I had an awful dream last night. I dreamt I had to get a job at Big W – which is a low-end department store in Australia. It was horrendous. All the staff including those in senior positions were younger than me. The latter eyed me suspiciously, as if I wanted their jobs, looking for all the world like they were devising tortures to make me quit. We had to do this stupid kind of “team moral” exercise in the back room before we started the day (cringe).
And then darling better-half woke me up and told me it was 8:30am. It was a work day, but it had been my turn to lie in a little longer while she looked after our dawn-loving rugrats. I got up, meandered about in my pyjamas for a while, goofed off with the kids, eventually fired up the ‘puter and started doing my real-life work, which is varied, creative and refreshingly devoid of paranoid middle-managers and team moral huddles.
The dream was quite vivid, so I have been feeling even more grateful than usual about how lucky I have got it. I’m not rich (by 1st world standards) and not ALL of the work I do enthralls me, but I do OK and, the total collapse of civilisation notwithstanding, I reckon the future looks reasonably bright.
What do I do? Well I pay the bills currently by doing combinations of the following:
- SEO (search engine optimization)
- Content management (as in please upload these 780 PDFs for me)
- Basic HTML and other nerdy stuff
- Sales pages – write them, construct them
- Email newsletter management
- Digital strategy (i.e how are we gonna kick arse online?)
- Photography (no idea what I am doing but hey, I’m loving it!)
- Websites (i.e. I sell them then get other people to build them)
- Blogging (it’s a big part of my week, so yeah, I am a part-time model pro-blogger)
- Social media stuff (manage Facebook pages that kind of thing)
- And other stuff as it comes up
Part of this I get to do from home in my pajamas, part of this I do onsite for a couple of regular clients which is cool, I even have my own office with a view at one place.
Bully for me. But why the hell should you care right? Well, the point I am getting at is 5 years ago I was still doing horrible work (cold call sales, hospitality) and could see no way out of it. But then an escape route did appear … wait … fast forward back a few years more …
In 2003 I noticed a couple of my slightly younger tech-savvy friends had these things called blogs. I instantly thought “what I can just publish my own stuff to the web, no code needed? Awesome” and opened up a blogger blog. It’s still there if you wanna have a look. I soon got annoyed with the way it looked and started fiddling about with the HTML to make it look “better” (ok I thought it looked better then).
I was just having fun, but within a year or so I was making my own websites and I kept on playing with this realm in my spare time (which, now that I have kids, I realise I had LOADS of without knowing the value of that).
I moved on to WordPress and started to make online friends as the world of blog comments sprang into life and one who happened to live nearby became my business partner. He told me that there was loads of work making websites and doing ‘all that geek stuff” for companies small and large and that if I could sell them, he could deliver and along the way, I would learn more.
Learn To Sell
Now back in 2003 I would have stopped at the words “sell them” but since then I had spent three years selling advertising on the phone, which was tough but a great skill to learn.
I was sick of the job by then so I sold my then boss on a new website build and management contract and suddenly we had a business!
The very next day I started working from home in my pyjamas. And I have never looked back.
OK I have looked back, and sideways and it hasn’t always been plain sailing but I have managed to build a much better life for myself, devoid of Big W style McJobs and the way I did it was by:
- Playing around with stuff that interested me (music, social media, writing fiction, blogging, HTML, marketing skills)
- Recognising which ones people were prepared to pay me money to do NOW, for them (social media, blogging, HTML, marketing skills)
- Learning to sell. Even though I did not always enjoy it as a pure day-in-day-out experience, doing a sales job for a couple of years really taught me to get over myself and just ask for the sale. (And then ask someone else. And then ask someone else. It’s a numbers game, you ask and you ask and you ask and then when someone says yes you make sure you charge them enough to make it worth your while and then you do your best to serve them so well they keep hiring you. But you don’t let them take over your life, that’s not the point at all. There’s a balance there.)
So play, explore your interests, make stuff, try new creative things. You just never know which ones might lead to a better life than schlepping off to make coffee or flip burgers every day while smug bastards like me sleep in!
You can do it dude!
BONUS HINT: DRINK LOADS OF COFFEE!