I was recently interviewed for The Escape The Rat Race podcast where I talked about my career, my book and why content is the key to so much of what we want from our lives.
Actually, a lot of that podcast ended up being about the period in my life after I sold my business.
I know there are those out there who think I have it all sussed and total clarity, but trust me I don’t! I had mostly forgotten about the ‘post TTTP’ period and how confused I’d been, and it was kind of therapeutic and also genuinely interesting to reflect back on that time with the podcast host Christian.
Today, I’m sharing the 5 things I learned from that my own period of not knowing what to do.
- You can move on even though it’s scary
Ok here’s a truth. When I had my previous business Talk to the Press, which was very highly regarded and pretty successful, I used to secretly find myself hoping it would go wrong because I just didn’t enjoy it. It was that awful thing of being good at something which a lot of people are by the time they are in their mid-thirties and then not enjoying it. It leaves you thinking ‘How can I feel this way when I am good at this‘ and your whole professional reputation is built around this. You start feeling resentful of yourself for daring to not enjoy it or daring to want something different.
I remember phoning my mum from outside my office in tears (aged 35 – yes!) saying how can I get out of this business, did I have to do this business for the rest of my life?
Although I loved certain things about that business and the ‘status’ it gave me in the industry, ultimately the news is full of tragedy and bad things. Ironically, just today someone Facebook messaged me wanting to know what happened next in a story I’d written for a newspaper. What happened next was that the person died. That stuff got me down (not surprisingly). I walked around with a knot in my stomach the whole time.
Still, when I sold my business, I did not know what I was going to do next and that was frightening too and almost as bad as the knot in my stomach! I had no clarity and no idea.
My overriding sense as the sale of TTTP was completed was that yes, I was scared to make a change, no I didn’t know what I would do next but fundamentally I trusted myself to create something again from scratch.
2. Don’t be afraid to learn new skills
I was lucky in that I had money from the sale, so I wasn’t under time pressure to earn quickly. I looked at what I needed to know to be prepared for the future and what skills I didn’t have. I had been managing a website and online business since 2008 but I didn’t know how to build a website, so I went to the local college (where I even got a student card – yay! – and some student friends who I thought I looked the same as even though they were 19 and I was 37) and learnt how to do web design (building them from scratch as opposed to running them) and also video editing, because it seemed to me that video is expensive if you can’t do it yourself.
3. Take advantage of your existing skills and pay attention to what people ask you about.
In the whole period of me not knowing what I was going to do, people started asking me for help with their own websites, and their own online presence and visibility, just people in my network and people that I knew. I didn’t really see that that would be my future as all that was just the stuff I knew about and I was so busy feeling confused about what I was going to do next and thinking that everyone else already knew the things I knew about online business.
It was only when I started talking to people and helping them, I thought ‘Maybe I can do something really cool with my skills.’ I I went from thinking ‘What value do I have?‘ and feeling confused to thinking maybe this ‘skills transfer stuff‘ isn’t a load of baloney, maybe it’s true.
I was just using all the skills I had, from putting together photoshoots and briefing photographers, to using content skills from my years of journalism, publicity skills and also all the skills and knowledge of previously running an online business since 2008 that was basically about generating leads and converting them. I was also using my brand new (just learned at the local college with a student card around my neck) skills of building websites and filming videos. And I was getting some pretty good results.
Still, although I knew ‘how’ to do all of this stuff, it took me almost a year to realise that this had any value at all and in fact that answer of ‘what to do next’ was right in front of my eyes and that I was taking for granted the knowledge that I have which other people don’t.
4. Start creating content straight away
From my own personal experience you can do things really quickly once you start creating content. I still had an old website on my personal domain (this domain right here) related to me as the founder and owner of Talk to the Press and I redesigned it using my new web building skills.
I had always blogged for Talk to the Press as a SEO tool, so it didn’t cross my mind to not have a blog. It was just what I did. Creating content had worked for Talk to the Press in terms of everything from our positioning to our Google rankings and the awards we won.
I was busy not knowing what to do, but I just wrote about the things people were talking to me about. I answered the questions people were asking me and wrote about the projects I was working on on my blog.
(Note, some of what I wrote then was totally cringe and has since been deleted by me!)
Suddenly it was as though people perceived me as an expert digital marketer and within a few months, I was speaking to audiences at events and got a book deal! So from my personal experience, creating content brings opportunity. It did for Talk to the Press and it was doing the same for me then – and now!
5. Be patient
Saying that above makes it sound like all that happened really quickly. For me the whole transition from day 1 of ‘Now what I am going to do‘ to the beginnings of what I am doing today took a year.
To be precise, I sold my first business Talk to the Press at the end of May 2014 and I got my first paid website in April 2015. It definitely wasn’t an immediate success story.
But here we are right now coming up to 3 years on from that. That knot in my stomach is gone, even if I had a bad day where I think ‘Urgh‘ I always always remind myself that the knot has gone. That is the best feeling.
It’s like that old saying goes though, the days are long but the time is short. And actually, it didn’t take too long at all!
To listen to the full episode click here
I just had to respond to say how much this resonated with me. I too have always felt I ‘needed’, rather than ‘wanted’, to do something ‘more’ in work then the position I had grown into allowed.
In some ways the easiest, and certainly the more financially rewarding (to date anyway), route was to keep doing what I was doing and find my ‘need’ elsewhere. But I wanted to create something of benefit to people and fill that creative need in myself too, and the thought of keeping with the status quo filled me with more dread then taking the plunge.
Like you I was fortunate enough to have the money to back myself, in my case from savings and redundancy. I can honestly say that this has been the right choice for me and I have not missed my previous career for a single minute – literally! I have finally found what it is that I want to do ‘when I grow up’ and this is it!
Now my concern has started to center on unhelpful negative thoughts that I might not be able to make it work. My concern being more for my sense of self and creative activity rather than finances although they too are important. I notice that I have recently started to be thinking what will I do if this business ‘fails’. Not how I want to be thinking at all, and somewhat confusing because I still do have the belief that it will work.
I have just this week read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and having done so am more aware of, and alert to, ‘omens’. I’m seeing your post is one such omen. I know what it is that I need to be focusing on and it is not what I will do if this business fails, because it can’t! Whatever the outcome my business will be a ‘win’.
Thank you for being an omen!