Like my co-author for this article, Julie Evans, and many in our networks, I will shortly be leaving full-time employment to establish my own business. Whilst everyone’s context is unique, we’ve identified some common issues, fears and aspirations that arise when taking this life-changing decision.
What on earth will I do?
For those choosing not to find another salaried job this is a tough question. I knew I had a passion for coaching and Julie has a wealth of change experience, but you still need to develop a very clear offering.
Early market research and talking to as many people as you can about your ideas can help. Using a coach to understand your values and transferrable skills is a worthwhile investment. There is a temptation to try and ‘boil the ocean’ because you want to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, but most successful business people rave about focus, focus, focus.
Get creative and consider (and refine) as many options as you can. You can get specific in time.
What about the stuff I don’t know?
When you consider losing access to the IT guy who always fixes your laptop, the procurement team and your colleague who creates whizzy PowerPoint presentations from the vaguest brief, you realise there’s lots you don’t know. From inside an organisation it’s fairly easy to identify and access expertise you don’t have for free.
We both admit to being ‘technically challenged’. We avoid spending time on finance unless forced to and don’t have a clue about running social media campaigns. A very wise contact once asked Julie how much she’d like to charge for her time then how much time she thought these tasks would need. The light dawned, use other experts wisely!
You’ll never be able to do everything so don’t sweat about skills gaps. You’ll already have contacts who can plug some of these in your support network.
How will I survive without my monthly salary?
It’s hard to give this up when you’ve been employed since you left college. Corporate life gives you a huge, soft, comfortable safety blanket. This includes your pension, regular salary, paid holidays, paid sick leave and other benefits that it’s easy to forget. You can plan ahead because you’re pretty much guaranteed consistency unless something drastic happens.
When you become self-employed you turn this stability upside down and inside out. Exit and redundancy packages can provide a short-term ‘cushion’ but you have to develop a sustainable business in the short-medium term. I opted to see a financial adviser which helped me understand my current situation and plan for the next 2-5 years.
Work out what is important to you and what you need. Use this to set your financial goals.
Don’t forget to explore other ways to provide yourself with the security that you need.
Why would anyone buy my services?
Here’s where our inner critic really gets to have some fun. Despite having worked hard to develop a good reputation and constantly learn during my working life, I can easily convince myself that I won’t be successful on my own. Suddenly all my skills and experience count for nothing.
It doesn’t make sense because we all invest in growing our personal brand and reputation constantly. The problem is that this feels much harder when you are working with and in new networks, contexts and whilst stretching outside your comfort zone.
You won’t suddenly cease to be successful without a large organisation behind you. The attitudes and behaviours that served you well in corporate life will support your career change.
What’s the missed opportunity if I stay?
This was the most influential question for us. We both wanted to follow our passions and spend more time doing work we each love every day. That wasn’t possible in our respective organisations. We’ve reached the stage in our careers where we don’t want to compromise. It’s taken us time to get really clear about what we excel at and what brings us joy in our work (and what doesn’t).
It’s that blend of experience, knowledge and confidence (and age!) that helps you to feel ready to get out there and sell yourself.
We’ve both been lucky enough to work for organisations that provided us with a rich tapestry of opportunities and experience. We want to share our knowledge to help other individuals, teams and organisations to thrive.
Control was another driver. From work routine to the clients you work with, self-employment puts you in control. We’d like a bit more of that too!
We’re excited about where leaving corporate life will take us. We don’t know the final destination or the exact route but we know we’ll grow personally and professionally whilst we make the journey.
We hope you found this article interesting and we’d love to hear about how you’ve faced life-changing decisions and how they turned out.
Julie Evans is a business consultant in continuous improvement and change management with 25 years experience working in various departments of a Global Pharma company. She helps individuals, teams, departments or companies to focus on doing the right things; to do the right things right; and always be thinking how to do the right things better in order to provide the best service to their customers and to reach both their business goals and personal ambitions.