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Making The Leap to Freelance

Nish is a career coach on a mission to break 9-5 traditional belief systems. She specialises in helping people in career transitions – typically into new industries where they have zero experience.

What does your career journey look like?

My career started as an investment banker at Bank America Merryl Lynch which was something I fell into post-university. I was there for three years and loved it at the beginning but then got tired of working for an industry that felt quite soul-destroying. I left and went travelling for eight months and delved into new things. I volunteered as an English teacher in Cambodia which was my first experience in doing a role helping others. This was to impact my future career choices but not immediately.

On returning to the UK, I fell back into finance but then left again to travel to Melbourne where I got a job as a street fundraiser. It’s positioned as one of the worst jobs in the world but it was one of my favourites. It was hardcore, face-to-face selling and I was so bad at it at first that I very nearly got fired in my first week. I redid the first-day training session, spoke with friends who worked in sales and practised my pitch. I did that job for five months and became one of the top three sellers in Australia. It was the most enjoyable, fun experience and I learnt how to connect with almost any person.

I moved back to London as I felt homesick and was determined not to go back into banking. I wanted a more fulfilling role working for a charity but I wasn’t prepared to take a lower intern or admin role. I would accept the maximum of a £15k pay cut from finance and I held out for the right opportunity, turning down a lot of interviews. The Philanthropy Manager role at Great Ormond Street came up and I went for it. I spoke to everyone I knew who worked in the charity sector and I studied everything about Great Ormond Street. Every point I made in the interview was about my finance or street fundraiser roles and how those skills were transferable. I got the job.

What was the catalyst for you to make the leap to self-employment?

I’d wanted to be a coach for a long time which came from the fact that I hadn’t ever had a mentor. I had the desire to play that role for others, especially younger women in the corporate world and people who lack confidence in that sector as it can be brutal. It was also the experience of being a teacher that made me want to help people.

I used the pandemic to complete a coaching certificate online and started posting vague motivational content on Instagram which ended up snowballing into career coaching content. I realised that was where my niche lied because of my career journey.

Working on this new business really excited me, I found myself in flow whereas, in my employed role, I felt I had to try really hard. My partner was very supportive and we had the conversation if it all went tits up that he would support me, so I had the option to fail.

I was in very high demand for the first few months. People had money to spend and were stuck at home, self-reflecting, realising that they didn’t like their jobs. I was touching a lot of people’s pain points with my content.

What type of clients do you work with and what does the process look like?

My typical clients are millennial women who have worked in the corporate sector for over five years and feel stuck. They want to do something else but have no idea what that is.

My process has four stages:

  1. Self-exploration – what they’re good at, what gets them in flow, what makes them curious.
  2. Mindset – reframing it and getting them open to more money and more opportunities.
  3. Creating a bespoke action plan.
  4. Aftercare – where they are fully supported when they get into their new role. I don’t just say ‘bye’.

What are the common barriers that you see come up to making the leap?

  • Fear of judgement – this might be cultural or social – what your friends and family will think.
  • Seeming like you’re starting from scratch and feeling shame in that.
  • Thinking that industries are over-saturated and they can’t be a valuable asset. They need the self-belief to know that there is space for them.
  • Over-thinking four steps ahead and talking themselves out of it with what-ifs.

What are some practical tips for facing your fears?

To quote my boy Tim Ferris, “set your fears instead of your goals.” This is good for logical thinkers. Ask yourself what’s the worst thing that could happen and then create a plan in case the worst thing does happen. Work out what you could do to prevent it from happening and what you could do to repair it if it does. This will give you ease in taking steps forward.

Example: You want to take the plunge from full-time work to freelance.
The worst thing that can happen: You don’t get any clients or sell any products.
How to prevent it: Find some beta clients, join a community, promote yourself on social, get a coach, network.
How to repair it: Support from partner, savings, get a part-time job.

You do not have to be unhappy to leave your job.

How do you know when it is time to leave your job?

You do not have to be unhappy to leave your job. We usually make changes when we’re in a crisis. That’s when we go to therapy or get a personal trainer. But I’ve learnt that it’s about maintaining a good balance and understanding what your personal values are.

For me learning, being challenged and money are really important. If those things are not present then it’s time to look elsewhere. It doesn’t have to be a doom and gloom crisis situation, it just has to be not satisfying your personal values.

You’ve recently made the leap to Mauritius – how did that come about?

It was not the plan. It came about because our landlord was selling up. My family are from Mauritius and I hadn’t seen them for two years so my partner and I saw this as an opportunity to leave and work remotely. I would encourage anyone to move abroad for a period of time. It’s been great for us and my business.

This article was originally published in Freelancer Magazine Issue 4. Get Freelancer Magazine delivered to your door or inbox.

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