Looking back, I’m happy with the choices I made. But did I think so at the time?
I made a choice to leave an IT career of 7 years with the plan of rejoining once my immediate family responsibilities got lighter (which never happened). Not being a “home and hearth” kinda gal, I found the initial months incredibly frustrating.
It was difficult and discouraging to forgo opportunities I couldn’t avail because of circumstances. I fumed and fretted till the day I accepted that I needed to make this work within my limitations rather than peering over the fence.
I turned to studying. I brushed up programming skills, learned new languages, even rekindled lost hobbies. I started looking for “work from home” opportunities but nothing clicked till one day I bumped onto an online course on Technical Writing.
Doors open in unlikely places
Long story short, I got hooked to Technical Writing – a far cry from bits and bytes but as much fun. For that, I have to thank my wonderful coach Bill Moore for the passion he nurtured in me – for writing, for working hard, for receiving criticism in a positive light, and delivering better than your best. (Update: Bill has kindly agreed to share some of his wisdom with my readers on the Content Knockout blog. I’ll include the link here when that happens.)
On completion, I got my first content writing project, for a paltry sum, but it was a start.
If it’s worthwhile, it won’t come easy
Once the ball started rolling, I kept getting work through sites and references. However, where there were days I worked all night, there were others when I just waited for work to come my way.
Moving from an assured income model to a graph that went up and down through the year took getting used to. Leaving a sizable income for a trifling start was downright depressing. Working in a disciplined manner from home took a daily dose of self-motivation (still does, some days). I had to learn all about managing a project from negotiating to planning to execution and I made mistakes, lots of them.
But working alone, not stepping out every day, having only the internet as friend and mentor (most of the time) … for me, that was the hardest of all.
Solutions don’t fall in your lap
Working by myself taught me one thing – solutions don’t come to you, you have to create them. So that’s what I set out to do.
I hungered for a network (more than a virtual one) where I could mix, talk, learn and exchange knowledge. So I pushed myself to be more outgoing. I began attending and organizing events and reaching out to people there. NSRCEL events for startups was a good learning platform.
In my work with clients, I tried to create a team environment even if it was only ever over a phone.
I joined online professional networking groups.
I just stopped thinking twice before reaching out.
Together we learn more
To feed my hunger for collaboration, I got together a diverse group of women managing small businesses from home. They loved the idea.
We held monthly meetings to discuss challenges respective to each member’s business area. We also discussed challenges unique to women managing home and work responsibilities. The collaborative mix led to diverse ideas that broadened our thinking. Very soon, the meetings became a much-awaited event – a source of motivation where we innovated together, held each other accountable for self-defined goals, pushed, questioned, critiqued, partnered for new ventures, and best of all found solutions.
It was remarkable! And in the process, I made some friends for life.
Go with the flow
The last 7 years have been about discovery and growth, personal and professional. It has been a period of introspection – a gift I would’ve missed out on if I hadn’t taken a decision that at the time seemed painful.
My journey as a freelancer has been wonderful and I believe it’ll only get richer in the following years. I continue to try my hand at new approaches in training, consulting and collaboration. Training others has made me more of a student now than before. And I meet great people all the way – friends, peers, prospective clients and mentors.
Sometimes, I guess, it’s best to go with the flow.