I gave my notice this week, and I’m now officially self-employed (almost).
My first reaction was, “How cool is this? I’m rockin’ now!”
My second reaction was, “Oh s***! What have I just done?!”
The reason my NetFlix queue as not been moving is that I’ve been watching Roswell on DVD. This is a teen-romance serial drama set in Roswell, New Mexico. And it has aliens, too! That makes it a sci-fi teen-romance serial drama set in Roswell, New Mexico. But what I enjoy about the show is the complex stories only a character-based serial drama can deliver. It’s the same reason I like Gilmore Girls, Sex and the City, and now Grey’s Anatomy. Yeah, House is cool, too, but not as much as the others on this list.
(Oh, and Katherine Heigl has starred in exactly two TV series AFAICT. In Roswell, she played Isabel Evans. In Grey’s Anatomy, she plays Isobel Stevens. What’s with that? She can only play characters named Izzie?)
One of my favorite early episodes of Roswell is “Leaving Normal.” (Bear with me. This does have something to do with me quitting my job.) In the episode, Liz Parker, who is human, has a thing for Max Evans, who’s an alien. But they can’t be together, because… Well, it’s complicated. Suffice it to say that Max saved Liz’s life by using his alien powers, and now he’s trying desperately to blend in, not to draw attention to himself. Because it would be really bad if anyone else found out he was an alien.
Liz begins the episode by asking her diary, “Can life ever go back to normal?” Then her grandmother ends up in the hospital. And inexplicably, she calls Max. She knows she shouldn’t. Later, she explains to him that “when something like this happens… you don’t listen to logic, to what you’re supposed to do. You listen to your heart, and my heart told me to call you. Because you were the one person in the world that I really wanted to talk to.”
So that’s why, Wednesday morning, as my wife was faxing a contract I had signed as a consultant, I asked my manager to chat in the conference room. I told him that I had wanted for some time to start my own business. He knew this, though he may have forgotten or may not have realized how serious I was. I said, “I’m going into consulting, so as of November 22, I resign.”
We left the way open for me to do further work for him, under contract. But for now, I’m really on my way out. The paperwork has officially been set in motion. I am officially now self-employed. Or at least I will be giving thanks for that, come Thanksgiving, whether I want to or not. The consulting job will have me working with an old friend, a developer I met many years ago, while we were still in college. Aside from working with some good developers— I know they’re good: I’ve seen their code. This project will also allow me some flexibility to build my business, to refine the idea and prove the technology. Most importantly, it will force me to treat the job like a business. It will force me to be truly and solely self-employed.
And that’s the scary part. Fear is what actually held back Liz and Max in Roswell. That’s the only thing that could hold me back. What if I can’t find enough consulting clients to provide for my family? What if I don’t have the energy to do consulting and build my business? What if my business idea falls flat?
Here’s the idea, the vision, the ultimate goal. Consulting is just a bridge on the way. I want to help small, growing businesses bring in more customers via the Internet. I want to do this by applying story-based video-game design principles to corporate websites.
Escaping From Cubicle Nation
And with impeccable timing, Pam Slim posted on her Escape from Cubicle Nation blog, a list of fears and excuses for not playing big, and how to get over them. I don’t believe it: I actually am escaping from Cubicle Nation. That feeling is so overjoying. I don’t believe it: I’m actually escaping from Cubicle Nation. That feeling is so terrifying.
I really don’t know what I’m doing. Yes, I’ve been studying and experimenting with business for years. I’ve been studying marketing intensely for over a year. I’ve been programming software for almost 20 years. I have confidence in my leadership skills. I believe in my vision. But every time I’ve tried to explain it to someone else, they have trouble visualizing it. No problem. I just need to build it. I can do that. Or can I? I’m going to end up looking ridiculous, aren’t I?
I’ll never get the money I need to survive. My family needs money. The kids need new shoes and winter coats. And I need shirts without holes. In my head, I know that my employer could let me go at any time. That risk is as real as contract work disappearing. I know that I can earn more income during the good times to get through the lean times. That’s something you can’t do as employee. But what if I can’t work enough due to illness? Or what if I just can’t increase my passive income enough? Or what if everything just falls apart?
I’ll never be able to justify my credentials. As a software developer, I’ve been programming for almost 20 years. Here’s my code. That’s never been good enough in the past. As a writer and entrepreneur… Want my credentials? Well, your reading it right now. Everyone will dismiss me as a writer, because I haven’t spent the last decade as a starving novelist, because there’s no money in being a novelist. They’re going to dismiss me as an entrepreneur, because I’ve been employed for most of my life.
I’m going to turn out like one of those desperate MLM types who can’t get a real job. Or even worse…
I’m going to end up having to get another “real job.” (Shudder.)
Despite these thoughts, I know that leaving Cubicle Nation is the right decision. And I know it’s time. I worked it out long ago. If I found a suitable consulting opportunity, I’d take it. Because this is what I want to do. If nothing else, I want this experience. Or in Lorelai’s words, “I say if we go down after two years, it’ll be the most exciting two years of our lives.”
Following Your Heart
Liz’s grandmother never made it. But she was able to deliver her dying wish to her granddaughter: “Promise me one thing, that you’ll follow your heart wherever it takes you. Trust it.”
The episode then ends with this passage from Liz’s diary:
The tough thing about following your heart is what people forget to mention, that sometimes your heart takes you to places you shouldn’t be, places that are as scary as they are exciting and as dangerous as they are alluring, and sometimes your heart takes you to places that can never lead to a happy ending… And that’s not even the difficult part. The difficult part is when you follow your heart, you leave normal, you go into the unknown… And once you do, you can never go back.
Something deep inside my gut tells me I will never work in a cube farm again.