I Quit My Job to Follow My Dreams: From Employee to Entrepreneur (Part 2)
This post starts where the previous one left off, with me trying to make my way on my journey from employee to entrepreneur, on the quest to bring my radical dream of going back to the land a reality.
December 2022. I was preparing for a frugal Christmas after months of living thriftily after I quit my 9-5 teaching job a year before. After a number of class cancellations out of the blue, I was feeling hopeless about my work situation.
In the beginning it was great to have so much free time on my hands, but after a while, waking up in the morning and not having a sense of purpose weighs on your soul and clouds your mind.
Instead of lightness and freedom, the absence of fulfilling work becomes a dead weight, pulling at your self-respect and dragging it into the ditches of uselessness, boredom and depression.
I needed a way out, and so when I discovered the ‘21 day teacher-entrepreneur challenge’ by James Lui, I decided to take a leap of faith and invest in myself and my future.
Was this really going to give me the direction and strategy that I so badly needed?
And more importantly, is this the life that I dreamed of when I quit my 9-5 job all those months before?
These were some of the questions that danced in my mind as I got ready for the course to begin.
Push in the Right Direction
I awaited the beginning of the challenge like a child preparing for the first day at school. At last, I had something positive to tell my family, something to show them I wasn’t just sitting on my laurels being a bum.
I knew they were worried about me and my work situation (or lack thereof). This was a step in the right direction; a sign of progression that could once again take me back into the realm of ‘respectable working citizen’.
Thankfully, my investment paid off.
By the end of the challenge, I had my niche decided (professionals working in the sustainability industry), my method (a 10-week course to help advance people’s communication skills) and my LinkedIn profile all set up and ready to take on the world of business English by storm.
I had even had a few video calls with potential clients interested in knowing more. It seemed like I was on to something. It was only the beginning but already I was feeling better about myself.
The future seemed brighter as I enjoyed an abundant home-made Christmas full of delicious food, many intimate moments and meaningful celebrations.
In the end, it was one of the most abundant-feeling Christmases I think I have ever had, which is funny considering that I had never been more skint in my life.
After an exciting and intense month, I was ready to see out 2022 and bring in the new year.
New Year, New Life
By mid-January, I had my first student signed up for my program. What’s more, with just this one client, I made back my initial investment plus made a return of over 50%. A great way to start the new year!
Then the online academy that I had previously applied to got in touch with me and offered me the job. Even better, these students are all advanced level and work in the Ministry of The Ecological Transition, and therefore fit my niche perfectly.
Only 6 hours a week but that suited me just fine; enough to pay my rent and bills and still give me enough time to dedicate to my own business. Plus, I would be able to try out my program material too, so win-win.
By mid-Feb I was up and running. I set up an office in the spare room and invested in more professional equipment. Then suddenly, I had a surge of students contact me out of the blue from the previous advert I had put up online. Then these students referred me to other students who also started classes with me.
Before I knew it, I had a full timetable and was having to tell students that on certain days I wasn’t available because I was already booked up! This all came as a great relief to me, as finally I had some money coming in after a year and half of just scraping by.
I also discovered that I liked this new teaching direction. Helping people advance their careers by improving their confidence and communication skills was very satisfying for me.
Plus, I found that I am actually very good at it! Communication, soft skills and language is my strong point so it makes sense for me to capitalise on that and now I realise that the best place to do that is by doing business English.
What’s more, the students I had were all lovely and very much appreciated my work and the value I offered. This boosted my confidence and helped me see my profession with a renewed sense of pride and self-respect.
Employee to Entrepreneur: Not All a Bunch of Roses
Everything seemed to be happening so fast that I couldn’t quite keep up. I had gone from earning less than 500 euros a month to over 2k! I couldn’t believe how quickly things had turned around. The taste of success was sweet and I enjoyed the relaxation that being financially abundant brings.
However, once I got into the swing of things, I soon discovered that things weren’t all rosy.
On one hand, I was happy to finally have some money coming in all of a sudden. Things were moving in the right direction and I felt relieved. But on the other hand, I was having trouble adapting to my new routine.
February is a cold month here in Madrid and my unheated warehouse is exactly as you might imagine it to be – cold! Especially in my little back room office, otherwise known as ‘The Icebox’. Being sat still for long lengths of time meant the cold seeped into my bones and no amount of hot lemon and ginger tea would warm me up.
Also, as the name suggests, the back room is at the back of the flat. It has no windows other than the ones that face out onto the kitchen. Spending 5 hours or more a day in this dark ice box teaching is not exactly what I had imagined when I excitedly quit my job.
In effect, I have swapped one classroom with no windows for another! I have to laugh at the irony of this. I quit my job but I have essentially recreated the same conditions as my old academy from inside my own home.
The other challenge has been the lack of real social stimulation. I spend many hours a day making conversation with people online, but then I come out of my back office into an empty house. I find excuses to go out and run errands between classes just to be able to chat with someone in the flesh and go outside!
This sense of lack of social stimulation is also in part due to the fact that I haven’t had time to go to the community garden much. I have put so much focus on my work over the last few months that my community garden involvement has fallen down by the waist side.
Whilst it was important not to have any distractions so that I could really get myself up and running, I have to say that I have really missed the camaraderie of the garden. The mornings spent down there chatting in the sun, weeding the raised beds and turning the compost seem long ago.
Not to mention the physical activity of being out and about on my bike and getting my hands dirty in the soil. Being sat on my backside for 6 hours a day isn’t really my dream come true. Yes, my commute is only a few meters from my bed, but how healthy can this lifestyle really be?
No light, no fresh air, no workplace camaraderie – I am not sure I would consider this a success just yet.
I began to feel a bit confused about how I was spending my time. Is this really my dream, to be a successful business English coach?
Was this what I set out to do, when I started out on this journey?
What about my permaculture design certificate? I spent two full years studying permaculture design during the covid years. Where has that new found passion gone?
Right place, Right Time Take 2
Funnily enough, just as I was grappling with these questions, an interesting opportunity presented itself.
I got a call out of the blue from a woman I had met whilst taking part in a herbal tea tasting workshop that the community garden had hosted back in autumn.
She invited both myself and Sergio to take part in a project that she was going to present to Erasmus Plus, a part of the European Union that funds educational projects.
Her association, ’Moviemento SER’ (Energy, Experimentation and Reinvention) aims to help people through getting them in touch with their inner essence as a means of empowerment. The project aimed to help empower young people who are disenchanted with higher education and vulnerable to exclusion.
At first I was unsure how I would be able to contribute. But then I realised: permaculture design! I knew instantly that this would give their ideas a more practical structure and add more weight to the proposal. It felt great to get back in touch with permaculture and even better, to have the possibility to actually use it in a professional context.
I couldn’t believe how fast things were developing. I felt like I could barely keep up!
We didn’t have a lot of time to write the proposal and complete the application form. It was a little stressful and frustrating that I couldn’t dedicate more time to the process due to my busy timetable. But in the end, we got the project submitted on time to the best of our ability.
Who knows whether or not it will come to anything, but it was a real eye opener for myself and Sergio to see that this kind of funding is available. It was a valuable opportunity to go through the process of writing and submitting a proposal and has sparked lots of new ideas for the future.
(But more about that in a future post. Watch this space for future updates! ;))
Dusting Off Dreams
And this brings us to April 2023.
Looking back over the last few months, all I can say is that it has been a whirlwind of change and forward momentum that was very much needed.
It felt good to report to friends and family that I was suddenly earning good money and getting more students. It felt good to taste success after so much difficulty. It felt good to be able to go and buy myself a few new items of clothing, treat a friend to breakfast and just generally not have to be counting the pennies at the back of my mind.
However, after three months of being solely focused on my work, there have been some moments where I have asked myself: “Why did I do this again?”
I have been concentrating my efforts so much on kick starting this new chapter of my career that my real dream, my radical dream of returning to the land, permaculture and earth-centred living, has seemed but a distant memory.
Don’t get me wrong, earning my bread and butter is important and indeed a necessary part of this journey.
But on the other hand, the quest to go from employee to entrepreneur has felt too much like duty, responsibility and obligation. The need to be seen to be doing well. The need to be successful. The desire to have it all together and under control.
Yes, I have made important progress, but this has come at the cost of my well being at times. Teaching so many hours began to take its toll on my spirit. I felt disconnected from my joy, from my life force, from the things that I am passionate about.
Luckily, (or unluckily depending on your perspective) a few students recently dropped off, which has freed up some space and time. Maybe this is the wrong attitude for a business woman to have, but I have to admit, I feel relieved. Finally a bit of breathing room.
This, combined with a few days with no classes over the Easter break, plus the warm warm spring weather, and I am feeling much happier. The last month has taught me a lot and I am going to use this time to reflect on my game plan going forward.
Employee to Entrepreneur: Final Thoughts
This experience has given me a lot of food for thought when it comes to my priorities. It is clear to me now that I have to balance teaching with the other areas of my life that really bring me joy: my spiritual growth, writing this blog, permaculture, my meditation practice, yoga, being involved in community projects, being in nature.
It is as if my soul will not accept being neglected or put on the back seat in favour of material advancement any more. There has to be a balance. Nurturing my dreams is a must.
When that balance is lost and work takes over, I feel like an orphan unto my own self; out of connection and out of touch with my essence. Life loses its shine and my spirit becomes heavy and down.
In short, I become miserable. This is my cue to go back to my heart and nourish dreams immediately.
It may sound extreme but over the last three years I have learnt that if I am not heeding the call of my soul then depression is sure to follow. I have to continue on my path, even if it means that I earn less money and have less material comfort (although I intend to be able to have both).
Therefore over this Easter break, I will be considering the following questions:
What is truly important to me?
What are my priorities?
What am I devoted to?
What makes me feel alive in every cell of my body?
What brings meaning to my life?
What connects me with a sense of purpose?
I will also be revisiting what I learnt during the Teacher-Entrepreneur Challenge, since once I had started with all the other classes, I haven’t had time to continue with the strategy.
If I can get one well paying student, I can get more…because ultimately the solution to my work-life balance is obvious isn’t it?
Earn more, and work less! 😉
And now over to you, dear reader.
What makes your heart sing?
What brings you joy?
What feels purposeful for you?
What are you most committed to?
What means the most to you?
Share below or reply directly via the contact me form. I’d love to hear from you.
May you have many opportunities to do those things this Easter.
Let’s co-create a more beautiful world!
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