It's no secret that prior to being an author and publisher, I had tried just about every career choice possible. No, really I did. Straight out of high school, I found myself selling cars, I quickly realized it was not my calling and six months later decided to wait tables instead. My charismatic energy served me well in this industry and frankly I met many great connections and began to learn the importance of great customer service. You see even back then I understood that I was in the business of serving others literally and figurately. With this new skillset it did not take long before I found myself interviewing at a call center. I have to share the back story that my mom was the one who encouraged me to apply. I still remember her sending me out the door with kind words to "give it a try" because she knew I wasn't interested in the position, but it was time for me to find a "grown up" job. Out of love and respect for her, I mustered up the energy to interview and ultimately accept the job offer.
During training, I can recall thinking there's no way I can do this long term. It felt like if I found myself retiring from there than it would surely suck the life out of me. I did manage to last 3 years with several promotions that landed me in the position of a senior analyst. It paid well and I had a fancy title, but when I had my second child that was my queue to leave. Fast forward, I had the privilege of being a stay at home mommy, which at the time felt like the greatest job on earth most days. Can I be honest though, I was completely engulfed in motherhood and lost my own identity as a woman, wife and writer all of which were equally important for me to maintain my sanity. I would take my kiddos out to playdates, meet other moms and ask myself I am really built for this? They were like first time moms from the Luvs commercials and I was definitely more of the second kid mom. If I had a spare diaper, snacks/food on hand and put the kids down for a successful nap than I had hands down won for day. Now it was possible, I personally had forgotten to eat and shower and I likely skipped cleaning my home, but again I had already won!
You can imagine that as my kiddos grew older, so I did my desire to get back to who I was prior to being a mommy, so I went back to work as a massage therapist this time, then manager, then teacher aide and ultimately founder of my own company, Parker & Co. Whew, if you have made it this far give yourself a pat on the back. As a storyteller, I felt the backstory would be crucial to making it clear that before I took a leap of faith with my business I did many of the jobs that I had been curious about and still found myself unfilled. My point is most of us can follow directions to find success at a 9-5, but I challenge you to ask yourself can you follow your heart to find success with your purpose? It's really the ultimate question because so many dreams, songs, inventions, books, etc go to the grave because someone was afraid to be uncomfortable or take a leap of faith. Do not get my wrong, I am still afraid even though I took the leap of faith, but I know if I can work 40 hours a week to build someone else's dream than surely I can do the same for myself and so can you.
Here are 11 tips to creating an exit strategy for leaving your 9-5:
Ask. What's your why? It's the one thing that holds you accountable to keep your promise of following through with your dream of being a business owner no matter how tough life and business might get. Keep it in front of you at all times as a screensaver, on a vision board and/or Post It on your mirror.
What do you want to do so badly that you'd consider leaving your reliable, predictable and comfortable career? Why?
What problem are you solving for potential clients and customers? Ideally, you want to serve the community online and off by solving a problem that you've personally encountered and solved for yourself and/or someone else. It makes the experience more personal and relevant.
Plan. Ensure you have a plan in place even if it starts with simply reducing your working hours to allot more time to your business. I am not an advocate for simply walking out of a job. I would highly encourage anyone to map out a 6, 9, or 12 month plan for resigning from their 9-5.
Mentor. Find a mentor or coach who can help guide you in the right direction. This person can help you avoid expensive and time consuming mistakes. However, be careful because everyone has something to sell, so choose wisely. During this phrase, I would encourage you to ask that person to do a S.W.O.T. analysis on your business idea. Strengths. Weaknesses. Opportunities. Threats. Depending on their skillset I would recommend a business plan as well. You can use online services like Upwork to do this as well.
Save. Create a business account where you contribute funds for start up expenses like your business license, business cards, inventory, CRM, coaching, etc. I would encourage you to find an accountant during this phrase too, so you can discuss upfront what write off opportunities you'll have and what's a business need verses a want. It's easy to want all the bells and whistles up front, but in many cases its completely unnecessary. My website is an example of that because I was in business for 15 months before having one. My prior business came from referrals and my personal Facebook page.
Ensure you have a quality product or service that does solve a problem even if its a niche. Naturally, you should provide excellent customer service, which you can use to collect testimonials. I would highly encourage you to offer samples and freebies of your services or product especially while you're in the BETA phase. It's how many companies ultimately find the product/service that works best for their ideal client.
Market. When starting my author journey two years ago, an established author shared with me to, "talk about my book and do not shut up." It was hands down the best advice I have been given to date, so I would encourage you do do the same with your product or service. Initially, all I heard was crickets when I spoke of my book, but I stayed consistent and eventually my audience grew. The lesson here was being consistent AND patient. Rome wasn't built in a day. It takes time to build a scalable and sustainable business.
Ideal client. I hate to be the first to tell you, but your service or product is not for everyone. There I said it. Now the elephant is out of the room. It is critical that you quickly identify your ideal client otherwise all your testing and marketing dollars could be wasted on people who do not need a solution for the problem you are solving. Example: Surgeons are wonderful, BUT only if you actually need surgery. Their service is not for everyone. Example 2: Natural hair care products are taking the world by storm, yet if I prefer relaxers, braids or wigs than frankly I would not be your customer, so your marketing dollars and efforts would be wasted on me. Instead, identify exactly who your target audience is and ensure your social media postings and packaging feels as if you are talking directly to them. Remember you understand this person because the problem that you want to solve for them was previously something you struggled with.
Self care. Take care of yourself on this journey otherwise you risk burnout before your business is even off the ground. Drink water, eat well, exercise, meditate, get a massage, take a nap, or whatever you need to do to be well. But, when you work ensure your focus is results driven and not simply busy work. W.I.N. What's Important Now. It will help you stay on track with where to spend your limited time.
Family. Create a realistic schedule that includes family time, date night, self care, church and volunteer obligations and after school activities and programs for your children. Being organized will serve you well as you are managing your 9-5 and business.
If you follow these steps before you know it, you'll be saying, bye, bye 9-5. If you'd like to chat additionally for 1:1 coaching, feel free to contact me at info@AudreyHinds.com.
Audrey O. Hinds