In the work-for-yourself world people are super focused on starting things and getting work. It makes sense, right? If you're self-employed you better get your butt in gear so you have some work to do and income to, you know, eat and stay sheltered. But what happens when you've started something, done it for a while but are ready for something new? There's no blueprint on how to quit a job you created for yourself and while it may seem obvious (stop doing it), it's not as simple as all that. I recently quit (or as I like to say, retired) my blog, the Somerville Beat, and I learned a lot along the way. Here are the things that helped the most with this challenging process.
Have a heart-to-heart with yourself. I know a lot of people who work for themselves and still more who want to, so it's easy to get caught up in the glamour (haha) of it all and feel guilty when you're unhappy with your situation. It took me a long time to shut out the noise and truly get honest with myself about how unfulfilled and overwhelmed I felt by my work life. Even after I admitted to myself and a few others that I needed to make some changes, it was difficult to actually make them. Letting go of what I'd built and starting to imagine what was next was hard. And because my gig was very public, it meant doing all of this with a lot of people watching. But once I got real with myself I was able to truly tap into what I wanted deep down.
Get a sounding board. While I work with a lot of people, I don't have any actual co-workers, so I don't have an automatic sounding board for career-related stuff. Luckily I have Mike, a successful entrepreneur who also happens to be my husband. He and a few others were able to help me sort out the difference between a few bad days at work and an ongoing cycle that was dragging me down. Saying that I wanted to change paths out loud also made it easier to start taking the actions I needed to make it happen. And once I started looking around at and talking to other self-employed people who had shifted gears, I realized I was far from the only one who'd done this, which made me feel a lot less alone.
Make a plan. I love planning and I knew letting go of the Beat and starting something new would require a good one. I started laying out the practical steps that it would take to put the Beat into retirement mode while laying the groundwork for my new gig as a communications consultant. Doing this simultaneously made me feel less like I was jumping off a cliff than simply taking a different path. Part of this step was deciding what I didn't want to do anymore and what I wanted to do instead. I made a lot of lists of what I liked doing and what I didn't, including hours I wanted to be working and skills I wanted to be using. Clarifying what wasn't working and what was helped me let go of the old and welcome the new.
Take action. I agonized a lot over what to say in my good-bye post on the Beat and was really nervous about announcing the end of the site. But when I finally did, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community. All this love made me feel even better about my choice and allowed me to parlay many business contacts into my new career path. And because I laid the groundwork for my consulting business while wrapping up the Beat, I was able to jump right into that when the time came.
Don't burn bridges. One the biggest pieces of advice I have for anyone making a big career transition, whether you're self-employed or not, is to be careful not to burn any bridges and to fulfill all of your obligations. Make sure important people hear about the change first directly from you, take responsibility for any work you need to complete and leave the door open for future collaboration. Doing this will not only help with your peace of mind but will also give you a large network of people to tap when embarking on your new career path.
Take a break. Saying good-bye to the Beat was bittersweet and while I was eager to get started on my new project, I also needed time to rest. One of the reasons I wanted to make such a big change was getting some time and energy back. I needed to refuel and relax before diving into a new endeavor, so that's what I did. A vacation, time spent reflecting and catching up on some sleep were all integral to creating space between the old gig and the new one.
Move on. Before my break I had said good-bye to the Beat, but I hadn't totally let go. After I came back, I was ready to dive into my consulting business. And while I miss some things about the Beat, I can say now, with a little perspective, that I'm so glad I decided to make the changes I did. I'm less stressed out, more fulfilled by my work and excited to see what the future brings.
If you've made a big career change, especially if you're self-employed, I'd love for you to share your story in the comments. What was the hardest part? The easiest? What helped the most? What advice would you give to someone embarking on a similar journey?