Every week, I get at least a few variations of the same question. A few weeks ago, this was it:
"I am a school teacher struggling to make the decision between leaving my "comfortable" job and focusing on my passion and working for myself or staying with what's financially safe. I have a young son, and have fears about health care, etc. Do you have any advice for how to figure it all out?"
Well, to be clear, I don't have much figured out. What I know for sure is that I can't see myself doing anything else.
I remember one day years ago, I was sitting and chatting with an old friend. "So, like, are you just going to blog for the rest of your life?"
"Yeah," I said. "I am going to do this for the rest of my life. In some capacity."
I've learned that I don't need to explain myself to anyone, but judgment comes up a lot. I get it. This is a weird job. It's unconventional. I work longer hours than I did at any other job I had before this. But I love it. It's my life's work. It's a lot of fun. The people I meet are incredible. Financially, I do really well with it. It's what I was meant to do. And over the years, I have learned a few things that I'm happy to share with anyone who is looking to do something similar.
1. Play To Your Strengths
Everyone brings something to the table. So what do you bring to the table? What are you great at? What do you nerd out on? What makes your heart skip a beat? For example, I am a teacher at my core. When I was in first grade, we had to write autobiographies, which in itself is kind of hysterical given how young we were. But I wrote in my author bio that I wanted to be a teacher. When I was growing up, my poor little brother was often forced to play school with me where I was the teacher and he was the student. I taught him cursive and gave out homework (#worstgameever). In school, I enjoyed tutoring other students. It was just in my nature to want to teach since I was young. So while I am not the world's strongest or most flexible or most zen yogini, I am a solid teacher. I'm tempted to rewrite that sentence because it sounds cocky, but I do think I teach well, and I've been trying not to do that whole apologetic thing that so many of us women do so I'm moving on despite the little voice in my head. Anyway! I can teach, so when I started my blog, I remembered how much I loved yoga as a college kid but how I hated how expensive it was. I couldn't afford to go to a studio. I thought, there's got to be people out there who might benefit from YouTube videos I create. And that's how the blog and YouTube channel were born. Figure out what your strengths are, and use them to build your dream.
2. Come From A Place of Yes
I like to surround myself with yes people. People who are told no and find a way to turn it into a yes. Last year, when we were planning the book tour in celebration of Namaslay, Lauren and I looked at each other like, "How in the world are we going to afford to fly from city to city, plus the cost of hotels and food?!" YBC® wouldn't have been able to foot the bill. Lauren started pitching hotels and brands to sponsor us. I came up with the idea to do workshops at every city along the way to try to pay for the cost of the trip. In the end, YBC® wound up profiting from the book tour! And it's all because we got creative. We came from a place of yes, we'll figure it out one way or another, rather than just giving up right away and going into debt over it. When you're working for yourself, you need to be a yes person. An I'll-figure-it-out person. A person who believes, isn't afraid to think outside the box, and who works tirelessly to get it done.
3. Have a Clear Vision
What do you want out of your life? How can you get yourself there? You've got to have a very clear vision of what you want. I find that most people I talk with who ask the above question aren't totally sure what they want to do in the future; all they know is that they hate their current job and want out. Before you quit your job, I'd suggest figuring out what it is that you want. That's a vague and loaded statement, so to help get you there, sit and write down a vision for your perfect day. Not like a "I'd wake up in Fiji and go lay out by the pool" kind of day, but what does your typical, ordinary, yet totally perfect day look like? (And if it's laying by a pool in Fiji, that's cool, but just be honest with yourself. Ask yourself if that gets old after a while, or is that really want you want for yourself day in and day out?) Dream up your perfect day from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. Where are you waking up? What's the weather like? What clothes do you put on? What do you eat for breakfast? What do you do first? Second? On and on until it's time to go to bed. Write it all down without worrying about how outlandish it may sound. Just get it down. Then, work backwards. Now that you have a goal, how do you get yourself there?
4. Journal Your Mistakes
I think the scariest part of leaving a stable job with benefits and transitioning into starting your own business is the financial pressure. When I was a teacher or a waitress or worked the front desk at the gym, so long as I showed up, I was getting a paycheck. It didn't matter how much effort I put in, I was collecting my check on Friday. When you run your own business, that's not a guarantee. You need to at least show up. And if you happen to show up and give it all you've got, well, there's still no guarantee you're going to make any money. We all have bills to pay. If what you decide to do flops, there'll be problems. The thing is, no matter what business you start or what line of work you go into, I guarantee that there will be flops here and there. The first retreat I ever did? I lost a few thousand dollars because I had to pay for the giant venue and food up front and I priced the retreat far too low. That, coupled with too low a student turn-out, and I was pretty much down and out. I was incredibly, uh, disappointed, to put it mildly (there may have been tears). But boy did I learn from that mistake. It was a great lesson in budgeting, having a solid marketing plan, and knowing when to take a risk. No matter where you go wrong - and you will go wrong somewhere, that's just the nature of being on this path - write it down and reflect. Ask yourself what you could've done better, and where you can improve in the future so you're not in the same situation again.
5. Head Down, Eyes Forward
Don't worry about what anyone else is doing. If you're tempted to check out what others are doing in the same field, think twice. If it'll inspire you, then great, go ahead. If it's going to distract you and make you second guess yourself, then don't. This is why I don't follow many yoga-entrepreneurs. I get too caught up in what they are doing and forget what I've done, my capabilities and where I want to go. When I first started my blog, I got a lot of, "How that's cuuuuute." When I had the idea for the Mantra Box®, our quarterly discovery box service, I was literally told, "I can't see anyone paying for anything like that," from someone extremely close to me. It's since sold out every quarter since its launch, and is our third largest revenue stream. Whatever anyone says? Let it go in one ear and out the other. They don't get it. They're not your people. Head down, eyes forward; keep at it because you have a vision.
6. Work Hard and Take Care of Yourself
There's this quote that goes: Entrepreneurs - The only people willing to work 80 hour weeks to avoid working 40 hour weeks. And it's so true - when the financial pressure hits and you feel under the gun to bring in revenue, you'll likely be willing to work all day and night to make it happen. Or, you may experience that urge when the money does start rolling in. You'll want to spend all your time working to keep the momentum going. My advice? Don't do that. You'll burn out. I used to work 7am - 5pm when I first started out. Then, when things started taking off, I remember working until 11pm, sometimes 1am, just trying to keep the success going. But I was stressing myself out. I was no longer inspired or feeling creative. I began to takes things personally. Social media was overwhelming and I felt attacked and drained every time I'd log on. Eventually, I had to take a break and then reevaluate my work hours. Now, I don't answer emails after 5pm. I work minimally on the weekends. I try not to schedule more travel than I can handle. I take social media breaks throughout the day. You've got to make your mental and physical health priorities because your business depends on it.
7. Always Keep Learning and Evolving
I certainly don't have it all figured out. None of us do, and we probably never will, especially when it comes to business because it's always changing. To keep up, always keep learning. Subscribe to resources like magazines or news outlets that cover your field of interest and read everything. Go to master classes to continue learning. Ask questions. Network. Keep learning everything you can about not only your field of interest, but related fields of interest because you'll likely be able to apply key lessons from one to the next. And stay open to new opportunities to expand your business. For months now, I've been contemplating starting a podcast. Last night, while answering DMs on instagram Stories, I finally decided to poll people and see if they'd be interested in a YBC podcast. The results so far as a resounding yes, so I think we'll go in that direction. I'm excited!
Going back to the initial email I got a few weeks ago - it's scary to make a big life change. And certainly this path isn't for everyone. While some of us might find it thrilling and interesting, others of us prefer to work a traditional nine to five. And that's okay. Whichever path you decide to go down, I urge you to travel with joy in your heart. It makes the journey that much more enjoyable. But if you do decide to go down this path, I hope the above tips are helpful. And if you're an entrepreneur, I'd love to hear any other additional suggestions you have. Let me know down in the comments section below.
PS - Years ago I did a series on Business of Blogging, which culminated in offering blogging consultations. Essentially, I'd send a packet of information which you'd apply to your blog, and then you'd get a one to one Skype consult where you could ask questions and I'd offer suggestions for improvement. If you're interested in that, submit your info below and our team will be in touch with next steps.