom by helping me create the content for a really kick-a$$ teleseminar focused on taking the first steps toward becoming unemployable?
If you have questions you’d like to ask of someone who’s been there, take this survey and let me know exactly what content would be most meaningful and helpful to you.
And please feel free to pass this on to your family, friends or colleagues who might be contemplating stepping up to the future in a bold way. As I said, I want to help as many people as possible achieve their dreams!
I’ll be announcing the date of the teleseminar soon.
Thanks so much!