By Geny Cabral
Follow your dreams! Create the life you want to live! It sounds inspiring on Instagram, but what happens when you actually do it? What happens when you quit your 9 to 5 job and soon realize you’re flat broke? What’s going to keep you from running back to the corporate world? How do you actually create the life you want?
Life is all about making decisions. You decide to leave a job. Your boss decides to let you go. Regardless of how you arrived to this point, congratulations! You now have a most precious and underappreciated gift: time. Your time is now and this is the right time to work on the business of you!
Self-employment is a way to bridge the gaps where traditional 9 to 5 jobs fall short, for instance, facing rigid schedules, unfulfilling roles, and in some cases, a closeted work culture. Becoming an entrepreneur offers a refreshing alternative to the daily grind.
There are no guarantees and to pursue it, you have to be willing to face the challenges, be they financial, social and/or creative. The good news is there are services and products catered specifically to LGBT and people of color entrepreneurs.
Are you ready? Let’s begin.
What Do I Actually Want?
The most important thing you can do to start creating your new career is… nothing at all (at least for the first day). Beginning a new career requires a lot of energy and a positive state of mind. If you rush into the process out of desperation you will set yourself up for failure. Take a day to really enjoy yourself. Go to the movies. Sit in the park and daydream. Breathe. Trust that this is the beginning of a new path. Enjoy some quality time with your new boss: you.
Now that you’re in a calm, balanced state, it’s time to get to work. Whether it’s the first or the fifteenth job you’ve left, it’s important to look at your work history. How many jobs have you quit? Take a non-judgmental look. Why did you leave? Was it the work environment? Was it the job duties? Was it the schedule? Was it the industry? Answer honestly and take note of any patterns.
Setting an intention is a powerful way to redirect your energy. It’s time to stop complaining about old jobs and declare what you actually want. Instead of saying, “I hated being stuck in that windowless room,” say, “I love working in bright open spaces.” Turn, “my boss was an evil, controlling…” into, “I love working with people who are respectful and kind.” You can even list things you want to learn about, new places you want to see, and experiences you want to have. Just make sure it sounds true for you. These new intentions should make you feel good! The point is not to judge yourself, but rather to shift your mindset.
Planning a New Future
Take a blank piece of paper and list 9:00am to 5:00pm in half-hour time slots. On a separate sheet, write the most important things you want to accomplish today and how long it would take to do them. Plug each of these items into the previous time slots. Congrats, you’ve begun to build your new work schedule!
You’re probably wondering, “Wait, I just left my job because of the schedule. Why would I want to be on the clock again?”
At first, unlimited free time sounds like heaven. You can go out on Sunday nights. You can wake up midday and no one will blink an eye. Then one day, the funds in your bank account start to dwindle down. You can no longer afford happy hours with the girls. You are stuck at home, depressed and asking yourself, “Why did I quit? I should have saved up more.” Before you know it, you’ll be polishing your resume and begging for another job.
Discipline is the tool that will keep you focused when fear and doubt show up at your door. A simple habit, such as creating a schedule, gives you structure. Every time you show up to “work” you feel motivated to create something. Over time, all of those smaller tasks build into projects, which can become opportunities for income. Use the time for research or free-writing to generate ideas. Also, remember to block time for fun activities, breaks, and meals.
Planning a new future is all about moving forward. While you don’t want to overwork yourself, you should take it seriously. Set aside three to four hours each day for your business and work up from there. Keep in mind, this time is strictly for you. It is not laundry time, not babysitting your niece time, not catching up on Scandal time. Create a quiet workspace, set clear boundaries, and let others know that they cannot interrupt you. Not only is this your job, but it’s also a learning process. There will be days when you won’t cross off all items on your to-do list, and that’s perfectly fine. Just learn to adjust your schedule as you go.
Pursuing your passion comes with a price. If you have no savings or steady income, you may default on your debts and damage your credit. You may have to move in with your parents. You may need to stop going out as much. You may even have to take on a part-time job to cover basic living expenses. Your loved ones may not be supportive. You will receive rejection letters. You will have to take on unpaid work to develop your skills. These scenarios are not meant to scare you, but they ask how far are you willing to go and what will you do when these things happen. Preparing a contingency plan is what will keep you from running back to the old job.
Taking Care of Business
Ok, you have a plan. Now where’s the money? Believe it or not, the greatest source of wealth is you. Traditionally, work is seen as a transactional relationship. You show up, work for 40 hours, and receive a paycheck in exchange. Self-employment is completely different. In order to succeed you must have a larger vision. You must be well aware that many of your ideas might not take off. This might seem depressing, but if you are able to see yourself as the source of all the wealth, then you are able to consistently generate more ideas that will bring money. Your state of mind is the biggest factor in determining your success.
Look at what you currently have. Now look at how much you spend. Before you give up all of your worldly possessions, bear this is mind. If you know that open mics and workshops keep you inspired, find free events in your area. If gourmet chocolates give you the greatest pleasure in the world, stop by Godiva and try a few samples. The secret to living a full life on a tight budget is to clearly define the things that make you feel powerful, grounded and brilliant. The better you feel, the more opportunities you can create.
Another strategy is to think about your hidden wealth. Can you sell off some items in storage? Can you cash in those coins on your dresser? Can you run errands for neighbors? Can you babysit? The larger job market maybe overcrowded, but your local network is always in need. People always need help and here’s an even bigger, lesser known secret: People actually want to help you! The truth is that most people wish they had the courage to pursue their passions. They might not be able to invest big bucks in your business, but they can help you through connections, skills training or the odd job.
There is a saying, “El que no grita, no mama.” (Loose translation: “The child that does not cry out, will not suckle.”) In other words, you have to ask for what you want. You’ll be surprised at the resources that will show up.
Check out the following sites to help you get your business started:
The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce New York (NGLCCNY) provides valuable business development opportunities, financial access and educational resources to LGBT and allied businesses in the New York Metro area.
dot429 is an online network connecting LGBT professionals and allies.
StartOut is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to creating great business leaders by fostering LGBT entrepreneurs.
The U.S. Small Business Administration has partnered with the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) to launch a 13-city tour focusing on economic empowerment. Many Faces. One Dream. seeks to encourage LGBT people of color to pursue entrepreneurship.
I’ll leave you with a story. A few weeks ago, I had a “desperate” moment. Things were slow; I had no projects, no income and definitely no way to pay the bills. I felt miserable as I opened up a browser and typed in “Human Resources Jobs NYC.” I kept thinking, “This is not what I want to do!” Doubt replied “…but you need the money! You’re not a real writer anyway!” Resigned, I emailed myself a few job descriptions and went to bed, thinking of my dusty old suits and cover letters. The next day, as I avoided my inbox, I looked through some old books on a shelf. I opened up the first one and out dropped a blank money order from 2009. I was happy enough to find the money, but I burst out laughing when I read the title on the cover. It all made sense: Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow.