The reflection shared here has been inspired by recently reaching my 24-year marketing career anniversary, which caused me to think back to how I first launched my marketing practice more than 10 years ago.
Many cubicles and eons ago, I applied for a marketing job with a small trade association.
Initially, I remember being very excited when I first learned I’d been selected for the position.
But over time, my excitement quickly faded, and here’s why:
It was easy money for very little marketing effort.
I sat at a desk in a huge office all by myself and worked maybe a total of 2-3 hours a day (some days even less) in sporadic spurts, at best.
The rest of the day, I was completely underutilized 🙁
This was not something I had anticipated (or wanted) based on how the position had first been described when I interviewed.
The job had originally been sold as one where I’d be front and center on all things marketing. Yet over time, I realized the role itself was better suited for someone who was more comfortable on the marketing sidelines.
I did my best to make the job better but ultimately, my efforts were in vain.
When I’d ask colleagues for work to do or how more I could help the organization, my boss would eventually rope me back to my marketing desk, unwilling to share me with other departments.
Since my proactive nature to seek out work during down times was not well received, I was often stuck waiting to be given something to do. During these waiting times, I was free to relax, hang out, and browse online for as long as I wanted.
I remember my desk sat right next to a huge window facing the building parking lot.
I’d get lost in utter boredom for hours, watching the cars roll in and out of the lot throughout the day. I’d wonder where those people were driving off to, and I’d often daydream of escaping to the back of my own steering wheel and driving away, too!
The hours of this then-job were cushy and consistent; no late nights and no taking work home. Honestly, if one could get past the (very) long stints of underutilization and extreme boredom in between tasks, it was super easy money.
Perhaps some people would’ve kept their mouths shut and not have rocked the boat to keep their steady paychecks and health care benefits intact.
But not me.
Even though I was mostly left alone to do whatever I wanted, had a solid paycheck every two weeks for very little effort, and had a light and family-friendly schedule, I knew I could not and would not stay at that marketing job for long.
Because I aspired to do more.
I also wanted more opportunity for myself than what the trade association was willing to give, share, or co-create.
All those hours spent looking out those dusty blinds as the cars came and went, I’d be thinking, “I need to get out of here.”
And so I began to ponder how to craft my exit and launch my digital marketing and creative strategy practice.
There was nothing on the side for me except for one teensy-tiny, part-time consulting client who’d been working with me for about two years by then. Despite this single client, I felt it was enough of a humble starting point to leverage.
That small, single client wasn’t really paying great money, but it was *something.*
Despite the side hustle pocket change, I pressed forward with my transition plan.
I didn’t have a formal business plan, just my gut telling me that I would and could achieve far more professionally for myself once I broke free from the limitations of my then-marketing job. I was determined to pave my own way, earning every dime on my terms while working with brands and organizations that truly did want and need my help.
Over the course of 2-3 months, I designed my exit by informing my client I was available to do more for them. I then contacted various marketing peers to get the word out and seek referrals. Before long, I landed a small project. Then another. Before long, I was earning enough from consulting work to make the transition.
Many times since then, I think back to that marketing job and wonder about various people I’ve known through the years who would’ve happily stayed in that position. Even back then, I remember folks telling me that I was nuts to leave “a good thing.”
But I’ve never been one to get by or just coast.
My desire to grow and make my own way fueled my focus.
Ultimately, I made the liberating leap toward self-employment and launched my marketing practice.
That leap of entrepreneurial faith took place in the mid-2000s.
Since then, I’m still strategy consulting, designing, developing content, and overseeing multiple brand and digital media projects for clients.
By no way, shape, or form has this small business road been an easy one, and believe me … I’ve made my fair share of mistakes along the way.
But as I look back at how long I’ve managed to freelance as a digital strategist and creative brand/content director for clients, I can’t help but pinch myself from time to time.
I still remember looking through those dusty blinds back at that desk, watching the endless stream of cars entering in and out of that one parking lot, and I can’t help but to thank my lucky stars to be where I am today, at this moment, doing what I enjoy for clients who value, want, and seek out the digital strategy expertise and creative guidance I have to offer.
~ Thanks for reading!
Photo credit: Selfie taken by yours truly.