Since moving to Chicago almost three years ago, I’ve been running around the city trying to figure out how to make a life for myself.
Initially upon our arrival, I decided I wanted to switch careers since I could no longer work in pharmacy and I didn’t want to do administrative work for the rest of my life. I decided to become certified as a personal trainer and see where it went from there.
I was lucky in that Neil’s company paid for our relocation and helped us financially for a couple months following the move, so the amount of work I did was minimal. I started teaching fitness classes and continued to blog Monday – Friday. After awhile, for me, I felt like the household was unbalanced. I didn’t feel comfortable with the amount that I was contributing and I envisioned bigger things than where I had taken myself to this point.
I looked for other opportunities such as freelance writing I could do at home and additional teaching opportunities. Slowly but surely over two and a half years, I took just about every opportunity I could until I was finally able to create two businesses that bring in more than I’ve made at any previous job. I’m still managing a fitness program for an employer, but after August I will be completely self-employed.
Your goal may not to be to work for yourself and that’s absolutely fine. If that’s something you may want to strive for, however, here are some of the biggest things that have helped me over the past few years.
As much as I hate networking, I’m always reminded how valuable it is when I discover potential opportunities with other people or learn information I wouldn’t have otherwise known.
I’m what you’d term an “extroverted introvert” in that I have the ability to be outgoing and personable with a number of people, but when I’m done, I’m done. I’d rather not talk to people if I don’t have to, but I almost always walk away with a new piece of information or meet someone who could help further and improve what I’m already doing. This is why I know it’s important.
Some of my biggest opportunities have been from reaching out or asking questions to people I barely know.
Honestly, creating a life for yourself involves work. A lot of work. Consider yourself a start-up minus the capital that comes from outside investors so that you can earn a regular salary. It’s all you baby.
I still work an average of 60 hours a week, but the payoffs are larger. I am no longer riding the train a total of 60 min to train a client for 30. I can afford to not wake up at 4 am or be committed every Friday evening to teaching classes, but I did that for a couple years because I needed to. In any business where you work for yourself, you have to do what you can with what you have in order to grow.
Figure out what your priorities and goals are and then figure out what you need to do to get there. It’s going to take work. If you’re upset that other people are more successful than you, don’t whine and complain about it, take a look at yourself, figure out what you need to do differently, and put in the work to get there.
Comparing yourself to someone else is time you could be using to be better than you were yesterday.
A common theme I see in a lot of successful bloggers is that they plan. And plan. And plan. They’re not flying by the seat of their pants; they think about the bigger picture, they plan content, and they strategize in order to grow.
Because I make an income from both blogging and personal training, I need to structure my weeks so that I can do both. I know I don’t write well if I also have clients throughout the day because it leaves me feeling scattered mentally. Because of that, I have significant chunks of time blocked off so that I can concentrate on one thing at a time.
Create and set boundaries
If you don’t figure out your boundaries and stand behind them, you’re going to burn out. Fast. As your work evolves, do a cost-benefit analysis to see what things could be removed from or changed about your schedule. Here are a few of the one I’ve set for myself to respect my time and my sanity:
- I don’t train on the weekends
- I won’t travel outside my training radius to see clients
- I won’t do sponsored content for a rate that I feel is below the value I offer
- I won’t promote things I don’t use or believe in myself
Ask for help
Thankfully, being in recovery taught me how to do this, but I know firsthand how hard it can be to ask someone else for help. It’s tough to admit that you can’t do everything on our own, but if you’re going to grow, you have to let others help you.
This year I finally hired an accountant because I was overwhelmed with my finances. Without doing that it would have been MUCH longer before I incorporated my businesses, if ever. When I needed help on this site, rather than Google how to code something myself and inevitably break it, I asked people who knew about programming and web design. Find people who know how to do the things you can’t. It will free up time for you to do what you do best.
Ultimately, making the shift to self-employment involves being practical about what is and isn’t feasible. It’s thinking about the big picture and knowing that no matter the ups and downs, as long as you stay confident and committed, you’ve got this.