“From Avocation To Vocation: How I Turned My Hobby Into A Career” With Jessi Beyer

Believe in yourself before you expect other people to believe in you. For the longest time, I didn’t want to tell anyone about my business because I was worried they’d laugh at me and tell me to get a “real” job. I realized that this belief stemmed from my own doubt in myself instead of […]

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Believe in yourself before you expect other people to believe in you. For the longest time, I didn’t want to tell anyone about my business because I was worried they’d laugh at me and tell me to get a “real” job. I realized that this belief stemmed from my own doubt in myself instead of actual doubt from other people. Once I invested in myself and my business and became more confident in my inevitable success (and everyone’s success is inevitable — I’m not saying that to be arrogant!), I realized that I didn’t care if someone laughed at me and thought I would fail. That being said, most people I shared my aspirations with saw my confidence and my passion and were incredibly supportive of me.

As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessi Beyer. Jessi is the CEO and Founder of Jessi Beyer International, LLC and a speaker and personal development coach who specializes in helping her audiences break free from expectations and discover their passions and purpose. She has been featured in Fairygodboss, Best Life, and Harness Magazine, as well as numerous podcast episodes that will be published later this fall. Sign up for one of her free upcoming webinars here and connect with her on Instagram and Facebook @jessibeyerinternational.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

My childhood was pretty idyllic, if I’m being honest. I grew up on 5 acres outside of Portland, Oregon, with two parents and handful of pets. I pretty much consider myself a professional daydreamer now, and that was obvious when I was a young child. For example, I designed an entire planet that I planned to move my family to. I made the map of the zoo, the citizenship application, the school schedules for the middle and high school and more. This level of imagination and confidence that my dream future could exist wasn’t out of the ordinary for me, and I firmly believe that that’s what has carried me through to the entrepreneur that I am today. Outside of that, though, I was really just a kid. I played soccer, I climbed trees, I skied almost every winter — I had the opportunity to explore so many different activities and passions throughout my childhood, and I also believe that that helped me choose the path I’m on today and be so confident in it.

What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?

My catalyst moment really came during my senior year of college. I started my business during my freshman year, but I treated it more as a hobby than a viable future. It was something I’d love to do, but I wasn’t willing to invest significant amounts of time or money into it. When I started my senior year, I realized that I was rapidly approaching a 9-to-5 lifestyle. It was definitely an “oh crap” moment, if you know what I mean. At that time, I had a dog and a cat (whom I consider my children), and the thought of leaving them for 40+ hours a week to sit at a desk was pretty much the worst thing I could imagine. Luckily, I had enough saved up that I could move back home and really focus on my business. I’m happy to say that — knock on wood — I’ve never had to have that traditional 9-to-5!

There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle with taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?

For me it was more about believing that my idea was actually a good idea! I had very stereotypical beliefs about what a business looked like. I thought I had to have a traditional service-based career, like being a lawyer or a landscaper, or have a physical product to sell. After I realized that I could, in fact, make a career out of teaching people how to daydream the correct way (though that’s an oversimplification), that’s when I really dove into entrepreneurship. To do this, I really looked at what problem I could solve for people as opposed to what I could sell them. That part came second. Once I clearly defined what I wanted to help people with, I was able to confidently put some thought into how it would look because I knew I had a problem that needed to be solved. In other words, I could make a business out of it.

What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?

I wouldn’t tell them to take the chance and make it a business or not to — that depends on so many things, including their values, their life situation, their goals, and so much more. I would say, though, that if they decide to make it a living, they have to really go for it. They have to put in time, they have to invest in it, and they have to believe in themselves. If they say they’re going to “give it a try”, they’ll fail. They have to be so sure that it’s what they want to do for a living that there’s no question in their minds that they’ll succeed. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be setbacks, failures, or time without income, but they can’t be wishy-washy about the outcome of doing it for a living.

It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?

I make sure that I have differing tasks in both my business and my life. If I had to do the same thing over and over and over — even if I was making good money at it — that would quickly become very draining and unfulfilling. Being able to hit the pause button on, say, pitching partners and switch to spending a few hours on website fixes allows the business side of my life to stay fresh. I also make sure that the rest of my life is as rich and fulfilling as my business. I take frequent breaks to play with my dog and cat, I spend time outside and sweat it out, and, yes, I watch a movie or two a week to relax. Having these other aspects of my life to look forward to after I close my laptop for the day allows me to reset and have a happy and holistic life.

What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?

The best part is absolutely the flexibility and the location-freedom. I LOVE (yes, all-caps love) being able to work from my laptop with my cat on my lap and my dog snuggled up next to me. I love being able to take a break every three hours and go on a walk with my pup or make some zucchini bread (my latest obsession). The ability to fit my work around my life instead of the other way around is my favorite part.

The downside to running your own business, especially virtually, is that it can get a little lonely. You have to make an effort to see and interact with people and sharing your successes with people not related to your business can be a bit of a let-down, as they often don’t understand the magnitude of the win you just had. To combat this, I made sure that I was getting concentrated people-time in other areas of my life. For example, I’m part of a search and rescue team, and we train together multiple times a week. I also will meet friends for coffee, go out swing dancing, or play a game with my mom — nothing crazy, but enough that I know I still have those positive connections. I also expanded my business’s team to include a marketing intern, a web design intern, and a marketing apprentice. I didn’t do this with the intention of combating those feelings of loneliness, but it turned out to have a major effect on that.

Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

This sounds really silly, but I didn’t think it would take so much work! A lot of my work is outreach to potential partners and clients (especially for speaking opportunities), and I thought the ratio of outreach to success would be a lot less. I thought it would be more in the 1 out of 100 range, but it’s more the 1 out of 1000. Okay, fine, it’s somewhere in between — but still, I thought more people would jump on the opportunity I presented. I’ve refined my outreach over time with the objective of bettering that ratio, but that was probably the biggest surprise for me.

Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore; I’m going to get a ‘real’ job”? If so, how did you overcome it?

There’s definitely been moments like that, especially when I’m branching into a new avenue and the income is slow to arrive. When that happens, I tell myself that I can either spend three hours working at a “normal” job and making $100 or spend three hours reaching out to six potential partners that could bring thousands of dollars into my business down the road. My time is much better spent building my business instead of working to build someone else’s, and I just remind myself of that when I think about giving up and getting a “real” job. I was also very intentional with my budget. I cut out things that weren’t necessary to save money, and I knew exactly how far I could stretch my savings before I would be forced to get a “real” job.

This is somewhat unrelated, but I also appreciate how you put “real” into quotes. So many people have asked how long I’m going to speak or coach until I get a “real” job, and that was quite frustrating and disheartening in the beginning. Whether it’s considered “real” by mainstream society doesn’t matter; all that matters is that it fills you up and provides for you financially.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Before I learned the art of personalized pitches, I definitely sent out pitches to people and brands with the wrong name in the greeting. They were copy-and-paste pitches, and I’d get so wrapped up in sending as many as humanly possible that I’d forget to actually change the name! Then, it’d turn into the game of “oh, shoot, so-and-so told me that your name was Sarah…” — it never ended well. As time went on, I learned some tips and tricks for making pitches better, but those mistakes were definitely a wake-up call to proofread everything I send, preferably twice.

Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?

It’s the everyday heroes that make the most impact on me. People like Rachel Hollis and Tony Robbins are incredible human beings that make a difference in so many people’s lives, but it’s the people that no one knows that inspire me the most. My EMT instructor was one of those people. He was such a quiet hero. He was smart, he was an amazing leader and an even better paramedic, and he was both kind and emphatic in his encouragement. Yet, he was just a guy sitting on a desk in a polo shirt teaching a bunch of people, who were also sitting at desks. He’s not your standard hero, and he doesn’t even know that he is one. These are the people that inspire me the most.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I do this in two ways. First, running my business gives me the time and flexibility to pursue search and rescue, which is one of my biggest passions. I’m also currently taking a course to become a sexual assault advocate, something I plan on incorporating into my life as soon as I complete the course. Secondly, I make sure that the work I’m doing in my business is impactful. Every speech, every course, every quote I post on social media — they have a purpose, which is to inspire those who hear, take, or read it to live their best lives. I would really struggle if my work was completely unfulfilling and only existed to allow me time to pursue extracurriculars, if you will, that make a difference; choosing a career that makes a difference in and of itself is very important to me.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. You have to invest in yourself and your business. I thought for a really long time that I could learn everything that I needed to from free downloads, blog posts, podcast episodes, and the like. It wasn’t until I started investing in myself and my business that I actually started to grow. There are tons of value in free content, but the mindset shift that occurs when you invest in your business — it actually becomes a business — is a huge factor in starting to bring in that success.
  2. Believe in yourself before you expect other people to believe in you. For the longest time, I didn’t want to tell anyone about my business because I was worried they’d laugh at me and tell me to get a “real” job. I realized that this belief stemmed from my own doubt in myself instead of actual doubt from other people. Once I invested in myself and my business and became more confident in my inevitable success (and everyone’s success is inevitable — I’m not saying that to be arrogant!), I realized that I didn’t care if someone laughed at me and thought I would fail. That being said, most people I shared my aspirations with saw my confidence and my passion and were incredibly supportive of me.
  3. Things take longer than you want them to. Keep working towards your dreams anyway. As I said above, one of the biggest surprises for me is how much you have to do before you start seeing results. Sometimes, the success comes with the 1001st email instead of the 1000th, but if you gave up at email 1000, you’d have never reached that goal you wanted to achieve. If you do want to give yourself a timeline, make sure it’s a timeline built on the actual timelines of other people who have achieved the same things you do. That will help keep your expectations realistic.
  4. Some tools are just worth the money. In the beginning stages of a business, it’s tempting to cut as many paid tools and subscriptions that you can in order to save money. Some tools, though, are just worth the money. There’s a CRM tool called Mixmax that I use that allows me to send sequence emails based on how the person interacts with my previous email and automate follow-ups. I have thought over and over again that I should cancel my subscription and just do follow-ups manually, but Mixmax saves me so much time and scheduling headache that it’s absolutely worth the cost. Some tools are like that — remember, your time is money, too.
  5. Think like the 6-figure CEO you’re becoming instead of the baby entrepreneur you are now. I had the opportunity to appear on a radio interview a while back, and 24 hours before our recording time (after WEEKS of no communication), they sent me a giant list of questions that I needed to have prepared and technology that I needed to have ready for the recording. They also had already sent out marketing materials for my appearance, in which they included none of my website or social media information and completely gave me a new last name — apparently, I was now Jessi Baker. This all felt very disrespectful to me, and I had the choice to either appear on the show anyway or respectfully decline the opportunity. After weighing the potential exposure I could have gotten based on their listener numbers, I declined the opportunity — after all, my name is my brand. When I shared this story with a coach I was working with at the time, she agreed with my decision and shared with me the concept of thinking like the 6-figure CEO you’re going to be rather than the baby entrepreneur you are. People who are just starting out are desperate for any publicity, idolize the hustle, and try to make everything perfect; 6-figure CEOs request respect, delegate when necessary, and know how to manage their time to take care of both themselves and their business. That mindset shift has both given me an incredible amount of confidence in myself as a business owner and has risen the level of opportunities and success I’ve had in my business.

What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love? You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

would encourage people to write their own dictionaries. Success, fulfillment, and happiness don’t mean the same to everyone, yet so many people find themselves building a successful, fulfilling, and happy life according to the definitions of others. When we are able to understand what we want our lives to look like, outside of the expectations and standards of others, we release a wave of passion, purpose, and authenticity that not only inspires great change in our own lives, but in the lives of everyone who has the pleasure of knowing us. Start small — make one change in your life that aligns with your definitions, then another, then another, and then build your whole life according to your dictionary. In my experience, it’s by far the best way to live. I also believe that people who are living according to their passions and their purpose are what is going to change the world. We don’t need more environmentalists or politicians; we need more people who are compassionate and empathetic human beings that are entirely alive with their passions.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote is from Charles Bukowski: “We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.” I actually have this tattooed on my ribs! It inspires me when I’m feeling doubtful or feeling like I should conform to the standard career path and helps me continue to be inventive, courageous, and passionate even when challenges arise. It’s not that it’s been relevant in specific situations; it’s my motto for life.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would love to have a private lunch with Chris Evans, though, personally, I’d much prefer to go on a hike. Anyway, while I’m sure that I could have chosen someone whose brains I could pick about business-related topics, spirited and meaningful conversations about life are some of the most important things to me. From what I’ve seen of Chris, he seems like someone that I could have fantastic conversations with about morals and society. Plus, who doesn’t love Captain America?

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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