By Christine OKelly | September 27, 2010
Two years ago, a short time after starting this blog, I entered into a renaissance period in my professional life. During the first few months that this blog was in existence, I was wrestling with a stomach churning emotion — something between fear and exhilaration — to make a decision that I believed would either destroy me or set me free…
Let me backtrack. After quitting my corporate job and moving to the middle of nowhere with literally nothing but a crazy hunch that I could make it on my own if forced to. I did this because I felt I had reached the pinnacle of my career and realized that it sucked.
I had an awesome job and lived in a great place in San Diego. I could have continued to lead that life, making a cool 6-figure income in an unhappy marriage. Lots of people do it. It would have been totally normal, adequate, and acceptable. But I didn’t want to accept this so-so, unfulfilling existence was “it.”
I wanted to see what would happen if I was forced to either sink or swim with growing my own company — I felt I could do it, but I was scared to the point of immobility to actually take action. I may have still been living that robotic life if a series of events hadn’t practically forced me out of my comfort zone. But they did, and that has made all the difference.
A month after quitting my job and setting out to make my own destiny with my own business, I was dull and discolored from eating nothing but over-processed cheap food. I was ho-ing myself out for any job and taking far less than I was worth in compensation — and still unable to do anything but barely pay the rent. I had been wearing the same filthy sticky jeans for weeks because I didn’t have any money to do laundry.
One day my 4-year-old son came out of his room wearing his blue sleeveless Christmas picture vest and red Hawaiian shorts — when I went to find him something matching to wear, I realized that his closets and drawers were absolutely bare. I went to my closet and began to dig into a pile of dirty laundry at least 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide for something salvageable — but instead just sunk into the pile and cried.
What an absolute loser I had become. Why in the hell had I given up my job, as soul sucking as it was, for THIS!!! I thought I was creative and smart enough to handle anything life threw at me and with that overdose of pomp gave it all away. But what was revealed when everything else was stripped away was someone that was weak and small and ineffective.
This went on for months. It went on so long that by the end I really used up what seemed to be all of my reserve levels of self-esteem. Before, when I looked in the mirror, I saw an unstoppable, award winning business ass kicker. Now when looked in the mirror, I saw a poor, broke, ugly, dull, stupid loser. The fact that I had a husband at the time that reinforced all of these things I felt about myself only made me believe this more. I walked around the world like a ghost hoping not to be noticed.
Still, I worked on building my freelancing business from 4 or 5 in the morning until 10 at night. Every. Single. Day. I devoured books and blogs and information while adhering to a strict information diet. I eliminated all distractions including TV, friends, acquaintances, and cell phones. There was no choice but to make this work.
After about 6 months, the clouds had parted and the world was bright again. I realized that I wasn’t struggling for rent any more. I was able to free myself from that very negative, soul sucking relationship. The kids and I could even do some fun things, like go out and get ice cream or a movie sometimes.Eventually, things got really great! I was a successful freelancer with money in the bank! I had more business than I could possibly take on. Leads were streaming in on a consistent basis! I moved out of the middle of no-where and to a town that I LOVE. My kids were in activities! I bought a new car! Life was amazing!
Rolling The Dice, Again…
But even then, I wasn’t completely fulfilled with what I was doing. I knew that I was not living up to my own potential. And because of that, I was existing, but not completely alive. Maybe it’s silly and pompous and selfish to believe that there is something beyond living a fulfilling life — a life where you feel ‘alive,’ but I yearned for it. I had tasted it before and I wanted it again.
If you’re an entrepreneur, a lover, a dreamer, or a rainbow seeker, you probably understand the drive behind this decision. Being “ok” was a welcome relief to being poor, broke, dejected, and miserable. But being “ok” was not what I wanted out of life.
So after months of contemplation, I took a leap of faith, and made a conscious choice to make a change that would possibly cause me to lose it all. I decided to bring on a business partner, systemize my business to convert it into a company vs. a solo venture. This meantgiving up 75% of my income. It was based on a hunch that if I created a void strategically and consciously, that I could manifest something better to fill that void.
Trust me, I asked myself… Christine, why the hell would you risk everything you have now and possible end up like you did a few years ago when you gave up everything?
But this time it felt like less of a gamble. Less like stumbling into the unknown. I had come to believe in some sort of science, that if you create a void, it will become filled. And if you consciously work to fill it, you will end up with something you intend rather than ‘whatever’ rushes in to fill that void.
As a busy freelancer, I had worked myself into a very demanding job. I was no longer an entrepreneur, but a technician. I had created a job for myself. True, it was better than working for someone else. I could set my own hours. I didn’t have to play politics with people or make small talk in the hallways. I could pick and choose which projects I wanted to work on. It was better than before, and many people that I met envied what I had accomplished. But it wasn’t good enough.
After the honeymoon period of freelancing is over… when you learn that you can in fact make a living freelancing and that you can in fact quit the cubicle… then what? Is that enough to satisfy you?
- I wanted to reach more people.
- I wanted to affect more lives and more businesses.
- I wanted to solve more of the problems that I saw out there that I didn’t have the time or means to solve
- I wanted to create something that was bigger than myself.
- I wanted to be able to use the business building creativity that I didn’t have time to use any more
Long story short, I grew my one person freelancing business into a company that now consists of myself, my incredible business partner Tara, 5 amazing project managers, 15 writers, and one assistant. The company’s revenue reached well over a quarter million dollars in the first full year of operation in its new system. During this time, Tara and I started a second venture — a dream of ours that is designed to help more people, affect more lives, and solve more problems.
Where I’ve Been For So Long….
It was during the onset of this renaissance period that you first met ‘Self Made Chick,’ the blogger. And soon after I started this blog was when I made that conscious choice to give up 75% of my income. There have been months on end where I didn’t post — and there’s a reason.I know from the comments I’ve received and the feedback I’ve gotten from people that they really do listen to, trust, and base some of their life decisions on the things I’ve said in this blog. I take that responsibility VERY seriously.
I made sacrifices to follow this path, but I believe that it was right for me. I could have continued being “the chick who taught people how to be a freelancer,” but how could I do that when I myself had become trapped by the very lifestyle I was teaching others to do. That absolutely does not mean that I don’t believe freelancing is an excellent choice — it is!
Becoming a freelancer saved my life.
t’s just that for some people, there will be a yearning to grow beyond that. And that was a path that I needed to take. And before I shared these lessons learned with you, the readers that I absolutely adore and love, I needed to struggle through those lessons.My goal here has always been to give advice, and there were many, many, months where I felt I was not in the position to do so because I myself was being swept through the currents of this new river I was sailing upon and was in no position to be reflective enough to offer any sound advice because I had no idea of what the outcome would be.
But now, after a long period of discovery, I am ready to share the new things I’ve learned. My goal is to share those stories that I set out to share from the beginning and that this blog continue to be a place for others to learn from my trials and errors and to share your stories and challenges of entrepreneurship.
I’m sharing this story because I love entrepreneurs and the spirit of entrepreneurism so much. I feel that too many success stories highlight only the good and amazing, and not the fear, risks, uncertainly, loss, and grueling work that goes into getting anyone successful where they have gotten today. I never want to see any entrepreneur’s fire snuffed out when they face these realities — not knowing of the reality behind the curtain.
Day by day, step by step, constantly, slowly, purposefully, and meticulously, it is possible to forge a path between where you’re at now and where you want to be. I’m still forging that path and I hope to be for a long time as my goals constantly expand beyond my reach. I hope that sharing some lessons from along my path will resonate with you, no matter where you are on your path.