“The past is not your potential. In any hour you can choose to liberate the future.” ~Marilyn Ferguson
Hands down, the best career decision I ever made was starting a blog. It has opened my eyes to non-traditional career and income models, providing a thrilling way to make money and enjoy freedom.
Granted, when I made it, I didn't know it was a career decision. I thought it was a marketing decision. But it has turned into a magical door that has led me to other doors, that have led me to opportunities that are allowing me to create an amazing lifestyle.
I use the word “magical” loosely here, because the only magical thing about it is my wild enthusiasm and joy for what I'm doing. That certainly feels magical. However, I have put in a boat load of real, tangible work in the last year. Strangely, it doesn't feel like work. If feels like fun, and that's what I've always wanted in a job. But I never thought it was possible.
As I mentioned earlier and in previous posts, I didn't plan on blogging as a career. I transitioned out of a very long career in public relations and went back to school to become a personal and career coach. I started blogging to market my coaching business.
I discovered that blogging allowed me to do many more things that I love doing:
discussing personal development topics
creative design (creating the blog design, laying out articles, selecting photos)
interacting with people
learning new skills
meeting people in different countries
Now my blog has allowed me to expand my streams of income beyond coaching alone. And some of the income streams are passive, meaning I created them and they continue to make money. I am starting to make a real livable income, and I have the freedom to travel, take time off if I want, and pursue other interesting income opportunities.
There were many things blogging forced me to do that I never previously enjoyed, like learning computer technology. But my enthusiasm for all the other elements was so great that I overcame my fear of technology. And I found people to help me. Now I'm so proud of my technical skills, puny as they may be. Overcoming this fear has enabled me to do so much more.
The other eye-opening thing I learned as a blogger is that there are a kazillion people on the internet who are looking for information, products, and services from someone knowledgeable, reputable, trustworthy, and not too salesy.
If you show people that you are sincere and authentic, and that you legitimately have something good to offer them, they will want to buy from you. You do have to attract those people to you and present good stuff, but the opportunity is there if you're willing to put in the work.
Being a blogger isn't the only way to achieve freedom from a traditional 9-5 job. (But it could certainly be one of many streams of income.) You can even enjoy more freedom by staying employed in a “traditional” job if you learn how to make yourself indispensable.
The first thing you have to do to attain freedom and create your own opportunities is to harness some time.
That's hard to do when you have to be at the office at 9:00 and leave your house at 8:00 to enter the commuter nightmare. Then you are stuck in the office regardless of how productive you may or may not be. It doesn't matter to your boss that you finished your project early and are now shuffling papers. You have to keep that seat warm and show your face, at least looking busy and productive.
If you've ever worked from home, you know how much more productive you are there than at the office. You have far fewer of the interruptions, distractions, and time wasters that are inherent in officeland.
But just telling your boss that you'd like to stop coming into the office and work from home generally doesn't go over well. You have to plan and prepare to create more freedom for yourself, whether remaining employed in your current job or transitioning to self-employment entirely.
Either way, you are going to have to transition to less time at the office so that you can enjoy more freedom either to enhance your lifestyle or to build your own small business (unless you can afford to just quit your current job).
One of the best books available on doing this is The 4-Hour Workweek,
by Tim Ferriss. Here's a summary of the ideas he suggests for kickstarting that transition:
Become An Indispensable Investment
As part of your transition plan, find ways to make yourself more useful and valuable to your boss and your company. Focus on problems and brainstorm solutions for them. Handle situations or tasks to help out your boss or co-workers. Find ways to save the company money or be more efficient. Crank it up enough that you are noticed, but not seen as strange.
Also, make yourself more valuable to your company by asking the company to pay for additional training or classes. Be sure to explain the benefits of this training to the company. The more the company invests in you and sees you as productive, the harder it will be to lose you if you quit.
Practice Increased Productivity At Home
Once you have proven your value as an investment for your company, have a trial run of working at home to showcase your increased productivity. Ask for a couple of personal days to handle family business (or whatever you must do to get a couple of days off), and promise to get work done from home. (Do this mid-week so it doesn't appear you are arranging a long weekend getaway.)
Then, during these two days, increase your work output much more than you do at the office, leaving yourself a few free hours during the normal work day. This will give you a good idea of what you can accomplish on your own and still allow yourself freedom to pursue other things.
Be sure to copy your boss on emails and keep good records of all you accomplish to use for negotiating when the time is right.
Reveal the Business Benefits to Your Boss
Create a document that shows the quantifiable results of working from home. Present the idea of occasionally working remotely as a real business benefit to your boss and the company — not just something convenient for you. If you have a long commute to work, include the additional work time added to your day.
Propose a Test Run
Once you show your boss the real results of your increased productivity working from home, propose a short trial run — maybe two days a week for a few weeks. (Ask for more time than you want so you have negotiating room.)
If you propose it as a trail, then you are offering an escape clause, making it easier for your boss to handle. Think through all of the potential objections your boss may have, and be prepared to acknowledge them and have viable solutions or alternatives.
Use the Time Wisely and Then Expand
During this test period, be sure you are super-productive, and again, keep quantifiable records of your output. Continue to allow yourself several hours during the day to pursue other things — work or lifestyle related.
At the end of the test period, meet again with your boss to review the results, and ask for a small increase in the time at home. If your boss objects, then ask to extend the current trial period. Don't accept “no” right off the bat — ask what you could do to make this more acceptable to your boss.
If you are continuing to produce and show real results, you shouldn't underestimate your value to your company. It is far easier to negotiate with a valuable employee than to find a good replacement. Keep re-negotiating your schedule, using the solid quantifiable records of your results as leverage.
With more time, you have the freedom to build your own business, spend time with your family, pursue your hobbies, and create a more balanced life. With some creative thinking and careful planning, you have the ability to craft work schedule and lifestyle that feels, well, magical!
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