My hands shook as I swiped the bar on my phone to answer the phone call.
“Hi. Is this a good time for you to talk?”
“Yes, it is. What’s up?”
“Well. . . There’s no easy way for me to say this, but I’m letting you go.”
I don’t really remember much of the conversation after that. My stomach shrunk, my heart felt like it was in my throat and chest felt like it was on fire.
I considered maybe that I was just dreaming and I’d wake up and everything would be fine.
But I wasn’t.
The next morning, I sat in disbelief on my couch, sipping my coffee, staring at the overcast clouds outside my window as they floated among the mountains. It slowly sank in that on Monday, I wouldn’t have a job to go to like the rest of the world. (Getting let go on a Friday isn’t necessarily the best start to a weekend, take it from me.)
What now? What’s next? This certainly wasn’t where I had seen myself at 25 years old. I was on a mission to climb the ladder and climb it as fast and as hard as I could, to make it to the top. I realize now, that your career isn’t a ladder. It’s more like a jungle gym (Sheryl Sandberg eloquently describes this in her fabulous book, Lean In) and that linear career paths are far and few between.
We had an enormous rent payment, multiple other bills and oh yeah, occasionally the need to eat food and buy gas for the car. I had to think of something and something fast as a two week severance pay wouldn’t cut the mustard for long. Not to mention, our lease was up in a month and a half and what little savings we had we were planning on using already to move into a cheaper, smaller apartment.
I started to apply for other jobs but my heart sank every single time I opened an application. Why? Just so this could happen again? So I could work my ass off, dedicated, for two full years only to be let go again? No, this time, I wanted full control. If I were to ever find myself in this place again, I wanted it to be because of my own doing and no one else’s. A week later, I decided that it was time to take the leap. It was time to go full throttle into something I have known for the last several years I wanted to do. It was time I started my own business and run it in a way that made sense, was profitable and the thing I was most excited about: cared about people.
Step by step, I’ve built up a steady stream(s) of income as a freelance virtual assistant. I replaced my income within 90 days of being let go and it’s been a wild ride. Here’s how I did it:
I went to therapy.
Yes, I know you weren’t expecting that one. The truth is, getting let go is a significant loss. You lose routine, coworkers, connections, a sense of pride, accomplished progress on projects, etc. I was in a total rut after I was let go. I kept going to therapy to get back to the “old me” until I realized that there was no old me, there’s only present me. And that present me can only get better and better and better. EMDR therapy is incredible and I highly recommend seeing a trusted counselor that’s trained in it as it is a great option to heal trauma. It’s hard to let go of the past, but some things we have to put up on the shelf and let them stay there for a while.
We cut alllll unnecessary expenses and downsized.
After working side by side with so many self made, successful people – I’ve been able to see and learn many valuable lessons. One of those being to not let your lifestyle outgrow your steady income. I’ve seen so many entrepreneurs grow their business and let their lifestyle grow with it too. There’s nothing wrong with it, as long as that growth is sustainable. You can’t be in “launch” mode 11 months of the year. So we viciously cut expenses and moved into a teeny, tiny studio apartment. I knew if I wanted to make this work I’d have to make some short term sacrifices and simplify my lifestyle so I could go full throttle into starting this.
I questioned why.
Everything. All of it. Why did I stay at certain jobs for so long? Why did I want to buy a house? What is the point of having kids? Why did I believe I had to accomplish certain things in a certain way? Why did I dress the way I did? I radically questioned all the beliefs I had and chose to use this opportunity as a fresh start. It gave me a chance to start over, as I finally no longer had a boss or career dictating certain things about the path I was on.
I reached out to community.
I did not have a clue as to what I was doing and I was reminded of that daily. I had a small mastermind group of a few other girls that I leaned on heavily during this time. I’d send quick SOS texts whenever I wanted to quit or wanted their thoughts on something. They were amazing and urged me that I could do this and to actually double the prices I was previously charging to attract clients that saw and would utilize my skills. This was so validating and so crucial to the process. Starting a business can be incredibly lonely, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You’re not a special, lone, stuck in a wasteland of nowhere snowflake. Reach out. Ask for help (this is different than asking people to do things for you). Pinpoint where your stuck and be open to the options and ideas people give you. You’ll be surprised at how well people actually do know about you and how they deeply care for you.
I drowned myself in positivity every single day.
I picked myself up by the bootstraps and instead of running around whining, “Why me?!” I changed my internal narrative to: “Why not me?!” I unfollowed every single person and social media account that me feel less than, were connected to painful memories of my old job and just overall did not add any value to my life. I covered my planner with motivational quotes. I daily wrote down Bible verses in my planner. I consumed all the positive and motivating podcasts that I could get my hands on (and I still do).
However, I also thought about the worst case scenario.
Which was: moving in with a family member and work at McDonalds. I’d still be alive and I’d still be one of the richest people on earth, because I had a roof over my head, people that loved me, a supportive spouse and dishes to clean because there would be food to eat. That’s it. That’s all. (In fact, some of the nicest and happiest people I have ever known have worked at McDonalds. Truly.)
I did what the experts told me to do and followed their instructions like my life depended on it.
This is something I’ve seen in my industry over and over again. Don’t. Argue. With. The expert. (Especially publicly at a conference during a Q&A. OMG. You are wasting everyone’s time and yours.) I found a free blog post that listed out a lengthy, but detailed step by step process on how to start and market my business and followed it to a T. Count me as an A+ honors student following that process and those instructions. More importantly. . .
I broke it down into bite sized, daily pieces using my. . . . planner!
Stealing the model from Chalene Johnson’s PUSH goal system, I broke down my big goal, which was to replace half of my old income in 90 days. I wrote down every single little thing I would need to accomplish that from getting a business license to creating a PDF that would explain my services, my experience, how I operate and my pricing to creating a web page on my blog. I remembered that we, as humans, generally overestimate what we can do in just one day. However, we vastly underestimate what we can do over longer periods of time such as 3-5 years. We can accomplish many things, just not all at once. So I broke them down and each day would grab 3 of those 10 minute tasks and accomplish those first. The tasks ranged from making a phone call to following up on a cold lead to brainstorming 5 names to add to my master spreadsheet of people who potentially could use my services. Whatever it was, I didn’t resist it. I just did it.
I used what I had, when I had it.
After I got let go, I had to send back my laptop to my old company (I worked remotely). It was our only stable, normal working computer and I couldn’t even apply for other jobs without it. But I knew that if I was going to start a business, I was going to do it right. No debt. No unnecessary expenses. No fancy website. No marketing team. Nada. I would start small and grow as I felt comfortable and as necessary. Anything I don’t know how to do, I used this AMAZING tool called the Google search bar and figured it out. (It’s really cool, you should try it sometime!) I firmly believe that every problem is figureoutable. Within a few days of getting let go I scrapped together a couple hundred bucks, marched on down to Best Buy blasting Taylor Swift and bought a Chromebook. Yes, a Chromebook. Boohoo. All you Chromebook haters can calm down because it works like a charm and has Google. Enough said. (Admittedly, eventually I upgraded to a Mac Mini!)
I stopped feeling sorry for myself.
I reminded myself that I have been through way harder things than this and no one would care about my dream(s) as much as I did. Ever. Ever, ever, ever. My life is up to me and I certainly cannot control what happens, but how I react and what I can do today, in this moment, to be a better person, help others, and grow closer to the finish line of my short term goals.
I was picky about who I worked with (and forever will be).
Any potential client that emulated past or previous behaviors that I had allowed that were incredibly rude, unhealthy or just plain unnecessary I refused to work with. These red flags always usually pop up in the initial getting to know each other conversation so it’s not hard for me to rule them out. It’s important to note too, that these folks almost always never want to pay the full price. I didn’t write out my precise ideal client, but I wrote out the values that people had that I wanted to work with. (For example, they cared about their customers and they cared about the relationship with their customers/clients. They were timely in their responses to me, etc.) My clients are THE BEST. I tell my husband all the time about the really cool things they are doing and how blessed I feel every day that I get to work with them and help them.
Overall, yes. Getting let go sucks. Building a business is hard work. But it’s worth it and it was a dream that I had hidden down in my heart for many years for various reasons that were backed by one thing and one thing only: FEAR. Our dreams may seem like big, lofty, impossible goals but when you look closer they’re actually made up brick by brick of tiny, brave pieces that were achieved every day over a period of time.