Note: This post is a bit longer than normal. Read, take a sip of water, finish.
What’s on your mind these days?
What questions are you asking about your career that keep you writing furiously in a journal, wondering “what if” or asking the same question about “what could be” in your career?
It speaks to a certain curiosity that people have about something different. And it is immensely attractive as a career option for those who are unhappy in their current job or career direction.
You can learn more about my story by reading about how Tim’s Strategy got started. But if you really want to understand the beginnings of my own non-traditional path, you can download my e-book (derived from my ideas blog called Quixoting) about taking action on your ideas.
Here’s the question that came to me recently via LinkedIn:
“I am starting to feel that finding the “ideal” job may not be possible. I enjoy writing, sharing, and volunteering, so I have considered some of the less traditional careers such as blogging, speaking, and authoring books. Is it really possible to make a living with a non-traditional job?”
So here’s my answer: yes, you can.
Because so far, the answer has been “yes” for me. But, it is not without significant sacrifice. All worth the sacrifice for me because I knew what I wanted and knew that my 23-year traditional marketing career would offer a strong platform from which to jump.
The sacrifices comes in many forms. In my case:
- time with family
- traditional vacations
- a steady paycheck and bonuses
- lack of a work team
There are, of course, many benefits as well. Including a variety of income streams. Some bigger than others. Note that the chart above is how my actual income breaks down year to date if that helps you.
Here are my own experiences in developing a non-traditional career so that it might help you decide if making this leap is right for you. If you are not sure, this would be a great power hour topic:
1. It can take a very long time (longer than you think) – I started developing a strategy during my 2007 job search and six months after landing my last traditional job, I started laying the ground work by kicking off two blogs on two topics I cared about: job search and ideas. Getting to a point where these efforts provided income took much longer than I thought. If you are thinking about blogging as a revenue source, please read this post on the 5 big mistakes made by new bloggers.
2. You have to love your subject matter or professional focus – Because you will be immersed in from the minute you step off your current platform. You’ll need to convince others that they need to care about it. And you’ll need to mine it for rich and compelling content. If you get bored easily or have a history of bouncing from industry to industry, be careful on your selection. My advice? Pick three possible choices (i.e. you could be a business coach) and get started in some way with all three. And see if one floats to the top.
3. You can’t beat the flexibility – If you can make it work, it makes for a life full of possibilities. You can work wherever you want (library, coffee shop, beach, car, back patio) and whenever you want (early AM, late at night). If you have kids, you no longer have to miss the school recital at 10:00 AM. You can walk your kids to school. You can drive when there’s no traffic on the expressway.
4. You need a very strong network – This includes your crowd of friends, former co-workers, community leaders and job search fraternity (those you meet while in transition). It also includes a strong effort online so you can create social credibility and a highly transparent brand online via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere. You can’t do this alone. And shouldn’t try.
5. If you build it, they may not come – This is a real risk. And a big reason why you should begin a non-traditional career before you leave your current job. I worked 5 hours a day for two years developing my non-traditional job before I left the traditional one. This way you can determine your own interest level and commitment while learning if anyone cares about your idea, product or service.
6. You need to establish (early) a tangible product or service – It took me longer than it should have to create a tangible product or service. “I can help you with your marketing strategy” is not a tangible service. “Sign up today for a full 72-point marketing audit” is a much clearer proposition. And once you create clear product and service offerings, there is a much better chance to convert blog or website visitors to customers.
7. You need a brand and a brand promise – Who are you and what promise are you making to your audience? Now, admittedly, creating a brand for your product or service is much easier for a marketing guy than an IT guy, but it’s important. And something that you can do well with a little help. It suggests credibility to someone who doesn’t know you well. “Well, let’s see I could work with Joe or I could work with Rocket Marketing Group”. All things being equal, who would you choose? A brand promise tells people “why you” over others offering the same service. You can read examples of brand promises to get some ideas.
8. Think variety – So it’s common (and often very good) advice to focus on one thing and do it brilliantly. And I like that advice for established businesses that are off on 5 different paths getting lost. But starting a non-traditional business requires not only finding something you really like, but also finding something that others really like. And that may not be the first idea you kick-off. And it also may not be best found or understood on your favorite platform. So if you decide to launch an IT consulting firm and focus on YouTube as your hub, how do you know that’s where people will find you? This is a very iterative process. There will likely be starts and stops so be ready to try, fail and try again somewhere else.
9. Is this a distraction or a true calling – An important question. You don’t want to mess with your livelihood and career if something isn’t right long-term. You can hurt yourself, become disillusioned and downright depressed if you step out into the wild blue before you are ready. If you are serious, build a plan and get started today. But if you are not sure, take careful steps until you know or have evidence that you have something special that can support you and your family for the long haul.
We only get one ride on this earth, so make it a good one.
And if I can help you make a big decision or think through how you’d execute it, let me know.
Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
Tags: 2007 job | brand | brand promise | business | communication design | current jobs | graphic design | ideal job | keirsey temperament sorter | marketing | marketing mix modeling | non traditional career | non traditional jobs | rational temperament | tangible products | traditional job | traditional marketing | traditional path
Categories: Career And Life Development