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I left a 6-figure job during the pandemic, to start a business in a country not my own.
Sound crazy? Depends on your appetite for risk.
It’s been exactly two years since I made the leap of faith into solopreneurship. Am I grateful for the choice I made to leave my job and go it alone? Read to the end to find out!
This article will outline the most significant challenges and lessons learned on this journey to date.
Let’s face it, if you’re going to start your own company, you will need to have conditions which allow you to focus on starting and running a successful business. In my case, I had the following conditions in place:
These conditions can be different for everyone, but whatever your situation is, you should feel comfortable with making the decision to quit your job and start a business. You need to be sure you can meet your financial obligations and support yourself in case you don’t have any earnings for a long period of time. You need to free yourself up so you can comfortably focus on building your company.
If you do your calculations and you’re not comfortable with your conditions enough to leave the job cold turkey, then maybe you want to start your business as a side hustle. You can always leave the job eventually when your business is profitable
I hired and fired three website designers in a row.
One misrepresented herself and couldn’t do what I was asking for. One left the website full of problems, and wasn’t willing to fix them. One took my money and disappeared.
Then I finally found the ideal person to design, build, and maintain the website, and he has been with me now for the last year and a half.
Then it took me 6 months of interviews to find a good social media manager.
I also hired a coach at the beginning of my journey who ended up steering me in the wrong direction and wasted my time at the cost of $2,200. Ouch. I realized too late that he didn’t know how to coach and didn’t have any coaching qualifications.
I learned my lesson the hard way: be extremely careful when choosing people to work with. The Great Resignation produced a lot of eager freelancers. People may be very convincing in the initial proposal stage, but learn to read between the lines, examine their qualifications, get samples of their work and ask for testimonials. No nonsense and no shortcuts.
Despite the initial challenges now I have several amazing people working for me, who have been with me for the last year and a half. They are instrumental in my business growth and I couldn’t do what I do without them.
Moral of the story: It is extremely difficult to find good people to work for you and with you, so start early. When you find good people, reward them well and hang on to them so they don’t leave.
Don’t even try to say you hate social media. You have to learn to love it, and you WILL love it once you realize it’s free advertising.
My tips about utilizing social media for your business:
How much growth did I achieve? When I started with LinkedIn in October 2020 I had 1,800 followers. As of today I have 6,200.
Yesterday my YouTube Channel reached 1,000 subscribers, the first criteria for monetizing your channel. It happened after a year and four months of regular uploads once per week.
You need to develop a rhythm and a steady way of working, plus healthy habits and a balance. Take baby steps and don’t expect success overnight. Be patient with yourself and keep in mind some important tips to be sure of your optimal performance:
The struggle is real. With no deadlines or boss breathing down your neck, it can be a challenge to stay on track with your goals and your schedule. And don’t forget that social media apps are designed to distract you and take your attention away.
The solution is simple: turn off all notifications while working.
‘Pomodoro’ means ‘tomato’ in Italian, and you can think of your grandma’s kitchen timer which was shaped like a tomato, round and red. Imagine you have one of those, and you set it for 25 minutes. If you don’t have an actual tomato, don’t worry. I use my phone timer. In those 25 minutes, you focus on one task, and one task only, blocking everything else out. At the end of the 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break.
Last but not least, remember you are only human. You are subject to the laws of the universe and you have only a limited amount of output potential in one day.
I have found that I can only do three major things in a day. If I expect more of myself then it can get overwhelming.
When you have your own company, you have constant learning and upskilling to do. The business world is always evolving and so are the programs, apps, and tools out there. Not to mention your competition.
I make it a point to attend:
Networking is absolutely essential and deserves its own article, but you can learn more about it from two videos on my YouTube Channel:
Beyond attending events where you can learn something and meet new people, it’s important to keep on top of knowledge acquisition every single day. Believe me, it’s not easy to find time for it, so I do this mainly in 2 ways:
It’s all about finding a way that works for you. Maybe you like to listen to audiobooks while cleaning the house or driving, read articles during your coffee breaks, or listen to podcasts while cycling or running on the treadmill.
Your work can be made much more productive, streamlined and organized by finding the right apps and programs. I have discovered many tools which make my life easier by allowing me to automate certain processes and save time. Here are those essential apps I can’t live without:
Beyond these seven key points, just be aware of energies around you, whether positive or negative. Some people may be envious of your courage and determination, and may try to put you down in your business goals.
Others—even well-meaning family and friends—may unintentionally steer you in the wrong direction by saying things like “You are so good at ____, why don’t you start a business doing that!” You have to think: yes, maybe I am good at that, but is it really what I want to do?
If you are still searching for the right thing to do in your business, try using the ikigai model, and do something:
Where those four things overlap, is your ikigai, and your purpose in life.
How do I feel about working for myself as opposed to working for someone else?
I worked seven days a week for many months, but thankfully now I have a steady flow of clients and don’t need to hustle so much.
Am I thankful about leaving my well-paid job with cushy benefits? Believe me, there are tough days when I feel unproductive, useless and hopeless.
What do I miss about my job?
Sometimes I miss those days of having a set schedule and a regular paycheck. I also miss having colleagues and friends at work, celebrating birthdays in the office and having coffee together. Now, my collaborators and I work completely remotely, so my computer is my best friend.
Somehow I convince myself to keep going, that my vision is the right direction for me, for now.
It depends on your own personal values and what’s most important to you. I had a burning need to work with the subjects I am most passionate about, express myself in the ways that I wanted to, have the freedom to work the hours I wanted to work, and be location-independent—not tied to one single place. My business gives me all of that.
And there is nothing that can describe the feeling of sweet success that you achieve from your own hard work, vision, and persistence.
Founder of Cheryl Obal & Associates
Cheryl Obal & Associates is a cross-cultural training and consulting company that helps businesses improve their cross-cultural competence.
Subscribe to my YouTube Channel to get more information about expat life, intercultural skills, and business abroad.