February 11, 2010…
It was the day I’d been waiting for, for at least five years. If not longer.
I’d discovered copywriting way back in 2005. I’d known before that I did NOT want to live my life on a “cubicle farm,” but I had no clue what I’d do.
Then, in early 2005, while answering customer service calls for the local gas company, I discovered this thing called “copywriting.”
Turns out you could work from home, writing for businesses, and make a pretty good income doing it.
At that time, I was in no position to make the leap…
I was engaged to be married, and my bride-to-be and I were planning a move from Nebraska to Oregon, so she could start her Ph.D. program. We’d signed up for roughly five years of tight finances, because even though she would be paid to go to school, it was little more than a meager cost-of-living stipend.
I had to work. And the money had to be consistent.
I’d just graduated with an undergrad degree in psychology, but I knew I didn’t really have a future in the field. With a bachelor’s degree (… of arts, no less!) you couldn’t get much a professional-level job in psych.
After graduation, knowing it would be temporary, I took the full time job in the customer service call center, just to pay some bills. It was horrible. Most of my day was just the bland and monotonous variety of soul-sucking. But then someone would call up who had just had their gas shut off for months’ worth of unpaid bills. And somehow it was my fault. I had to peacefully listen to them scream a world of blame at me, and then try to be nice and help them choose between options they didn’t like. Yay!
Then, reading books between calls, I stumbled on this thing called copywriting. I knew as soon as I discovered it that it was for me. I was a reasonably competent writer, and I loved the idea of independence.
But I had to compromise.
I decided I’d try to get a job in marketing, hone my copywriting skills, and I could go out on my own later…
Since I was moving to Oregon in a few months anyway, I was in a good position for a big change.
I took about three books’ worth of copywriting knowledge and started applying for jobs. I told the companies I was applying to that I didn’t have experience, but what I lacked there I’d make up in hard work.
Some fool believed me. 🙂
I got a job. A really good job. Working for a web-based IT training video publisher. Their marketing guy had just moved up to President of the company, leaving a lot of work for someone to fill.
I got my first taste of freelancing that summer, before we even moved. As we waited for our wedding, I completed a few pay-per-project assignments for my future employer. They didn’t fire me before my first day, thankfully.
We moved to Oregon, and things went well. Too well, in fact!
I quickly proved my worth to the company. My income had jumped about 25% just by taking the job. It jumped another 25% or so within a few months. I kept bringing in sales with my marketing, so my income kept growing.
All along the way, I was enjoying the Silicon Valley lifestyle, if a few hundred miles north. It was a fun office. There were Nerf gun wars, weekly free lunch, and often free sushi on top of that. We worked hard, but played harder.
This would all have been great if I didn’t have such a strong urge to go out on my own.
But because this was one of the best possible jobs I could of hoped for, it caused me to set my dreams of freedom aside. The more success we enjoyed, the harder it was to convince myself I’d be better on my own.
But then, a few short years later, my wife was finishing her Ph.D. program. We’d have to move across the country once again, for her internship. And with plans to move back home to Nebraska after that, Oregon was destined to become that place we’d lived once, but would probably never live again.
I’d gotten a little freelance experience here and there along the way. I couldn’t really contain myself. So I had some experience and some momentum leading up to this point.
But then, I reached a critical juncture.
I had two choices…
- I could start searching for a job in Ames, Iowa, where we’d be living for the next year. Or…
- I could officially launch my full-time freelance business.
It was the excuse I’d needed all along. The great job was going away, no matter what. That wasn’t really an option after our move.
And even we could have still used the “security” of a full-time job (I have my thoughts on that, but I’ll hold them for now)… I didn’t really see it as an option. Especially because we’d only be in Ames for a year, and that would severely limit our options.
It was time to make the full-time freelancing work.
Making the decision put everything in motion…
I had no idea how powerful it would be to simply make that decision. I didn’t have a clear plan at that point, but I knew I had to make it work. And so I decided, then I did.
I attended the 2009 AWAI Bootcamp. I’d been working with them a little bit before that. It cemented my relationship with them. I also met with and got introduced to a ton of other great marketers there, that would lead to many opportunities down the road.
I returned home, full of blustering confidence that I would make this happen.
I set a goal to finish February at my job, and started telling my side clients that’s what would happen. Then, the work started to stack up. Suddenly, I was looking at a calendar full of work, and it was only the end of January.
That’s when I decided I’d have to do it early.
I talked with my wife over the weekend, and on Monday, February 1, 2010, I walked into the office, resolute.
I told my immediate boss first. He knew what was happening, the moment I walked into his office. I gave him two weeks’ notice, and he congratulated me. He’d known it was coming since they hired me. He was happy to have kept me as long as he did.
Then the owner of the company came in. I asked him for a meeting in the “tree house” — a small corner conference room in our third-floor office. “You’re not leaving me, are you?” He asked as he closed the door. “Well, actually…” He wasn’t as congratulatory as my direct boss, but he accepted fate.
I decided I wanted a long weekend before officially “starting my biz.”
So on Thursday, February 11th, I walked out someone else’s office for the very last time.
I’ve set up a Google Calendar reminder to send me an email every year…
It’s my own personal holiday — my Personal Independence Day.
It’s something to celebrate now, and it will be something to celebrate for the rest of my life! (I’m celebrating by working today — but at least it’s in my own biz!)
It was the result of setting that intention for myself, making that decision, and focusing on making it happen.
I know a lot of people reading this are aspiring freelancers. Folks who’ve come to this copywriting or marketing or consulting thing, dreaming of the independence success can bring.
Sometimes it can feel like a long road to finally get there. For me, it took about five years to go from idea to reality. But now I’ve spent longer working for myself than I did not working for myself, after discovering this opportunity. And it most definitely was worth it — every single minute.
So… My call to action for you, if you haven’t yet made your own leap to personal independence (whatever that looks like for you)…
— Set a clear intention that this is what you want to do.
— Make the decision that you are going to follow through — preferably, set a date and give yourself a deadline.
— And focus on what you need to do now to make it happen by then.
Do those three things, and you’ll be surprised by how much you can accomplish, how fast.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
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