Five years ago I left the corporate world as a marketing executive to launch my own solopreneur business.
Marketing was never my big passion. I fell into it accidentally, but I was good at it and it paid well. And the money came in handy when I had some family issues to deal with.
But I always found myself searching for something more. When I first started a job, I was pretty happy. Everything was new, and challenging and there was a lot to learn. But once I figured out the company, the job, and reengineered the marketing strategy and got everything working smoothly, I got bored and restless.
I would always try to figure out why. Was it the position? Was it the company? Was it me?
So I became a serial job hopper. But not in a bad way. I always left for something “better” (paid more), and I always left the company and position in better shape than when I got there (or at least I’d like to think so.).
But while I was looking successful on paper, none of these marketing positions – whether they were in big companies or start-ups, in the high tech sector or education, had great cultures or horrible cultures – gave me a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
So I decided that working for a company in general must be the issue. That made sense. I am more of a flexible worker. I don’t like structure and having to be somewhere at a specific time, and I don’t like people telling me what to do. So perhaps I was meant to work for myself.
So five years ago I did just that. I left the corporate world and went off on my own. As a marketing consultant.
A year in, I realized that while I was happier with my life structure (I could work when I wanted, and had more flexibility to get other stuff done), I had not realized that sense of meaning and purpose I was looking for.
So what could it be? It briefly flickered through my mind at the time that maybe it was marketing itself that was the problem, but I quickly shut that down because it would simply be too much work – and a huge financial sacrifice to “start over” in anything else.
So. Solving the meaning and purpose problem while staying in marketing. I narrowed it down to two things. First, I must be missing a sense of community. Second, it was the type of marketing I was doing. I am more of a big picture strategy person, but I was getting sucked into do all the marketing doing (like writing, and website set-up, and campaign execution).
To solve the “sense of community” issue, I found an amazing organization called Duct Tape Marketing (headed by John Jantsch – a guru in small business marketing) and became a certified consultant. I found the sense of community I was looking for. Amazing, interesting and smart people to meet and collaborate with.
Onto the type of marketing I was doing. I set up new programs focused on marketing strategy vs. marketing doing and changed all the copy on my website and the way I presented myself.
Did this work? Did it finally bring the sense of meaning I was looking for? Sadly, no.
The sense of community made me feel much more connected, and that made me happier in some ways. But it didn’t make the work I was doing any more meaningful.
Changing the type of marketing I was doing worked briefly, but I found that once I completed a marketing strategy for a client, got sucked back into doing the marketing doing, and that most (not all) of my clients were primarily interested in strategy on paper – but would prefer to get straight to lead generation.
Now what? I had successfully created a six figure consulting business on my own. I had found a marketing group I enjoyed collaborating with. I had the freedom to set my own hours, and take vacation when I wanted to. But I felt like I was in a prison, with my soul dying.
And nobody understood. I had freedom, flexibility and money. What more could I want?
But I wanted that feeling. That feeling when you wake up, and are excited and energized because your day is going to be filled with fun and possibility. Where you know you are doing what you love, and helping other people in the process. Instead, I was not sleeping well, was tired and frustrated and dreaded facing every day. If I wrote one more blog post I was going to gnaw my arm off.
As we were driving to our cabin one day, I realized I’d had enough. Making money might be enough for other people, but not for me. There had to be another way, and I was going to find it.
I created marketing strategies for other people, so why couldn’t I create one for myself?
So I searched on my Kobo for every self-help book available on finding your passion and purpose.
I had downloaded about 10 book previews, when I came across, “Finding Your North Star” by Martha Beck. It called to me. I bought it. For some reason I went right to the end of the book, and there was a page talking about becoming a Martha Beck Life Coach. I had never heard of a life coach, but for some reason went to the web page and started downloading all the information onto my computer. We didn’t have internet at the cabin, so I wanted to make sure I had it.
That book changed my life.
I wasn’t a woo-woo person and the idea of being a life coach seemed like a pretty far off concept, but I found myself signing up for the program anyways.
And by the end of the end of the program I had the answers I needed. And ironically, I realized that my process of discovering how to love what I do again was actually a pretty cool method – and it was to become my true passion and purpose. I wanted to help other people do exactly the same thing.
So what did I learn?
1. Fears and Limiting Beliefs:
First and foremost, I learned that I had a HUGE set of limiting beliefs and fears that were stopping me from moving forward in any direction other than marketing. Shockingly, we all apparently have them – but they are not all the same.
Mine came in the form of:
- Money = safety and security and the only way I can make money is through marketing. I can’t give that up or we will lose the house and I will die on the street.
- It’s too late and I’m too old. Too late to start something new, not enough time to build something new.
- Doing something new means starting over completely. It never occurred to me that I might be able to apply many of my existing skills, experience and expertise to something different.
- I have to do something completely new to be happy. I was so disenchanted with marketing, that I lost sight of the fact that I DO like some parts of it, and may not have to give all of it up.
- What will “others” think? My hubby, friends and family would think I was irresponsible and crazy. This is a big one. I can just see my dad raising his eyebrow and saying, “Niiicooooleeee” in that deep voice of his.
2. Who Am I, Really?
I’ve done a lot of work throughout my career with psychology, sales training, personality types, etc. I’ve always been fascinated with the Myers Briggs test and other personality style programs. In the Martha Beck program, I dove much deeper into who I really am in terms of:
- My personality style: I am an ENFP, which means I am an extravert and get energy from other people, I am a big picture thinker, I make decisions based on my gut, and I like to leave my options open instead of making decisions (also messy).
- I am a scanner: This means I am not happiest when becoming an expert in one area alone – instead I like to learn and explore lots of new things.
- My passion, purpose and values: I value learning, nature, helping others, making a difference, being happy, and being authentic.
- My action style: I am high quick start, medium fact finder and very low implementer and follow through. This means I like to jump right into things and gather research and evidence – but I lose a lot of energy if I spend most of my time doing the doing and following through on things.
- Success to me doesn’t mean money. It does to a certain extent – I need enough to meet my general day-to-day needs, but money does not bring me meaning or make me feel successful. Instead, success to me means creating, making a difference and helping people.
- My ideal life involves flexibility, new things, learning, being in nature, being with horses, and working hard for a period of time, then taking a break.
3. How Does Who I Am Match my Business?
My biggest aha moment came when I applied all the new information I learned about who I am to my actual business. I looked at it in four key areas:
- My Ideal Client (who I was actually working with)
- My Core Difference (what my clients saw in me that made me unique)
- My Packages and Services (what I was actually doing)
- My Messaging and Story (how I communicated all this)
I thought this would be a fun process, until I realized – everything I was doing was counter to who I am. I had created a business out of what I “thought” I should be doing, a business that served all my fears and limiting beliefs, and none of my essential purpose.
While my action style was high on Quick Start, my actual business was all about follow-through – the action style I was lowest in. No wonder I was so tired and frustrated.
While my Myers-Briggs style pegged me as an extravert and big picture thinker, I was working alone, at home doing minute, detailed work.
While success to me meant more than money, I was working with clients who were primarily focused on making money. No wonder I didn’t feel my work had any value.
While I technically had all the flexibility in the world. I treated my own business like a full time job – but a full time job that never ended. I even worked while on vacation.
The core difference, messaging and story I was communicating was not me at all.
4. What Needs to Stay and What Needs to Change?
Instead of going right to – holy crap – I need to change EVERYTHING I DO in order to be happy, I took a step back and thought. Ok. There must be some things I like about what I do.
That’s when I realized that the process I had just gone through was very much like the beginning of a marketing strategy. You look at your ideal client, what makes you different and then develop the packages and services to meet the needs of your ideal client. Then you communicate that through your messaging, branding and story.
So I did just that.
I reviewed what was actually working in terms of who I am, how I prefer to work, and what I want. And then I analyzed my current business.
In the end, what I came up with were two programs that mimic a marketing strategy process. And it’s pretty much the process I’ve described to you here today.
- My Ideal Client: I was working with small and mid-sized business owners who wanted to move to a new level of growth. I realized that I needed to be working with solopreneurs, professionals, and entrepreneurs who had a higher goal – and cared about more than money.
- My Core Difference: I discovered that what my clients thought was my core difference (and what I was communicating) was not really me. My core difference is not taking a strategy-first approach to marketing and translating complex information into understandable benefits, but connecting who you are to creating a business you love.
- My Packages and Services: I love creating programs, educating and teaching, coaching and strategizing. But all of my programs involved doing and implementing. I removed all of that from my programs. So while there was still a marketing element – it was no longer me doing it.
Where I Am Now – And Where You Could Be:
The strange thing is, what I now offering in my business is still technically marketing strategy. But with a big twist that makes all the difference to me. That twist is connecting who you are to your business.
It’s easy to do the research, figure out what people will want, and what will make you the most money.
But it’s hard to dig deep and figure out what you want, what will make you happy and still really serve your people and make a difference.
It’s even harder to move past some of our most deeply held limiting beliefs and opinions of others about success, what you “should’ be doing, how you “should” be feeling.
If you do this, you can transform your business or career into something that makes you energized and excited to get out of bed every day.
And I strongly believe that if you build a business that you love, you will have more success than you could have ever imagined possible. Because this will be a business you will love to talk about and market. This will be a business that you will believe in, so you will inspire your clients believe in it too. This will be a business that will be unique to you, and easily recognizable to your ideal people.
It’s working for me right now. So what are you waiting for? Come join the fun!
Ready to Start Loving What You Do?
Grab my new eBook, Love Your Business, where I outline the seven steps new life coaches (and passionate solopreneurs!) need to take to transition from their 9-5 job and design, market & run a business you love: