My Self-Employment Success Story: How I Quit Corporate To Work for Myself

By: Jill Beirne Davi

Since paying off $30,000 six years ago, I still use credit sparingly, and I didn’t take out any loans to fund the start-up of my business. Instead, I created a separate savings account called “Investments” to use as working capital for the business. I used that money to educate myself on the basics of starting a consulting business, as well as for things like my website and programs that taught me how to launch and run a business. Overall, my strategy was to pay for a lot of the major upfront costs in cash from my day job.

So I doubled down and focused on attracting more clients, to reach my tipping point faster. But once I stopped treating my consulting like a hobby, I got nervous. I had trouble promoting my services beyond word-of-mouth referrals, and I was afraid to follow up with people, breaking into a sweat when discussing my fees. But I knew I had to conquer those fears if I wanted to work for myself, so I hired a coach of my own to help me build those skills.

To attract clients, I worked around the clock. I hustled, but it was exciting! I woke up about an hour earlier than I had to every morning, and by 7 a.m. I was at my computer with my green tea, either writing posts on my blog or content for my workshops, emailing clients, asking for speaking engagements or studying up on how to run a business. I even took 8 a.m. client calls before showering, and put in a full day of work at my corporate job! I’d teach workshops, and speak or meet with clients on nights and weekends.

After eight months of really focusing on building my practice, though, it became clear that I had to choose. I essentially had two full-time, demanding jobs, and I was burning out. Clients were reaching out, but I didn't have the time to take them on. I simply didn’t have enough energy to ride two bikes any longer. It was decision time.

My Last Day at My "Real" Job

I crunched the numbers to see if I was ready. Overall, I was running a pretty lean machine. Most of my work was done remotely out of our home office, so I didn’t have to worry about permanent office space. As for health insurance, my husband and I talked about private insurance, but it made the most sense for me to be covered under his plan. I agreed to pay the difference coming out every month. I also applied for professional liability insurance, which can be paid in a lump sum annually. And I calculated how much I would need to put aside every month for retirement. Since I was cutting back, the contribution would be smaller than I contributed in the past at first but would grow over time.

The day I left corporate, I was definitely excited but sad. It was hard to leave a job that I’d called home for six years. When my coworkers asked if I was taking time off, I laughed. “Time off?” I said. “No way. I have a full schedule next week!”

It was definitely a rush to open my laptop that first self-employed Monday morning to a full schedule and no boss. I wrote my next blog posts, prepared for a radio interview later in the week, and had three client calls and a consultation with someone who wanted to hire me.

Financially, self-employment isn’t as drastic of a change as I once thought it might be. The hardest part is creating a system to manage my cash flow so that I can forecast what I’m making every month. I use Excel to plan out incoming client payments and outgoing expenses every month (including what I pay myself). That way I can see all in one place what I need to earn each month. Once I reach that number for one month, any extra carries into the next month. I still pay the same bills I was paying when I was working full time, including the phone, cable, utilities, groceries, parking and part of the mortgage.

What has changed quite a bit is my "fun money" fund, meaning my allowance for personal expenses, like getting a haircut or buying clothes. For now, it's half of what it used to be, which means I really have to watch what I’m spending more closely than before I left. But I’m at peace with making sacrifices until my income is more consistent. As long as I can get my nails done every now and again, I’m good for now while my practice grows. I expect to be profitable by April of next year.

The biggest challenge for me now that I’m self-employed is keeping my confidence up during the natural business ebbs and flows, like during the summer months when people are away on vacation and the phone never seems to ring. I’ve found that when self-doubt creeps in, it helps to reach out to other self-employed friends, or my amazing husband, and ask for a kind ear to listen.

So far, it’s been a joy, and I don’t see myself going back to corporate any time soon. The flexibility to create my day and really make a difference make the financial ups and downs completely worth it.

This article originally appeared on https://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/10/07/my-self-employment-success-story-how-i-quit-corporate-to-work-for-myself/#43caa0b63bee


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Jill Beirne Davi is the founder of Abundant Finances, a service that helps you get yourself out of debt and start amassing abundant savings in record time (without deprivation or eating cat food for dinner). For more helpful money strategies to turn your finances around, visit abundantfinances.com. 

Walking the Tightrope of Change: When Virtue Becomes Vice

By: Laura Berger

I was ‘Structured Laura’ before Glen and I moved to Costa Rica in 2006. I thrived in the corporate environment. So, when we embarked to Central America, I thought to myself, “If I can make it in fast-paced downtown Chicago, paradise will be a piece of cake!” Nonetheless, I prepared for the trip with what I do best--read every tourist guide I could get my hands on, researched extensively, and generated a meticulous daily to-do list to complete the “project” of getting settled as efficiently as possible.

To my dismay, there were heaps of surprises. To name just a couple, the critters were the size of tea saucers and more crawly than I thought, and the downpours were like nothing I had ever seen. But the most unnerving surprise was the slow-moving, carefree way of life for the locals called Ticos. It became quickly clear that jungles aren’t made for rigid and inflexible types like me. You’ve got to be ready for anything and just let misadventures roll off your shoulders. And the more I clamored for control, the more out of control my life became. Then one day, things got so bad that I decided letting go and having no control couldn’t be any worse.

My mantra became, “Let it go.” Realizing the very tendencies that helped me get ahead in the business world were now holding me back, I adopted a more supple, free-flowing mindset. I had to pivot to prevent my virtues from becoming vices.

Not only a mere change of setting or circumstance can force us to examine whether our virtues are working for or against us. Sometimes the stress of day-to-day living can create a dust storm that clouds our connection to our virtues and distorts how they show up in our daily lives. In other cases, one of our virtues might actually be closer to a vice.

• Humility, for example, is just a stone’s throw from insecurity or self-doubt, and, if we’re not careful, can morph into meekness of resignation. Think of an employee who always credits other colleagues for his own successes or who stays quiet rather than celebrating his wins on a big project. Those who remain too quiet or too resigned may miss opportunities for personal or professional growth. If you consider humility one of your personal virtues, know that owning and celebrating your victories is not the same as bragging about them, and be confident in your decision to go after what you want.

• On the flip side of the coin, passion, though beneficial in some settings, can hamper others and compromise relationships if not controlled. If you are an enthusiastic advocate for a humanitarian cause, political ideology, or even your own career, recognize how you come across when voicing your opinions. Now, this doesn’t mean you should never speak up about your viewpoints. In fact, speaking up about what’s morally right is always admirable. However, it’s one thing to objectively stand up to sexism or racism, for example, and another thing to talk politics on a conference call. That said, even in a situation where debate is accepted—say, for example, at a dinner with friends—don’t let your passion overshadow compassion and common human decency. Simply strike a balance between voicing your own perspective and allowing those around you to do the same.

• Lastly, forward thinking, though highly effective in challenging work environments, can otherwise turn into over-planning and rigidity, as it did for me in Costa Rica. While people usually plan and schedule their lives to gain control, the amount of control we truly have is quite limited. As a result, these virtues can foment, rather than assuage, anxiety. While meticulously scheduling, prioritizing and planning tasks might serve you in the workplace, attempting to maintain that structure at home, with your spouse or kids, or on vacation, can freeze spontaneity and the joy that arises from simply enjoying whatever the present moment brings.

While flexibility is what saved me in Costa Rica, embracing versatility can help you no matter what virtue or vice you are dealing with. But, it’s about more than just going with the flow. It’s about attuning your own thoughts and actions to match the situation. This requires an awareness of yourself, the people around you, and your circumstances.

Now that you are aware of the potential dark side of some key virtues, how can you act to channel them in the right way? Check in with yourself regularly, whether through meditation, journaling, or simply stepping away for a moment of reflection. Ask yourself if what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and why you’re doing it is still serving you. If the answer is no, know that in releasing a mode of being that no longer serves you, you create space for something new—something better. After all, versatility brings great value to your life. Your ability to adapt to different situations will benefit you no matter where you work, what you do, or who you want to become.

This article originally appeared on www.psychologytoday.com


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Featured on ABC News, CNBC, Yahoo Finance, Redbook, Self, and the Miami Herald, Laura Berger is a certified executive coach and co-founder of the Berdeo Group. Her clients include leaders at JP Morgan Chase, The Walt Disney World Company, Financial Solutions Advisory Group, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. She is the co-author of two books: Fall in Love Again Every Day and Radical Sabbatical.

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Laura Berger

Featured on ABC News, in CNBC, Yahoo Finance, and in Redbook, Self, and the Miami Herald, Laura Berger is a certified executive coach and co-founder of the Berdéo Group. She has counseled leaders for 15 years, maximizing their potential in the areas of Evidence based leadership, global operations management, and strategic change management. Her clients include leaders at JP Morgan Chase, Leo Burnett Worldwide, American Hospital Association, Starcom MediaVest Group, The Walt Disney World Company, Financial Solutions Advisory Group, World Business Chicago, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. She is an in-demand speaker and co-author of two books: Fall in Love Again Every Day and Radical Sabbatical: Could You Say Goodbye to Everything You Know to Get Everything You Want?.

Secrets of Success: How I Learned to Make What I Was Really Worth

By: Jill Beirne Davi

When I launched a side business about five years ago coaching people about their finances, I enjoyed it so much that I barely charged -- if I charged at all -- for my services. Many of the people I was helping were in the hole -- and desperately trying to get out. Plus, I loved talking to them about their money, so it didn't feel like an even exchange. I felt ashamed asking them to pay me.

After all, I had been deep in debt once, too, so I knew what it felt like to struggle to keep costs down. In fact, it was my own experiences that led me to become a money coach. As I began to share my success story, friends and friends of friends asked me to hold workshops, and pulled me aside for private advice.

I realized that there was a demand for money coaching, so I began doing it during my free time, while keeping my day job in market research. But when I first set out to offer my services, I charged nothing. I was caught up in the classic belief that if you loved what you did, you didn't have to get paid for it.

Work, by nature, had to be hard -- or so I thought. And if it wasn't hard, then you were pulling the wool over someone's eyes. So I did a lot of free sessions, irrationally hoping that someone would be so thrilled with what they were getting that they'd donate some money. Of course, that's not how things work.

Wait ... I Can Actually Get Paid to Do This?

As I started helping more people with their budgets, I realized that I could do it all day. I enjoyed problem-solving, crunching numbers and helping folks find creative solutions to sticky financial problems without having to declare bankruptcy or ruin their credit scores.

I decided that I eventually wanted to do this as a career -- which meant that I had to figure out how I was going to, you know, make money. I was working with a life coach at the time, so I shared my aspirations with her, as well as my fear of coming off as greedy if I asked for money. Her advice was simple: Start small. Just charge a little something to gain the experience of someone paying you to do what you love.

I realized that what I offered was valuable in ways that even I didn't expect. That first private client gave me the courage to take on more paying clients. So I did. A week later I charged my first paying client $25 for an hour-long session. He laughed and said, "That's it?" I stopped offering free sessions after that.


A few months in, this client was getting great results, so I considered asking him to write a testimonial -- but I was nervous for fear of coming off as selfish. I knew that it would help me build my future business, so I bit the bullet and asked him anyway. To my relief, he agreed.

His testimonial blew me away. I knew something had shifted, but after reading it I realized there was a real ripple effect happening in him. Not only had he started watching his finances better, but his smarter decisions and newfound discipline were also having a positive effect on his personal relationships and health. When I read it, something shifted inside me too.

I realized for the first time that what I offered was valuable to people in ways that even I didn't expect. That first private client gave me the courage to take on more paying clients.

The Inner Critic Comes Out

Still, it seemed that no matter how many people I worked with, I always had the same nervousness in the beginning. The same inner monologue would loop over and over: "You're not good at this. They're going to demand their money back and tell everyone how awful you are."

Oh, yes, my inner critic is a full-on monster, and she's the reason I kept my rates ridiculously, laughably low, just so no one would get mad at me if they weren't happy with my services.

This charging low fees thing went on for a few months with a handful of clients. Then I was contacted by a woman who'd heard about me through a mutual friend. She was a woman I admired, an entrepreneur who'd started a business a few years prior.

We sat down, and I asked her about her financial situation. I felt that I could help her, and she was nearly ready to say yes -- until I shared my rates with her. Her mood changed immediately. Suddenly, she wasn't so eager.

At first I thought my rates were too high -- but it was the exact opposite. She told me that the reason she didn't want to work with me was because they were too low. "I can tell by your rates that you're not confident in your abilities," she said. "So I'm not sure this is going to work out."

After the initial shock wore off, I realized she was right. To this day, I'm grateful for her brutal honesty because it made a lightbulb go off. After that, I looked through my testimonials and interviewed past clients about what they got out of working with me. Most clients started to see results around the two-month mark, and the best clients stayed with me for three or four months. The people who didn't get great results only came to me for one or two sessions.

At the time, I was billing on an hourly basis. So I started lumping sessions together and charging a bundled price to make sure people stayed long enough to see results. Each bundle was several hundred dollars -- way more than I was charging before.
 

Next Step: Overcoming My Fears

When I first started offering bundled pricing, I was terrified. I kept playing with the numbers to make them "seem" lower, doing things like adding more sessions to justify the price.

When people would question my fees, I'd explain that most clients didn't see results unless they were willing to invest some time, and the price reflected that. But I wasn't confident enough to charge more -- and potential clients picked up on that. They'd ask if I could just do one session or try to negotiate the price. Sometimes I caved, other times I didn't out of fear that they'd run to the 11 o'clock news with their complaints.

None of my fears ever came to pass. They were and still are completely irrational.

But after landing a few clients at my new, higher rate, history repeated itself. Clients were happy. They were getting good results, writing testimonials and referring friends. I could breathe a bit easier. I felt like I had scaled a small mountain and found a spot at the top where I could rest.

A year later, I raised my rates again after calculating how much I would need to earn in order to leave my corporate job. By this point, I was devoting 20 hours a week to my "side" job, and I knew I wanted to do it full time. I remember the first, four-figure proposal I sent out to a potential client. She didn't respond for a few days, and I chewed nearly all of my nails off waiting to see if she'd say yes.

Finally, the email came: "Let's do this." I was excited (for her) and terrified (for me). The inner critic, again looking for trouble, told me the other shoe was about to drop. I held my breath for a few weeks while I worked with the client, but after we both saw that she was getting great results, I let myself relax. And the higher rate became the new normal.
 

Accepting My Real Worth

I wish I could say that realizing my worth was a one-time event, but it wasn't. It's a journey. The fear never really goes away, but I'm learning how to manage it better. Whenever I offer a new service or raise my rates, that inner critic goes berserk trying to get me to revert to what is comfortable and safe.

Realizing my worth is like climbing a mountain with many peaks. You climb a small peak, and rest for a bit. Eventually, you have to get to the next one, so you keep going -- but you're terrified the whole way. Then you reach the next peak, and the journey starts again. With every peak, however, the urge to continue gets stronger.

I didn't start off with a ton of self-worth when it came to the services I was providing -- even if I felt plenty in other areas of my life! In the beginning, I attached my value to the dollar amount I was charging. But then I focused on whether my clients were really getting results. Then I made a promise to myself that if I couldn't help them, I'd quit entirely. But as long as I was, I'd stay in the game.

It's easy to stay stuck at a lower rate in order to avoid rocking the boat. Every time I've raised my fees, it's usually been followed by a week or two of panic attacks, fearing that this time I've asked for too much. But eventually the awkward phase passes, and my rates feel like a cozy sweater again.

My hope is that, one day, I'll be able to silence that inner critic who wants to devalue my professional self. But I know I'm not that enlightened yet. Still, one of the best things about going through this experience was finally realizing my self-worth. Here are some of my top tips:

Start small. Charging something nominal is still better than charging nothing at all. Don't give your gifts away for free, which could breed resentment later.

Find encouragement. Get a coach or mentor to help you stay the course when you're feeling uncomfortable about raising your rates or asking for a higher salary.

Focus on your results. When I get into panic mode, I read the testimonials of my clients. Seeing progress in their own words takes the spotlight off myself and shines it back on my clients.

Stay attuned to your emotions. This one is more of an art. If you are starting to feel a little resentful or burned out, it may be time to up your rates or ask for a raise. The increase can help get your sanity back -- especially if you offer a client-based service.

Let your rates work their way up. You don't have to triple your rates overnight to prove a point. That may backfire. Raise them incrementally and keep close watch on the results that gives you -- and your clients. Eventually, you'll be charging what you're truly worth!

This article originally appeared on https://www.aol.com/article/finance/2014/03/07/earning-wages-really-worth-entrepreneur/20844439/


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Jill Beirne Davi is the founder of Abundant Finances, a service that helps you get yourself out of debt and start amassing abundant savings in record time (without deprivation or eating cat food for dinner). For more helpful money strategies to turn your finances around, visit abundantfinances.com. 

Rewire Your Brain For Success

By: Laura Berger

Do you feel like bad habits and negative thought patterns are holding you back at work? The good news is that you can eliminate them by activating your brain’s delete button. Using neuroplasticity, you can rewire your brain by changing your behavior, thinking and emotions. This means that no one is doomed to be a control freak, conflict avoider or bad listener. Alas, we all have the power to reprogram how we lead and work through problems with focus, commitment and self-compassion.

But, you must first recognize and identify the unwanted thoughts linked to your negative behaviors and as they show up, remind yourself that they are false messages sent by your brain. Like any skill needing development, they can be improved when you take actionable steps to adopt positive behaviors and patterns.

Here are a few of those actionable steps, along with some of my clients' insights in their own words and suggestions for reaching your full potential:

Be less controlling. If you demand perfect results and believe that your way of doing things is the only way, it's time you started letting go. Not only does this mindset increase your workload (Hello, stress!), but it also damages relationships with colleagues and can ultimately hinder your organization's success. Ironically, the more you relinquish the need to control, the more in control you will feel (Goodbye, stress!). As one client described it in a coaching session:

“The more I relinquish control, the more I’m in control because when I do that, I am more serene, and the serenity is where my greatest power and influence resides. When I’m in that zone, I know that what I say has meaning, is relevant and is the right thing for whatever I’m dealing with. If I’m not there, what I say and how I behave is probably driven more reactively or impulsively …”

Start by challenging yourself to relinquish your need for perfection, remembering that the 80/20 rule not only applies to what your organization does, but what you do as well. By relaxing your standards on certain things, you will become open to alternative ways of doing things and will likely learn something in the process: a win-win.


Improve your listening. Listening well is critical to effective communication, fostering high performance, strong relationships and greater employee engagement. Becoming a good listener requires proactive practice in conversations and meetings. So, the next time a situation demands your attention, maintain eye contact with the speaker. As you listen to their points, remain attentive and open-minded, as judgment detracts from your listening. Do not interrupt, but rather wait for a pause to ask any clarifying questions. Share any feedback while mirroring the speaker’s sentiments and demeanor. This ensures conversational counterparts know they were heard and their thoughts are valued.

Embrace conflict. Too many of us allow our egos to cloud our judgment in workplace conflict. And we all know that running away from workplace problems only spirals already undesirable situations further south. In his book, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, Don Miguel Ruiz asserts the importance of taking nothing personally. Instead, respect others’ subjective opinions, realizing that their views don’t necessarily define us accurately. To effectively create separation between the conflict and yourself, adopt the belief, "It's not about me." As one client described it in a coaching session:

“It’s not about me. It’s not just me. I have a team … There is a bit of mindset shift that’s happening, and I want to make the best of it. The only way that’s going to happen is if I take charge and stop feeling like things are happening to me. It’s not going to be perfect and that’s okay … There are limits to how much I am going to stress myself out because of what other people may comment on or say. I am taking more control of my day-to-day and my interactions and not fearing the consequences from my boss. They are my choices, and it’s about making them in a way that honors my needs.”

With this mindset, you quickly realize just how rational, assertive and positive you can be during confrontation. So, the next time conflict knocks, leave your ego at the door, and allow growth and learning to take flight.

Be confident. Don’t waste your brain cycles on false messages that only lower your confidence. Instead, replace the negative self-perception with a positive one and focus on the skills you do have. If you’re constantly telling yourself, “I’m not deserving of a promotion,” change this belief by making a list of the work you put in every day that qualifies you for a promotion or raise. This will culminate in what I call a promotion résumé that will be ready to hand to your superiors at annual review time. If you feel you are still undeserving, think outside the box and ask your boss if you can take on new projects.

A saying credited to Thomas Edison says, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to try just one more time.” To create lasting change within yourself and never look back, stay optimistic. Get excited about how empowered you will feel when you successfully act in more positive and constructive ways.

This article originally appeared on www.forbes.com


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Featured on ABC News, CNBC, Yahoo Finance, Redbook, Self, and the Miami Herald, Laura Berger is a certified executive coach and co-founder of the Berdeo Group. Her clients include leaders at JP Morgan Chase, The Walt Disney World Company, Financial Solutions Advisory Group, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. She is the co-author of two books: Fall in Love Again Every Day and Radical Sabbatical.

Comment

Laura Berger

Featured on ABC News, in CNBC, Yahoo Finance, and in Redbook, Self, and the Miami Herald, Laura Berger is a certified executive coach and co-founder of the Berdéo Group. She has counseled leaders for 15 years, maximizing their potential in the areas of Evidence based leadership, global operations management, and strategic change management. Her clients include leaders at JP Morgan Chase, Leo Burnett Worldwide, American Hospital Association, Starcom MediaVest Group, The Walt Disney World Company, Financial Solutions Advisory Group, World Business Chicago, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. She is an in-demand speaker and co-author of two books: Fall in Love Again Every Day and Radical Sabbatical: Could You Say Goodbye to Everything You Know to Get Everything You Want?.