Before I started writing this I opened (for the first time since about March) the big notebook I’d written all my 2017 goals in this time last year. The girl who wrote those words and numbers would never have believed, couldn’t have even imagined, that 12 months on I would have moved to North Wales and set up a coaching business. With hindsight the goals I set myself back then seem pitifully unambitious – to leave my job in 18 months and to reach 6,000 Instagram followers being two notable examples.
But to give myself a break, at that point I had a 3 month old blog and less than 1000 followers. I also had a trail of abandoned blog attempts in my wake, and I was conscious that just making it to the end of 2017 still committed to blogging would be a genuine achievement.
Over the course of this (pretty mammoth) post, I’m going to tell you the story of the last 12 months, how I left my job and set up a business, and I’ve included all the feelings and vulnerability I had in the hope that it might give you strength for your own journey this year. And down the bottom I’ve also included my learnings, highlights and my direction for 2018, that I hope you’ll find helpful.
The Year In Review
In January, my dreams were tiny little wishes that I was writing down but deep down didn’t actually believe I could make happen. To leave my job and set up some form of business (back then I was planning on doing marketing services) sounded more like something for someone else, not something I’d have the guts or commitment to do. But I underestimated the power that was within in me, and the power of writing down the two little words ‘leave work’ (underlined twice).
My theme for 2017 was “Commitment to Purpose”, and that has been a powerful rudder for me this year. Particularly at the beginning of the year, when I had scary decisions to make (for example, applying to speak at Blogtacular) and an audience to grow and nurture, it really helped me to stay focused on creating content and gave me permission, almost, to take any opportunity that came along.
I refer to March as ‘the dark month’. I felt increasingly that the blog and the community I was active in online was the ‘real’ world, and that my actual job and life was somehow not as important. It was a stressful time in my day job, and it got to the point where I was crossing the car park in the morning with a clenching in my stomach that wouldn’t release until I got back home.
I now wonder whether it was the writing down of “leave work” that made me fall out of love with my job so quickly – I’d given myself 18 months, but by writing it down I’d also given myself permission to think it. I’m impatient by nature, so I think now that had I not written down that intention, had I not put an end point on my job, things may not have come to a head so quickly.
But I’m glad they did, because in April, everything changed. At the beginning of the month I started coaching with Jen Carrington – as part of my ‘commitment to purpose’ I had wanted accountability and guidance to help me on the way to self-employment. Then during our break visiting Dan’s mum in Wales, he was offered a job here in Snowdonnia. Three months previously, he wouldn’t have even considered the interview, but given my headspace we felt it could be the perfect escape route for both of us – lower living costs meant that I could pursue my dream without the financial pressure we would have had in Berkshire. It was a real alignment of what I wanted, what he wanted, and the opportunity in front of us. So I handed in my notice.
Then began the summer of limbo. I had a 3 month notice period, so while Dan was able to move up to Dolgellau in May, I had to wait around and live at home with my parents until the end of July. While this was an incredibly frustrating time, I realise now that it was completely necessary. I spent this time formulating what my business should be, working out its purpose, speaking with the people I wanted to serve. Had I launched my business in April, it would have been completely different to what it is now, and a complete disaster. I’m so glad I had that time to stew and experiment and slowly introduce a new style of content that reflected what I was going to be.
And then, on the 18th July, I finally moved. And here is where, for me, the year splits in two. The first 6 and a half months of 2017 feel adrift to me now, an iceberg floating away into the distance. They don’t even feel like another year, they feel like another life, a parallel universe.
August and September were tricky. Here I was, transplanted into a life I’d been dreaming of but not realistically planning for. I didn’t have structure, and most importantly, I didn’t have work. I had naively thought that I had enough Instagram followers to mean that when I launched my coaching services the enquiries and bookings would come almost immediately. But instead, there was silence. It is in these months that I was so glad to have Jen telling me that it takes time for people to get to know you as this new business, that things will come and I just had to keep going.
August and September were soul destroying, but I kept reminding myself that I was doing the right things, I had a good and purposeful business, and that I had to stay in my lane. I spent these months in a frenzy of content creation, writing blog posts, sales pages and newsletters. Eventually, through Jen’s guidance, I decided to redesign simpleandseason.com so it was more website than blog. I also niched in on marketing (my true expertise) rather than trying to be a catch all “business coach” – I rewrote my sales pages with this as the focus and generally started looking at what I do from a potential client’s viewpoint. Basically, I professionalised.
This coincided with the magic third month of business, and in October I began to get enquiries. Lots of enquiries. After all these months of quiet, I surprised to find that a slowly filling up inbox quickly filled me with terror. It had been comfortable, having no clients and writing blog posts all day – now I had been thrown out of my comfort zone and into a place where people were relying on me. I hate to feel like I don’t know what I’m doing and I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing. I thought I should be organised, more professional, more knowledgable. I struggled a lot with imposter syndrome through November.
But practice makes, not perfect, but experienced. With each call I felt that fraudy voice in my head grow quieter, I became more confortable with my clients and got into the flow of being a coach. I just had to get on and do it, and in doing so I realised that I was genuinely doing it, and doing it well. I saw that my advice was good, that the exercises I’d come up with in my head were really useful to people and helping them to grow as marketers. I concentrated on how happy and excited I felt after each call and began to look forward to the next one.
I am still growing into who I am as a coach and mentor, but as I write this on the last day off the year, I feel pride in what I’ve achieved. While I haven’t always felt in control (read: I have mostly felt NOT in control!) somehow or other I’ve started a business, a profitable one, and one that makes a difference in the world. I can’t wait to carry that on in 2018.
What I’ve Learnt In 2017
I’m a terrible employee
What I mean by this is that I’m a great worker, but I want to be in control – I want to be the CEO. It has never, ever crossed my mind to go back to a day job, and in fact the idea fills me with horror. I love setting my own routine and that everything I do is for me and my business.
Say yes first
One thing that my year of committing to purpose taught me was to say yes to opportunities before you know how you’re actually going to do them. Whether it was applying to speak at Blogtacular or working on a styling workshop for Iceland, I felt the fear and did it anyway, and both were amazing growth experiences.
Launch before you’re ready
Those months of tumbleweed were awful and I wouldn’t wish them on anyone. If I had to do it all again, I would have put my coaching pages live a month or so earlier than I did. That way I would have still been refining them and working rather than waiting for an enquiry to drop into my inbox.
It’s not about you
Basically, no one cares about you as much as you do. No one’s keeping a tally of the things you’ve messed up or whether you posted on a Thursday rather than a Wednesday. Everyone’s too busy worrying about themselves. So take risks and shake off that ‘but what will everyone think?’ worry. Nobody’s thinking anything, just bloody do it.
This, I believe, has been the secret to my success this year. I have been blown away by the positive feedback I’ve had about my free content, whether my Monthly Mail or the videos I’m going to do more of in 2018. It feels amazing to be recommended by people who love what I do, and for people to say that they relate to what I say. When you’re valuable, people appreciate you and want to be a part of what you do.
My 2017 Highlights
(Aside from the obvious, moved to Wales and started a business, ones 😉)
- Meeting my friends Sarah, Llio and Heather via Jwrnal, and putting on our first workshop on a shoestring.
- Speaking at Blogtacular and seeing all the nodding, concentrating faces that made me think that perhaps I could actually do this.
- Being hired by Instagram to create content for them.
- Being on two podcasts – What She Said and Courage and Spice.
- Redesigning the website on my own.
- Going from idea to launch in under a month with my Out Of The Woods workshops.
- Earning £1,300 in one day in November.
- Every time I met and laughed with someone from Instagram (specifically at the Good Life Experience)
- Putting together a styling workshop for Iceland’s influencer event and it all actually looked beautiful.
- Walking the dog on the beach at 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon.
And What About 2018?
2017 was all about ‘Commitment To Purpose’, and I want to continue that into the New Year too. I’ve been struggling to find a word that fits for 2018 – my business is still so new that I don’t yet fully know its rhythms, its peaks and troughs. Next year stretches out like a great unchartered ocean, ready to explore.
Which is why I’ve chosen ‘Steer’ to be my word of 2018. ‘Commitment to Purpose’ got me saying yes, it got me doing things I’d have never done before, but it was chaotic. My already magpie-ish tendencies were set free to pounce on projects and charge around with little organisation (or not as much as I’d like) behind what I was doing.
In 2018, I want to reign in and consolidate what I’ve done already and build upon that; to steer the ship and navigate where I want to go. But ‘Steer’ also allows me to be reactive, to drive against unknown currents and through strong winds, or stop off at a tropical island if I so wish. It feels powerful, and reminds me that I am in control of directing my future – which is a pretty inspirational feeling.
I hope you’ll continue to join me.
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