I was a corporate communications professional all my life. That’s 24 years of solid hard work, and tons of ups and downs. I had plans to retire at 50 and be happy with a decent sum of savings. However, we can only plan. God decides our destiny.
A broken arrow
Two years ago, I came face to face with a midlife crisis. The need to balance family and work commitments surfaced. While I wanted to be the best in both worlds, it was beginning to show cracks. The added responsibilities at work and the high expectations from both fronts made me feel miserable. When I always looked forward to work, it soon became unbearable. I lost the drive to find satisfaction at what I do, felt unmotivated and dragged my feet to the office. No matter how hard I tried to convince myself to focus on the positives, I could not find anything to propel me to feel better. I was broken.
When I got home, despite feeling extremely exhausted, I could not sleep. I would stare at the ceiling in the dark, accompanied only by the sounds of the clock ticking. I felt anxious and worried. All these affected me emotionally and mentally. Even when I was unwell, I made it a point to clock-in to work. Maybe it was passion and dedication. Or maybe, it was just plain stupid.
The turning point
In early 2019, a long drawn fever that took days to break was my wake-up call. I remembered my six-year-old sitting next to me expressing how much he loves me and look forward to having me take him to the pool again. That incident jolted me. It was the first time in so many months I really got the chance to have a decent conversation with my child without brushing him aside or rushing him to sleep so I could finish work. It was then I realised, there is more to life than just work. We work to live. We don’t live to work. It occurred to me that the idea of work is to create a better life for myself and my family. In order to do that, I have to take care of myself first before I can take care of the rest.
That period gave me time to do a check-in with myself, my purpose and my life goals. I decided that in order to find fulfillment, I needed to make sacrifices and the only one I could sacrifice was my job.
For someone who was comfortable with a stable job and income, making a decision to quit was a difficult one. I had so many questions. Was I ready to leave behind a comfortable paying job? Will we have enough money to pay the bills? What will happen if I don’t get a new job? Who would want to hire someone in the mid-forties?
So, I did what most people would do. I turned to Him. The One who has all the answers. All I needed was to have faith and believe what my heart says.
After days of thinking and with the blessings of my family, I submitted my resignation letter. I was known to be a die-hard employee and for me to call it quits came as a big surprise to my superiors. I suppose, no one is indispensable. I had to do what was right and there was no turning back. I needed to be sane all over again. I needed to be free.
Spreading my wings
For days that followed, I felt a big burden lifted off my shoulders. I treasured the free time and calibrated my next course of actions. I got myself certified with the latest skills in marketing and public relations (PR) and spent time reading up books to fill my thirst for knowledge. Most of all, I had the time to really be there for my children.
I also went back to my first love – writing. Journaling was something I developed as a young introverted kid who struggled with spelling as well as expressing herself. As I grew older, writing turned into a passion and became a big part in my career as a PR professional.
I started to share contents and relevant self-development tips on LinkedIn. Little that I know it would be a platform that would open the door to my writing gig. One particular connection was with a chief editor of an online bi-lingual marketing magazine in Malaysia. I was particularly impressed with the semi-casual style of the magazine and told him of my interest to be a contributor. It didn’t take very long before he offered me to contribute an article in my second language i.e. in Malay. I admit it was challenging considering that I had only written most of my copy in English all my life at work. But it was too good of a chance to slip by and took up the challenge with an open heart. Surprisingly, I managed to complete the piece in three days, sent it over to the editor and was accepted. The first piece led to my second and then third. I was on the roll.
In those months I was unemployed, a couple of friends supplemented my income by engaging my writing services as a ghost writer. It was through these projects, the idea of starting my own business came up. As small business owners and entrepreneurs, my friends shared their challenges of being bootstrapped or have limited marketing budgets. Thus, offering marketing solutions at a competitive rate will be enticing for solopreneurs and small business owners just like them . Initially, I brushed off the idea. Over time, it started to manifest in my head.
I took the opportunity to meet up with friends who are successful entrepreneurs and sought their advice. Is entrepreneurship for me? Will it change the course of my life? Will I have enough time to balance my kids’ needs, managing the family and most of all, succeed as an entrepreneur?
I spent a couple of weeks to think about the idea. With the help of a mentor and close friends, I worked on a transformation plan. I conducted my research and wrote a simple business plan. Three months after I left corporate world, I took a leap of faith and started my entrepreneurship journey. I told myself- unless I try it, I will never know. So, why beat myself to it.
Being a solopreneur and start-up, I had almost zero marketing budget. Thus, I had to be creative and started building awareness of my boutique PR and digital marketing agency in Singapore, as well as my personal branding on LinkedIn among other things. I connected with potential clients, thought leaders and a community where I engage regularly by sharing relevant content consistently and exchanging views often. My writing gigs with Marketing in Asia continue to keep me on a high and my fellow contributors in Asia Pacific provided the access to very valuable knowledge needed in my business.
I also embarked on creating my writing portfolio by contributing articles on Medium.com, Thrive Global and blog regularly on my website offering public relations and marketing tips for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Some of the pieces have also been accepted and published on international platforms such as PR Week. Not bad for a start, I would say.
To grow the business, I took my online connections offline and met people from different industries to expand my network. With consistent advertising, content strategy and good word of mouth, I secured my first client in less than four months since my agency’s incorporation – all these while balancing family and business needs.
The young girl who was a late bloomer and who once scored duck eggs in spelling is today on the road to living her dream of becoming a writer and entrepreneur.
Change course, honey
Changing a course is definitely a scary thought. Why rock the boat, you would ask? Unfortunately, unless you rock it and change course, or pivot your steering, you will hit the iceberg and sink! In order to survive, you either change course, paddle faster to reach the shore or you jump ship and swim to safety. You owe it yourself to make life much more productive and more meaningful for you and your loved ones. Be brave to take the first step to make that change and transformation will follow you.