20 January 2018

Becoming self-employed, a year in review

I've been wanting to write this piece of text for, at least, 6 months now, but, for some reason or another, I've been deliberated postponing it. That or I just needed time.
I don't use this blog anymore at all, last time I came here was probably more than a year ago, but I do think of it and look at it as my diary, or 'yearly', when I need to write down my thoughts of past events. My thoughts now come here after been maturated.
So, today, I was particularly ignited to write because there a lot of things going on....

Like I said, last time I came and wrote here was Nov. 2016 for "Thanksgiving" because, back then, I had recently made a decision that would change my life: I quit my job and became self-employed at the age of 27. A hell of a decision and my "one year recap post" got out of hand, so here it goes.

Bonobo on soundtrack, 'cause some things never get old, let's go! It may take a few hours to get this done/organized (in my mind too).

I'd start by recalling an ex-work colleague of mine (from my previous job that is) who told me something, in my last days there, that keeps coming back and forward to my mind every now and then. I was confessing her all my doubts and fears she said: "Oh Sara, one year from now? You will only be regretting to not have quitted before!"
And yes, it's true (although I know why I didn't do it before) which means everything went just fine.
Becoming self-employed was everything but difficult, the hard part was to quit itself! And about that, after almost 2 years, I now officially know I was a having a complete and clear burnout and, although I had no idea what that was at the time, I'm proud I understood something was not right with me and took action.

When I say starting this job was "easy" for me I mean it was all very natural. Not all roses, but it went all very very smooth and natural. And this is my story:

I made the decision of quitting my job, in my mind first, on Jan. 2016 after having already a few months of hard time, so when I officially started thinking about changing my life there was only one possible plan b which came straight in my head: English! I will work with the English language, come what may.
As a side job/hobby, I was tutoring English to children at home for the past 5 years and the moment came when I enjoyed waaaaay much more my hobby than my job! True to be told, in the former, the only thing I ended up enjoying was when I had to write/speak in English! So, again, that was my one and only plan b: to turn my hobby in my full-time job!


English has always been present in my life since I was a child, mostly inspired by I don't know who or what (maybe my cousin who is my age and lives in the USA?) and it is still the only thing in the world which always keeps my attention 100%, no matter what.
I've always been very keen to languages and education. My dream was always to become a special education teacher (except this time I know exactly who is my all time source of inspiration: my primary school teacher), but life had other plans for me during 10 years. So, please, do imagine a person who did everything wrong for 10 years... Oh, hi! Exactly, that's me.

I thought it was a good idea to take a degree in an useless Engineering, which, OF COURSE, I never used, then tried a Masters in a-not-so-useless-but-still-not-very-relevant-field which ultimately I believe put me where I needed. I never liked the topics I studied in any of my degrees, but at least, in the last, I had the chance to go abroad and study in 3 different countries and 4 institutions which were life time experiences and I'm forever grateful I took those chances. And guess what, one of the best parts of them all was again the opportunity I had to improve, put in practice and learn more English. Lol Am I crazy? Is there anyone else out there who also loves something so... small and apparently irrelevant?
I guess I was not interested in all the papers and works I was doing for the universities, I was interested how I was gaining more and more vocabulary in English! That was what was triggering me. (Well, hello dejá-vù with my last job!)

So, after 10 years of being deviated from what I should be doing since forever, the moment I decided I'd dedicate myself to teach English to children and adults (Jan.2016) was easy. Very easy indeed. Everything I needed (talk about finally getting out of that sick job, take new trainings, new work location, positive feedback, bureaucracy, etc.) came all very naturally. It was meant to be, you know when that happens? And it took shape on October 10th, 2016, so I worked 10 months for it. (And I opened the door at 10.10 am that day, so I don't know what the number 10 means here!... anyone?!)

The feedback from people was immediate, because thankfully (chiché or not, who cares?!) everybody assumes English is an universal language, you need English for everything, children need for school, adults to work, families to travel, bla bla, and here I was with a successful business from the beginning. And that's just exactly where I want to head now: what's success to me nowadays.


I redefined my definition of success a lot throughout the years, as I've always been very very ambitious, still am (hello there Capis!). Now, and since I tried the poison of negativity, success is what happens to me every morning when I wake up: I want to go to work, at the same time I'm not sure I work anymore, because I take great pleasure of what I do. Also, success for me and for this business is to be able to pay the bills from day one, this business has been paying itself alone from day one. I'm not making tons of money (yet!), but it was never my priority for this step in life I took. From the very first day I decided to do this, 2 years ago, I said: I know I will not earn half of what I could possible be earning here but it doesn't matter as long as I am happy and healthy and that is still just true. Although I am making more money than I ever expected, I'm not moving myself by it. After 1 year and a couple of months with the doors open, I'm still focused on creating a welcoming and good-vibes-only environment here, at the office.
Moreover, the 1st year was all about investments, so zero savings. The day will come when we'll need to talk about money.

Now I'd like to go through some thoughts about being self-employed - pros and cons randomly:

1) it's great to be your own boss, I was definitely born to be a manager and not an employee. I have hard time when people try to tell me what to do because 90% of the times I know what I want, what to do with my life or job-wise what's better or not for the tasks I have in hands;

2) I know, if the day comes, I'll be one those terrible bosses who control everything because that's what I do in my own job, I am assumedly a control freak. I like to have the control over everything (and please please don't even try to tell me how bad that is, I ALREADY KNOW), I wear all the hats - the cleaning lady, the teacher, the student, the accountant, the secretary, the decorator, ... - my project is still my baby, I couldn't hand in these tasks to anyone (yet);

3) it's a 24/7 job, there are no weekends, schedules, holidays, days off, festivities, etc. which will stop you. I am working even when I'm not working. I don't know what it means to not to think about my job anymore. My daily work hours are average 10h-12h.

4) it's not only about the people liking you, it's about you liking them! And coming to this conclusion was so self-liberating! Since I run a private school and I'm not working in the public sector, I don't expect ANYONE to come here if they don't want to, it's not in any way mandatory, so you will have to be harsh and show it's your business and who runs it! - this takes us to the next point;

5) eventually, you will have to make not so popular decisions for your own and business sake. During the first year, I was vulnerable and easy going and almost everything was permitted just for the sake of pleasuring people, which made perfect sense - the business was super recent, I had to gain the trust of people, I needed to understand what I was building (still am), etc. - and so, there were many things I did just to cause a good first impression. Not anymore. Of course the business grew from one year to another, and it's not because I'm swimming in money I now have the guts to say some nos, but it helps and you gotta show some respect too or you'll loose it all;

6) don't listen to 99% of what people will want to say to you, they have never been in your shoes and don't expect people to know about something that was never created before. The same when people start a sentence with "you should..." and bam! I am immediately off, because alas! what I should do is exactly the opposite of what you are about to say, which honestly most certainly I don't care. Trust your guts, really trust your intuition! Especially if it's a very personal and emotional project (I was told once I was too emotional, fuck that!);

7) especially during the first year, allow yourself plenty of trial and error work, but better define some ground rules asap, like keep people responsible with payments, schedules, etc.

8) get ready to say goodbye to people, family members and friends, who might just not fit in your life anymore. Never had you felt so "you" and comfortable with life before, so you know, in that moment, that's your true "you", at last! Inspiration and good advices will come way out of your comfort zone. My type of business can be a very lonely one, since I am working alone and by myself most part of the days and I came to the conclusion all my inspiration are people I never met, just heard their experiences or stories through interviews or podcasts (which I'm addicted recently). Unfortunately, I felt I needed to take a break from most of my friends, old and new, because this was a very reflexive period in my life and you need people who are equally inspirational as you want to be*. I'm working so hard, I suddenly don't have schedules, I love a good glass of wine, I love movies, I love poetry, I love nature, I love intelligent people, I like tolerant people, I love elegance and good manners, I love interesting people in general, I don't like when people talk shit or trends, I am so hard on myself too, etc. so one day I realized I had just 1 or 2 people in my life who could understand and share these likes with me or better, who I'd took pleasure to be with, so I decided to cut most of them from my life. Yes, I have always been very good at cutting people from my life! 

Despite all I just listed down, it wasn't until this January, new year resolutions ah!, that I decided to take some action on things that needed to be changed. After coming from a 2 week vacation in the USA (which btw was very good and bad at the same time, good because it was a much needed break for me - the first time off in a year and a half - and bad because, among others, I came to the clear conclusion that American style is just not for me), January blues were hitting me hard for the first 2 weeks of the month (I was feeling depressed, not motivated for my super special job and all I wanted to do was sleep), so something was wrong, very wrong. After listening to Sophia Amorusso with Garance Dore interview on podcast, I understood what was wrong: small things, small things were "killing" me, job-wise and personal matters. So I started changing them, just like that, overnight.

Job-wise, let me tell you, some students just don't worth it (your time and dedication) and this job was created 1st of all for me, by me and for me, so I am the 1st person who needs to feel good in and with it. That's why I am about to make 1 or 2 of those not so popular decisions just because not all students are great people. And that's also success to me, being able to make my own decisions for better (even if I'm loosing money, aaah the business side!, but then again, it's not just about that).


So, yeah, don't even hesitate if one day you too have to make the leap in your life, whatever it is.
After all my love and dedication for this period of my life, needless to say, I am already thinking about my next big move, because I know me... Always on the move!

Until next year

*The day has come when some people (3 I guess! lol) told me I was an inspiration for them. 3 people in this universe think me and my story are an inspiration! That's also success to me now! It probably means I am doing something right... ;)

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