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. (more…)
It’s kind of just grown into a tradition for this date. Not sure how or why, but here’s the update to last year’s December 11 post, “What a Difference a Year Makes” …
This Spring found us moving again, which is a story unto itself. But the Reader’s Digest version is that our landlord “surprised” us with the news that she had a buyer interested in the townhome we were renting – even though we had been assured the unit wouldn’t be on the market during the term of our one-year lease. As sometimes happens when your back is to the wall (“Oh my gosh, where are we going to go?”), we made a knee-jerk decision to make an offer on the property and buy it ourselves. Although we started the purchase process, when the transaction didn’t come together, it actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise, since our new place suits us much better in almost every way.
Moral of the story: Trust in the Universe and let it do its magic. When one door closes, another will open for you. Our trust was rewarded and we are reminded of it in so many ways every day – as Tim works on his photo post-processing in our home office (bonus!) or I work in my huge kitchen with so many cabinets I literally cannot fill all of them, even with nearly 30 years of accumulated “kitchen stuff”! We marvel every time we sit out on our deck in our wooded backyard, with its sweet little stream and a beautiful view of Cadillac Mountain – the outdoor living space we missed so much in our last place. We are grateful for having been able to find the first place when we were really, really up against the wall, trying to find a place to live on extremely short notice, but we are infinitely happier now. It’s all good. 🙂
Let’s hear it for those creating their own economy through online work!
Recent online articles from Inc Magazine, Kiplingers, and Entrepreneur validate what I’ve been saying for the last several years: location-independence is the way to go!
It’s not just the shape of things to come – it’s the shape of the way things ARE! I may have been the pioneer of this lifestyle among my own colleagues and peers, but this is clearly emerging as a worldwide trend and I believe it’s here to stay. Over the last couple of years, I consciously transformed my own business for location-independence, and now 90-95% of my business activities take place in the virtual world.
The intelligent use of available technology saves time, travel, and money – for both me and my clients. Here’s how:
TIME: No one needs to travel to a meeting. When a simple conversation will suffice, I utilize phone calls, email and conference calls. Does everyone at the meeting need to reference certain documents? In those instances, I prefer GoToMeeting, which lets us share documents on each participant’s computer screen. And I find Skype video calls to be a great way to conduct face-to-face (F2F) meetings.
Another benefit of the location-independent lifestyle is that, even with clients in different time zones, time itself becomes less of a factor. I can (and do) easily adjust my workday to accommodate my clients’ time zones and deadlines. My “office” is wherever my laptop and smart phone and I happen to be, and it doesn’t necessarily open at 9 AM and close at 5 PM Eastern. I can be on a conference call at 7 AM or working on a client project at 2 AM (typically not in the same day, of course!) – all the better to take advantage of a gloriously sunny afternoon by the sea, which I often do!
And working from home means never having to say you’re sorry you came to the meeting in your pajamas – although, if Skyping, I do recommend dressing at least the top half of your body 😉
TRAVEL: Like many service businesses, the services I offer cross geographical boundaries. I can as easily serve businesses and individuals here in the northeast as those in southern California; I can serve folks in the U.K. as easily as those in the States.
What does that mean to my clients? I no longer have to jump on a plane, train, or into an automobile to meet with them. No airfaire or train fare, no ground transportation, no hotels or meals. No gasoline, tolls or parking fees. And, of course, no time lost getting to the meeting (all of which is always figured into a professional’s fee, whether it’s itemized or not).
MONEY: In addition to the travel expenses mentioned above, let’s not forget the even bigger expense of hiring an in-house professional to do what I do. When you hire an employee, you take on the added expense of office space, furniture and supplies; office equipment such as a computer, printer, cell phone, etc – perhaps even a company car. And “salary” does not even come close to defining the true cost of hiring; there’s also the cost of health benefits, paid time off, payroll taxes, bonuses and a retirement plan to consider.
Am I a believer in the online economy? You bet I am!
So … what is your business doing to make it easier for prospects and customers to choose working with YOU?
Last December 11, I posted an entry in this blog in which I announced Tim’s and my plans to pick up stakes and live a life of freedom and travel and writing and photography – and work from wherever life happened to take us. The reality – as is almost always the case – turned out to be just a bit different than what I originally had in mind. But 2010 has been a year of self-discovery and dream fulfillment, nonetheless.
In retrospect, despite the planning and logistics involved, it all seems to have happened while in a walking dream. Would it be a cliche to use the word “surreal”??
We did, of course, sell our home in New Jersey – in 32 days! – almost record time, based on the economic realities of the day. And with just five weeks between signed contract and scheduled closing, we did manage to find a place to live – 600 miles away – in just five days flat, and sell / donate / give away a lot of our excess “stuff” before packing up the moving truck and heading Downeast.
I know … it all sounds so easy, right?
But here’s the previously “untold story” of the big move …
I don’t mind admitting that I had a near meltdown on the actual day of moving. I was so exhausted, and although it LOOKED and FELT like we had been making outstanding progress during those five weeks, the reality of June 2nd was that “WE ARE NEVER GOING TO GET OUT OF THIS HOUSE!” (<<< That’s me wailing at 12 Noon)
Our “leaving the driveway” time had been set for 8 AM and somehow we found ourselves still emptying our Master Bedroom closets and packing up my jewelry in mid-afternoon (how could we have forgotten our clothes and my jewelry???) …
The cat had been sedated since 10 AM (we still had hopes of leaving before noon, at that point), and I was casting sidewise glances at his pill bottle myself by 2 o’clock.
Throughout the afternoon, I was still running back-and-forth to our next door neighbor’s house to beg and borrow more boxes (the thousand I bought at Lowe’s not having been sufficient … don’t ask), and I was finally reduced to stuffing the remainder of our things into big green Glad trash bags. If stress were measured on a thermometer, my temperature would have been 212 degrees.
At one point, I begged Tim to just throw the mattress down on the living room floor and “Let’s just leave tomorrow morning!” Cooler heads (OK, Tim’s) prevailed, and we pushed on. I don’t think I’ve ever been more physically and mentally fatigued, although Tim had to be suffering more than I, as he did the lion’s share of the physical labor, in 90+ degree heat and humidity, no less.
Finally pulling away at 4 PM – Felix and me in the Eos and Tim piloting the can’t-fit-so-much-as-another-paperclip-in-here U-Haul – off we went to meet our future. I didn’t cry … OK, well, maybe just a little … but it was all over before we hit the New Jersey Turnpike. And no one knew (until now) except Felix, and he’s the most loyal cat in the world. (You never heard any of this from him, right?)
Owing to the late start, the original plan of a straight drive through was now out of the question. On the third check-in attempt (since the original plan did not include a stopover, I never looked up “pet-friendly hotels”), I decided it would be easiest to just sneak the cat into the motel, which we did. The next morning, he refused to eat the drugged food (loyal AND smart!), so we proceeded undrugged and uneventfully on to Bar Harbor. Well, except for the rain. Thankfully, I had gone ahead and hired people to unload the truck at our new place, after watching Tim struggle through loading a 17-foot moving truck virtually by himself for two full days. Those people were a Godsend, because by the time we arrived, we were just spent – the wind had gone completely out of our sails.
So, after dreaming about it for 21 years and putting every last waking moment of five weeks’ time into moving, we were home, and the main thought in my head was, “Oh my gosh … this is REAL!”
Despite the stutter-step of a 12-days-delayed closing and the very real threat that it would never happen at all (yes, AFTER we were already all settled in Bar Harbor! – but all’s well that ends well, I suppose), the hubs enjoyed (to paraphrase George Costanza), “The Summer of Tim” (c’mon, Seinfeld fans, you know what I’m talking about). This I happily participated in, since it entailed a lot of soaking up the bright sunshine and basking in seaspray along the rocky coast, living mostly like tourists in our new hometown, pursuing our shared interest in photography, and me with my laptop, hard(?) at work in the Adirondack chair on the front porch – every so often glancing up at the peak of Cadillac Mountain and pinching myself to see if it was all real. Yes, it was an idyllic existence that, quite literally, combined business and pleasure – with a decided emphasis on pleasure.
Fall brought on the inevitable realization that I needed to bring “break time” to an end and return to business in a serious way. Luckily, my part-time siesta did no long-term damage to my business or my professional reputation – on the contrary, this entire odyssey seems to have rekindled interest among some of my earliest clients while garnering new supporters, followers, and fans. This whole “following my dreams” and “living life on my own terms” thing seems to be resonating with a lot of people! In my heart of hearts, I think I knew it would.
Lately, however, the uncertainties of renting vs. owning have been weighing on us. Having been homeowners for our entire marriage, we’re finding it a bit disconcerting to have the end of a lease hanging over our heads. And a year goes by a lot faster when you’re counting down the months to potential homelessness. So, now we’re trying to decide: longer term lease or purchase a property here as a home base?
We still plan to travel some, hopefully beginning next year. The transformation of my business to being totally portable is complete, and I couldn’t be happier about that. I’ve taken on several new clients and secured a couple of contracts with previous clients since moving here, and the new business model is working really well for all concerned. So, in that sense, I am “living a life untethered,” as I originally planned. But what a long strange trip it’s been!
As I look back on this year, my wish is that those who may be inspired by my crazy, ongoing story decide to grab the reins of their own life and ride on!
Yes, it’s a leap of faith, but if you don’t have faith in your ability to make your dreams come true, who can do it for you?