How I made the jump to working independently after years in the corporate world
Updated: Feb 20
After running my coaching practice for 5 years as my side hustle, last year, I finally took the plunge and left my professional life as I knew it (i.e., corporate life) to focus on coaching full time.
The decision to do this wasn’t exactly planned and was not taken lightly. Experiencing an extremely toxic work situation was the catalyst to coming to this decision, and I had pondered focusing on coaching full time off and on over the years too. I realized in hindsight that I had been cultivating and getting prepared for some time now; even though as I was making this change, it didn’t exactly feel that way.
You see, a few years back, when I started my coaching practice, I loved what coaching was about and saw the ability that coaching had on impacting someone’s life very quickly in so many positive ways. When I started my practice, I went back and forth for a while on whether or not I’d ever focus on it full time. I enjoyed it as my side hustle while still being fully committed to my corporate career. It was an excellent outlet for me to do work I was really passionate about, allowed me to develop my coaching skill set, and make extra money too.
And while I toyed with the idea of pulling the plug on my corporate career to coach full time, I was never quite ready. There were parts of my corporate job I wasn’t prepared to let go of yet. Mainly, working with some incredible leaders, being in roles that allowed me to grow, lead (and coach!) teams, and also travel the world regularly for my job and make really unique relationships while at it. Oh, let’s not forget the consistent paycheck and benefits!
I even had doubts creep in about coaching at various points. I wasn’t sure if I could work independently after so many years of highly engaged people-work in my professional life. I also have a love/hate relationship with the coaching industry and have found it challenging to connect with other coaches, making it a bit isolating at times.
When friends and colleagues asked me if I’d ever coach full time, I’d usually answer either “no,” or “not right now - maybe someday,” depending on my mood.
So fast forward to today. Now that I am focused on coaching full time, I know it was the best decision I made at this juncture in my life. It may not have been the best decision had I decided to do this a few years ago. I completely trust the Universe and the timing of things.
In terms of how I was able to make the jump, a few components definitely come into play…
1. I wasn’t starting from scratch.
Since I started my coaching practice as a side hustle, I already had everything I needed all laid out. Business legally incorporated, a website, email list, social media, payment systems, tax/accounting, the list goes on. Primarily - all the components of running a solo business from home were already established.
2. I had some cash saved up for a rainy day.
I did not go from earning 6 figures in my corporate career to having zero funds in the bank. Over the years, I’ve saved money (I had actually saved ALL my coaching earnings over the years), so in the event I needed it - it would be there as a cushion. So when I decided to pivot into working for myself full time, I had a buffer during the transition.
3. I had (and have) the right support.
While I work independently, I always have my “team” to support me and cheer me on. Beginning with my husband - who wholeheartedly supported me and was incredibly supportive as I made this significant change in my life. Aside from my husband, of course, my family and friends are there, too. But for the ongoing support that’s objective and unbiased, I have my own coach and therapist to use as a sounding board, talk through my ideas and anxieties, and support me through change.
This is not an easy one and not something I have all the time. Like any other human, I have fears and negative thinking that creeps in. Confidence is something I have to work on daily, and every day it can look a little different. During this change, I worked hard at staying confident and embraced the uncertainty of leaping from a “steady” corporate gig to working for myself. I also surrounded (and still surround) myself with positive, supportive people.
5. I let my values be my compass.
Instead of allowing my thoughts (like “oh shit, this is scary”) or feelings (like significant anxiety) play into my decision-making, I instead focus on my values to be my guide as I take action. Values continuously evolve, and I have many, however right now, as it pertains to work, I value working independently, having flexibility, and helping others achieve their goals. I kept these at the forefront of my mind as I was figuring out my next move and ultimately deciding this new route to take.
I know a lot of folks out there dream of working for themselves and aren’t sure how to start. I’m not saying my way is the right way, and by no means is it the only way. I also haven’t discussed what’s really difficult about working for oneself based on my experience so far (I will save this for another post). However, my ending thought is this:
If you have an inkling of an interest in learning a new skillset or starting something on the side, go for it! You never know where it might lead, when it might come in handy, or when having it may change your life for the better. Experience and education are two things that no one can ever take away from you. It, and you, are always worth it.