How I Took the Leap from a 9-5 to Self-Employment
Updated: Apr 24
Have you ever found yourself with a gnawing sense that where you were in life wasn’t where you were meant to be? That whatever you were doing, day in and day out, wasn’t going to fulfill you? Maybe the money was good but your heart wasn’t in it. Or, maybe it was hard to make ends meet and you knew you could do better. Either way, you weren’t satisfied, and you were ready to make a change, but you weren’t quite sure how to take the first step.
I’m here to tell you that I have been there. Exactly there. Many, many times. I worked extremely hard, through college and grad school and several ever-improving entry-level positions, to try to situate myself in a place that would make me happy. I’ve started not one, not two, but three small businesses, all in an effort to pursue my passions and strike out on my own. I’m not afraid to hustle after hours or on the weekends if it’s in the pursuit of something greater.
I know what it feels like to realize your efforts aren’t pointing you in the right direction. That the job you thought was perfect for you isn’t, and that the side hustle you’ve devoted hundreds of hours to just isn’t going to fly. It’s a terrible, debilitating feeling, and it can be a real turning point for your future. When you have that realization, how do you react? Do you throw in the towel and return to the safety of your everyday life? Or do you trudge back along the path you’ve forged and start fresh? Let me tell you, picking the latter option is NOT EASY. Starting over, AGAIN, when you’re already exhausted and everyone knows about your side hustle and you can’t imagine admitting that you’ve failed, is really, really hard.
But here’s the thing. You didn’t fail. You tried, and maybe what you attempted didn’t work out the way you planned. I know it sounds cliche, but these are the moments that make or break us. Take your efforts and analyze them. What worked? What really, really didn’t? Think everything through. Talk it out with the people you trust. Make a list, if you’re that kind of person. Hell, make a hundred lists. Eventually, you’ll come to realize what your next steps should be. The answers, honest, are probably buried in the multitude of things you’ve already tried. It’s not always easy to see them, but I promise you, hindsight is 20/20. Someday, you’ll realize they were there all along.
Easier said than done, perhaps, but I was in your shoes. Growing up believing I could do anything and be anything, I went to college and got a liberal arts degree. I went to grad school and got a slightly-more-useful master of science in publishing. I love writing, I love books, and I believe in the power of the written word to change the world. Publishing seemed like the right fit. I got a job at a publishing company. Does this sound like a familiar story to anyone else?
As my life fell into place all around me (good job, great husband, amazing house in a safe neighborhood), I realized I wasn’t happy. It’s hard to admit that you don’t have what you want when you literally have everything you’ve ever thought you wanted. Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband, I love our house, and I love the life we created together. I love the freedom my education promises me. But I knew the way I spent my days wasn’t right for me. So I began to explore.
On nights and weekends, I began exploring my hobbies. I started making crafts. I’ve always loved to create, and I realized I could make some extra money selling homemade goods on Etsy and at craft fairs. It took me almost two years of doing so before I finally was able to admit to myself that this wasn’t a great use of my time. I’m no Picasso, and it’s nearly impossible to create items of the caliber buyers expect when you’re burning the midnight oil after a full week of work. Furthermore, the cost of craft supplies is surprisingly high, and buyers (understandably) would rather buy something pre-made at a discount store than spend extra cash to support the materials cost and the time of a crafter.
Stepping away from crafting, which I’d been totally gung-ho about and which most of my family and friends had come to know I was doing, was disappointing and embarrassing. I felt even more lost as I continued to dutifully report to my 9-5, wondering how I could ever summon the energy to start fresh with another idea, one I didn’t even have yet.
At some point during my crafting phase, I had started a website to sell my wares. I thought it might help with my marketing efforts if I added a blog, so I began to dabble in some lifestyle blogging here and there. I’ve always loved writing, and as I explored the world of blogging and self-promotion, I came to realize that content marketing is, in fact, the 2018 version of publishing. Yes, it’s true that anyone can start a blog or website and write whatever they want. Yes, it’s also the case that this tends to lower the quality of content out there. As someone who has studied publishing extensively, I see how this is a major threat to the status quo, as well as to the future of the written word.
However. By letting everyone have a voice, we’re giving every blogger the space they need to express themselves and grow as writers. Strong, inspiring communities of writers bounce ideas off one another and help each other to learn and improve. I’ve learned things I never could have imagined and have made valuable friendships through online writing communities. Accidentally becoming a blogger while trying to advertise homemade t-shirts was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
If you’ve followed the Sweet Frivolity blog over the course of time, you’ve likely noticed I started slowing down about a year ago. Around that time, I had my third business idea, and, as it turns out, I think it’s my best so far. I realized, through some of the wonderful opportunities I earned through blogging, that there’s a whole world of content out there that’s just begging to be written. Companies need skilled writers to craft their marketing materials, develop their blogs, and manage their social media presence. Once I realized this, I knew. I knew all of my questioning and backward-stepping and fumbling of ideas had been for a purpose. I just needed to figure out the right direction for my future.
Once I realized that content marketing was something that set my soul on fire and a viable business idea to boot, I lost no time. Every night and every weekend was spent applying to opportunities and, in more instances than I would have thought possible, being asked to come on board by wonderful clients who I am so grateful to have. Learning to run a small business has been no small feat, and I’m by no means “there” yet.
I have, however, been able to transition to working for myself full-time. I’m amazed and grateful at the success I’ve found so far, and I’m so privileged to be able to have the time now to focus on growing my business. I promise you there’s no better feeling in this world than when you push yourself to the absolute limit in pursuit of a dream and you crush it.
As I sit here today, I can honestly say I’m truly happy. I work 100% for myself. I work from the comfort of my home office. I earn more money than I ever could have thought possible, and I’ve already surpassed the income from any 9-5 I’ve ever had. Knowing that I have flexibility and can do my part to support my family is such a freeing feeling. I don’t tell you this to brag, but rather to emphasize a truth I believe in fervently: you can make it happen. Whatever “it” is for you, find a way and bring it to life.
I’m not suggesting you’re going to figure it out overnight. Most likely, it will be a long, drawn-out quest filled with hard-learned lessons. The path probably won’t be a straightforward one, and you will want to give up. All the damn time. DO NOT DO IT. If you want something badly enough, you absolutely must push ahead. Who knows how long it will take, but at the end of the road lies the success you’ve dreamed of.
I’m so incredibly grateful to the community of bloggers who helped me to find my voice and, in doing so, helped guide me to the path I now find myself on. Please know I’m here for you all, too. Drop me a line in the comments, via email, or in my Facebook group, Blogging Success. We’re all in this together! I’m going to be adding content on writing and entrepreneurship going forward in an effort to share some of what I’ve learned. It’s my hope that I may somehow be able to help someone else find their path. Best of luck, whatever your goals, and never, ever give up!