The following is a special essay from software developer, freelance tech writer, and Teachable contributor, Nahla Davies. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she was a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization. In honor of Women’s History Month, Nahla penned an essay on her experience making the transition to being a full-time writer and the best entrepreneurship advice for women looking to do the same.
There were many things that I wish I had known before I made the transition from corporate life to being my own boss. I was tired of sacrificing time away from my children and hobbies, but I was still passionate about my work. I wanted to find a way to have it all: the career, the family, and sanity.
As a software developer, I worked in numerous environments where I was the only woman in a sea of men. There were many times I tried to become “one of the boys,” but no matter how many after-hours I attended, I never found myself fitting in. It wasn’t because of the chummy boys club or sexism in the workplace, although I did experience plenty of it.
I quickly realized that I couldn’t quite relate to my colleagues because I was simply not built for the nine-to-five grind. I was craving a different challenge. And more freedom.
A corporate life
The corporate world consists of people from all walks of life trying to get ahead. Many of them do very well for themselves, and I was one of them. Working long hours, forgetting to eat, and missing out on family events became routine as I continued to surpass my career and financial goals. Making money and becoming a successful female lead programmer for an Inc. 5000 company fed my ego and kept me from seeing a side of life that I was missing.
It wasn’t until I suffered an injury that I began to feel the pressure building while I was busy at work. I tried to keep up, but it was nearly impossible to code with my injuries. And I was falling behind, being surpassed by my peers, and feared the worst. I was past my prime.
I started spending more time at home to recover, and I couldn’t believe everything I was missing grinding away at work. I found that I barely knew my kids, I had lost my sense of self, and I started to miss my husband while I was climbing the corporate ladder. So I decided to take some time off to heal and regain some clarity before making the most significant decision of my life: Quitting my corporate job to pursue entrepreneurship full-time.
The road ahead
It hasn’t been an easy journey. I had to build my side gig from the ground up until it became a full-fledged business. Now that I am consulting and writing full time, I would like to share some tips with other women who want to trade in their day job for the freedom of a career in entrepreneurship.
Now more than ever, people are turning to online courses to learn how to take steps forward in their career, learn a brand new skill, and even provide others with valuable information. If you’re just starting on your journey towards self-sufficiency, then teaching courses online is a great way to build a solid foundation to build your own business. Not only can it provide a stand-alone income, but it can also be scaled up or down to a side gig or a full-blown empire.
How to seamlessly transition into entrepreneurship
Before we get in too deep, I should remind you that there is no magic pill, no easy button, and no one else to blame but yourself if you fail. If you want to become an entrepreneur, you have to have the drive, commitment, and belief in yourself to make your dream life a reality.
I believe that anyone can transition from working for “the man” to working for themselves with the right mindset.
Whether you have had a long corporate career or you are jumping into entrepreneurship head first, here are a few things you need to know (no matter what gender you are) to transition into self-employment with confidence:
1. Face your fear of failure
The fact is that branching out on my own after many years of being comfortable with my corporate life was nerve-wracking. Starting a business, even a small side hustle, implies a certain amount of risk. When the realization that your success or failure is solely your responsibility sets in, you may want to run to your boss and beg for your job back.
My advice? Push through the fear. Get out of your comfort zone, keep going when someone tells you it’s not possible, and find an alternative route to the roadblocks that get in your way.
2. Find a balance
I remember there were times I was working from home, kids screaming in the background, and I wondered if I had made the right choice. The problem was that I expected my home life to improve after starting my own business. That was a lie.
I learned that I have to stay diligent when juggling all my roles: wife, mom, dog lover, sister, and friend. To spend the amount of time I wanted to spend with the people I love, I had to adjust my schedule and stay flexible.
Every day will be different. Prioritize whatever it is that makes you happy and think of your entrepreneur journey as a means of living your best life instead of running your life.
3. Some people will never take you seriously
Many women find themselves working in a male-dominated industry and have experienced what it’s like to give everything you’ve got, know you’re outperforming your peers, and still not get the recognition that you deserve.
News flash: That doesn’t go away when you start your own business.
This is something I struggled with as a female programmer throughout my career. And it didn’t change all that much when I transitioned to entrepreneurship. I had to dig deep, find my purpose, and stay the course despite those who doubted me. My point is you have to stay focused on your goals and tune out the noise when it comes to people who question your career path or business decisions. You’re the boss.
4. Find your support network
The best-case scenario is you have positive relationships with your many well-connected family and friends who can help get you in front of the right people and agencies. This wasn’t the case for me, and I don’t think it’s the experience of most people.
How can you build a support network without any connections? One of the best things I did for my career was joining a few female entrepreneurs and freelancers associations. Find a group of people like you who share your interests and are in your industry. There are organizations out there for everything, so get to Googling!
5. Decide how you will fund your goals
Create a business plan, then have a plan B, C, and maybe even D. Funding is one of the most significant barriers that face anyone trying to enter into a life of entrepreneurship. Fortunately, many investors are looking for something they can believe in to put their money behind.
Why couldn’t that “something” be you?
Make a list of all your funding options and prioritize it based on the simplest to the most complicated process. Then start making phone calls. If you don’t qualify for a traditional loan, look for alternative financing methods that suit your needs.
6. Don’t sell yourself short
One of my biggest regrets is not charging more for my services when I first started my consulting business. I had an idea of what I wanted to make, and I knew how much other consultants in my field made, but I wasn’t sure if I was worth that kind of money.
As a result, I charged 25% less than the average and got a lot of business. Too much business. Since my fees were so low, I was inundated with appointments. I was happy to be working so much, but I wasn’t bringing in enough to make it worth my time, which was the whole reason I made my side gig my full-time career.
To avoid burnout, I suggest pricing your services appropriately and never selling yourself short.
If the answer is yes, then this is the ebook for you. Download our “How to become and online entrepreneur” ebook now to get our best tips and advice to making it on your own.
7. Take care of your mental health
As women, we often find ourselves caring for others more than ourselves. I felt guilty for not spending time with other people when I wasn’t working, so I never took any time to myself. Then one day, I read that according to recent research, self-employed women are at higher risk of mental health issues. Factors such as gender obstacles, isolation, and increased pressure play a role in making matters worse.
Take better care of yourself. Learn how to say no, get a massage now and again, meditate, or work out to keep your mind clear and motivated. Aim for one hour of “me time” every day.
8. Build meaningful relationships
As a self-employed woman, you will have to do some online and in-person sales work to meet your goals. The core of a successful sales campaign is to build meaningful relationships with your customers, clients, and prospects.
Consider creating an email list to keep your customers up to date with your business, start a blog where you can share valuable content with your audience, and utilize social media to create a community.
You should also ensure that all your customer-facing tools and services are secure by monitoring your website. It’s important to track changes so that you can secure vulnerabilities before compromising your or your customers’ information as well as your reputation. Customer loyalty is a powerful thing. If you want to see your customers turn into brand evangelists, you have to have relationships with your audiences from the start.
9. Own your accomplishments
Many young women learn to downplay their achievements to meet the status quo in society and family life. When I would go into a meeting with a new client, I would feel embarrassed “bragging” about my many accomplishments in the corporate world. I started watering down my self-pitch, and as a result, I was booked less often.
I also learned about the power of speech from one of my mentors (Pro tip: All female-identifying entrepreneurs should have a mentor). She told me that when I spoke about my accomplishments, I said things like: “we reached our goals,” or “my team worked together to create,” instead of saying “I did that.”
As unscientific it sounds, your words do help shape your thoughts. Give yourself credit when credit is due and be empowered by your achievements.
10. Be yourself
Oh yeah, it’s cheesy. But it’s true. I see women all the time trying to fit the mold of an entrepreneur. There’s a lot of pressure to be masculine, competitive, aggressive, or even harsh to meet expectations. But women operate differently, and our strengths may not always match what traditional entrepreneurship ideals spell out.
When you look at some of the most influential people in the world, you’ll notice that they all have that special something, that je ne sais quoi.
I believe that something special is you. It’s what makes you who you are, what you think, and why you run the kind of business you run in the first place. The moment you lose sight of that, you put your goals, success, and well-being at risk.
Have confidence in who you are and all the hard work you put in to get where you are today. Being a woman and being an entrepreneur is highly challenging. But the bigger the challenge, the greater the reward.