I’d like to help you make every day Independence Day by sharing the 3 steps I took after leaving my last job, steps that might help you gain your independence and build your personal brand.
Independence Day has special significance for me; it was on Independence Day when I decided to never again work for anyone else.
I had enjoyed a lot of success in my last job, the pay was good, I enjoyed my role as the advertising manager of a chain of high-end retail electronics stores, and I liked dealing with customers interested in buying high-performance music systems.
What I didn’t like was the dynamics of a family business, and I had no desire to ever again being in a position where I was vulnerable to the dynamics, moods, and protocols of working for someone else…or being forced into the position of job hunting.
So, I took the plunge
I had far fewer resources to turn to for guidance than today’s budding entrepreneurs.
Personal branding, of course, was not yet on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Platforms hadn’t been invented. Followers was a term reserved for religious cult leaders.
Advertising and marketing were terms used to describe the mass media tools that corporations used to get remembered, rather than individuals used to get noticed. And public relations focused on articles in local newspapers.
I also had fewer resources than (hopefully) you do. I was newly married, 3,000 miles from home, a new father, a newly-minted homeowner…and the owner of 2 just-leased Saabs.
Was I nervous?
Of course! Just like you might be, if you’re thinking of striking out on your own.
Sink or swim survival techniques
Having made the decision to bypass traditional employment, I immediately did 3 things to begin a new, independent, phase in my life:
- Step 1: Office. In order to symbolize my independence and emphasize my commitment to self-employment, I located a startlingly-inexpensive office in a paper box factory. (Maybe its lack of heating and air conditioning had something to do with its plow price.) This gave me a place to go every morning. It gave me an independent telephone number.
- Step 2: Visibility. In order to get noticed, I identified and approached a publication that needed to help its readership advertise and market their businesses more effectively. I didn’t ask for money, but I did request a 1/3 page ad in each issue, and requested that my 2-page article ran in the centerspread of each issue. (These were, obviously, simpler times.)
- Step 3: Cash flow. As you can see from my family, home, and automobile commitments listed above, I needed money. But, as always, necessity is the mother of invention. I came up with an idea for a modular newspaper advertising insert that retailers—working with their local newspapers—could easily complete on their own. I partnered with a local design group, so I had no production costs, and I marketed it through my trade-out ads each month.
And….I hustled. I located a handful of additional local small businesses to fill out my time and create a cushion for planning the next stage.
It all soon came together. Partly as planned, and partly by chance—as a result of exploring new opportunities, gradually broadening my perspective, and undertaking bigger challenges.
Soon, I was making more money on my own than when I had a “job.”
Within a few years, I wrote my first best-selling book, Looking Good in Print: A Guide to Basic Design for Desktop Publishing, the first of over 40 books, and was traveling through the country presenting day long seminars and workshops.
Could this approach work for you in today’s changed world?
What about it?
Let’s analyze the my 3 steps, and see if they are still valid today:
- Office. I’m firmly convinced that having an office outside of the home is as important today as it ever was, although I’m willing to concede that today it’s not as important as it once was.
- Visibility. The source of my independence was locating a venue where I could promote my expertise in an editorial format. The ability to write is the ability to earn! Today, it’s both easier and harder for you to get your writing noticed. True, it’s easier in that you don’t need a magazine–you only need a blog. But, unfortunately, everyone else can also set up a blog. But, the fundamental source of independence remains creating visibility and respect through writing.
- Cash flow. Everyone needs cash flow. As soon as possible, you need to productize your expertise into an easy-to-deliver source of income. This is probably even more important than locating 1 or 2 key clients—because “key clients” who are responsible for the majority of your income can become as demanding as the “bosses” you’re trying to avoid!
Of the 3 steps I took, though, Visibility is the key. Without visibility, I would probably have quickly starved on the vine…and been forced to settle for the first job offer that I received.
Word-based visibility, then and now, remains the key to independence and success. (Only now, your written words are now often delivered as YouTube videos.)
Good years & bad years
So far, I’ve enjoyed several decades of “boss-free” independence.
It hasn’t all been rosy, of course: there have been good years and there have been bad years. Not all were pretty. But, on the other hand, I’ve never been “trapped” or at the mercy of a capricious boss.
And, most important, I didn’t start from a business background—I majored in European History in college and always wanted to be a teacher. And, as mentioned, resources like this blog, personal coaches, and the Internet weren’t even on the horizon when I started out.
So, if I could enjoy an independent life, you can probably do to, too!
Don’t let insecurity get in the way of controlling your own destiny and mastering the new skills necessary to build your personal brand and make every day your Independence Day! Any comments or questions?