The book Leaving the Corporate 9 to 5 looks at 5 alternative career paths – changing sector, going freelance, starting your own business, creating a portfolio career, or taking a leap of faith into the unknown – along with the advantages and disadvantages of each.
*Resources mentioned during the episode*
Leaving the Corporate 9 to 5 – After interviewing 50 people who have left the corporate 9 to 5 to forge their own path, Anna has collected their stories in a book that will inspire you with the possibilities that are out there and reassure you that you’re not alone in looking for an alternative. www.leavingthecorporate9to5.com
Alternatives to the 9 to 5
Hello there, and welcome back to the Reimagining Success Podcast. I’m your host Anna Lundberg, and this week we’re celebrating three years since the initial publication of my book, Leaving The Corporate 9 To 5, Stories From People Who’ve Done It And How You Can Too. Now, this was a massive personal achievement for me, as of course it would be, to produce a book, and I am holding it in my hand right now. It still gives me goosebumps and certainly a level of joy, that I’ve created this. But more importantly, it’s played an important part of my business, Funnel, as it were. It’s an entry into my ecosystem, using all these lovely marketing terms.
It’s a low cost product that clients or prospective clients, would-be clients, can buy from me. I’ve been able to give it out as a prize in challenges that we run on our Facebook group, and most of all, I hope it’s a valuable resource. It still stands the test of time, it’s not that old, it’s absolutely timeless. So it’s 50 stories of people who’ve quit their job to do something else, which I’ll talk about in a moment.
And although the individuals inevitably will have moved on in some way, they’re shaping their business in a different way. In a couple of cases actually I know, having reconsidered and rejoined the so-called nine to five in some shape or form. And certainly the ones who didn’t know what they were doing five, six, seven years ago, have found their calling or a calling, and made incredible progress and an amazing impact since then.
So if you don’t have your copy, of course the first thing I should say is, Leaving The Corporate Nine To Five, you can get it at leavingthecorporateninetofive.com. Click through there on my website, or you can search for it on your local Amazon site. And it is available in, I was going to say Kindle is the one, Ebook form, and paperback. And in fact, no I lie, it’s now available as of this year in hardback, so you’ve got three formats to choose from. We haven’t yet done the audio book. I have this aspiration to have different people voicing the stories, because of course it’s not my story, it’s the story of these 50 people. But for now, you’ve got the three, paperback, hardback and Kindle version to use in the meantime. Plenty of options for you.
So what I thought I’d do today, obviously assuming that you’ve now already gone on and clicked to buy your chosen format of the book, I thought I’d look into what the alternative to the nine to five is.
Now, this is a chapter in the book, before I get into the 50 stories, but it’s also something that we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks in fact in the context of the great resignation, all these millions of people sort of quitting their jobs all around the world, and something that maybe you’re considering and certainly I’m thinking even more about from a deeper perspective as we go, as to what is the alternative to this very old construct of the nine to five.
And of course in the last year or so through the pandemic, we’ve had to reconsider how things have worked, lots of offline in-person businesses have had to go, which I think is a good thing, online. There’s this idea of hybrid work, hybrid offices now, flexible working has grown, so lots of really positive trends. But I think it’s an interesting thing to think about, if not the nine to five then what, right?
So first of all, I want to talk through what I mean by the nine to five, the conventional nine to five as I would call it. So for me I’d include the following parameters, and hopefully this makes sense. I’d be interested to hear what you would define this as as well, because of course this is a concept that Dolly Parton and many of us have understood to mean something in particular for quite some time now, certainly the last 50, 60, 70 years.
So for me, it’s working at a private corporation, and the primary motivation of that company is profit. And in a way, you’re sort of a small cog in a big machine. That’s one of the big drivers of what I mean by the corporate nine to five.
You’re working in an office-type environment, and that’s interesting now, that’s something I’ll have to reevaluate given the changes, but certainly that’s traditionally what we’ve seen to be part of that corporate nine to five. You’re reporting to a boss, a manager. You’re working standard hours, pretty much Monday to Friday. Obviously it was traditionally nine to five, but now we do longer days. Thanks to tech, we can work from home, evenings, weekends, and so on.
And then finally, really important of course, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage in some cases, receiving that regular salary. And other benefits like health insurance and a pension and so on. So that’s what I mean by the corporate nine to five. Private corporation, you’re a small cog big machine, office-type environment, you have a manager telling you what to do effectively and deciding on your promotions and so on, you’re working those kind of standard hours, it’s a traditional structure I suppose, and then you’re receiving that regular salary.
So in terms of alternatives, that could mean you could break it down. Number one, working in a different type of company or organisation, right, that has different motivations where it’s not profit, not-for-profit, so that’s suggests already a non-profit organisation or charity. Working from home or in another non-office environment. Of course, that’s again something that’s become very topical recently. Working for yourself, or for a number of different clients rather than just having that one boss. Working A-typical hours, hopefully that you can choose yourself would be the main thing, not just working night shift for the sake of it. And then no longer in fact receiving that regular salary and benefits, which means that you’re in control of your income. There’s no ceiling as there is on a salary, but of course it also means that you’re then responsible for bringing it in. You don’t get the money regardless, you actually have to do the work and build the business.
So I wanted to look at a few of the main alternatives that I do go into, and that’s how the book is structured in fact.
So again, Leaving The Corporate Nine To Five. The first section is, people in fact are moving into a different sector. So it’s not something that I focus on as much, I focus really more on going freelance and starting a business and so on. But in a way, the least dramatic change from a corporate nine to five, would be sort of a non-corporate nine to five, right? So keeping the rest of the environment more or less the same. Going from private to public, moving maybe to a more creative industry. Maybe agency side instead of client side. Joining an existing startup or so on, right?
So you’d still maintain the office environment more or less, you’d have a boss, you’d work kind of those standard hours still, and you’d still get your paycheck, but you’re in a different industry, maybe with different motivations and values of the organisation, right? And it could be that that change is enough to get you motivated again, especially if you’ve moved towards what we talk about, the icky guide, the purpose, a cause that you’re already passionate about. Not to mention the fact that you’ll be learning new skills, there’ll be a steeper learning curve, and that’s really exciting is that new challenge so many of us are after, and yet you’ll still have the familiarity and the comfort of working in a more or less similar way.
And you’ll still have that regular, maybe lower, salary. But nonetheless, that regular salary coming into your bank account, unless you’ve gone for a sort of an early stage startup where it might be a bit riskier. But of course, the advantages are also the disadvantages, because that familiarity and comfort of keeping so much the same, means that you might not be addressing the underlying problem and the frustration you’ve been feeling.
So that’s moving different sector, the next one is going freelance. So it’s a really attractive alternative, and something that a lot of us go into either as a transition, or as a longterm gig as it were, pun sort of intended. So you’ll be usually working for several clients on different projects, so you have the excitement and the variety. You’re especially common in the creative and media industry, but also of course writers, designers, web developers, social media managers, photographers, and so on. There’s some subtleties in terms of IT in particular, we have contractors, consulting is sort of another variant.
There’s of course the digital nomad phenomenon of being location dependent and so on, and they could be freelancers, or contractors or entrepreneurs for that matter.
But essentially, freelancing, using quite a broad term there, is providing that service on an independent basis. So lots of advantages again, you can choose clients and projects, you can work from home, you don’t have to commute, you don’t have a boss as such, in a way you have several bosses. You can adjust your workload, you can say, “Hey, I’m going on holiday.” You can manage your time, right? And importantly, you can decide on your own rates. If you want more money one month, you can take on more clients. If you want to take a holiday, you can take on fewer clients.
Disadvantages, it can be hard especially when you’re starting out, to set those boundaries. We talked about that a few weeks ago on the podcast, saying no to clients. And most likely, especially in transition, you will end up working with similar clients to the company where you were working before. So if you didn’t want to work with those private corporations, that’s not ideal. You may still have to travel to client’s offices. Working from home of course comes with it’s own challenges. And again, as I said, you don’t have a boss, but you will still be reporting to your clients, so in a way you’ll have several bosses.
And in practise, although we say we can adjust our workload if we want to go on holiday, or we want more money, especially when we’re starting out, there is this kind of feast or famine scenario, the rollercoaster, that we either have too much work one day, or we have too little the next day. And that’s something that we need to really smartly handle in terms of business models, and so on. And then, a lot of clients might have, in particular some industries, standard rates you can’t negotiate, you find it stressful to do so anyway, and you’ll always have pressure from clients to discount your prices, right? So there can be some disadvantages in freelancing too.
The next one would be more the entrepreneurial, the pure entrepreneurial I suppose, whether you’re a solo preneur running your own show, or you have one or more co-founders, or you’re building a team. And to be honest, I see a freelancer as being an entrepreneur too, so it’s sort of a fine line, but I guess a business is more around systems, and automation, and having something that’s separate to you. In the U.K. you’d have a limited company, rather than having your personal self-assessment and being a sole trader as it were. So that’s sort of the legal and financial distinction.
And as an entrepreneur launching your own business, you can choose what problem you’re going to solve, what sector you want to work in, which clients you want to work with. You can definitely work from anywhere if you want to, depending on the business model you choose. You are your own boss, you choose your own hours, you set your own prices, right? And then all the profit goes to you, unless you have the, and I think of sort of bootstrapping your own business, so I’m not talking about getting external investment and investors, and shareholders and so on.
Of course, as with freelancing, it may be that you have the most skills and expertise in the area you were working before, which means that you’ll still be where you perhaps wanted to leave. If you do start in a new field, that brings its own challenges, because you may well be starting more or less from scratch, right? In theory, you can work from anywhere, but it can feel quite lonely to be by yourself. And of course if you launch a physical product business for the brick and mortar store, you will be tied to that location at least in the short term.
You’re your own boss, which is an advantage and a disadvantage. It means that you don’t have someone to support you, you’ve got to make all your decisions yourself, and that can be quite stressful. Probably in the shorter term, you will be working longer hours in fact, so that’s the whole social media meme about, I’m now working longer than I was in my corporate job, and those lines between work and personal life will become very blurred. And then look, you can get a business up and running without having to have that huge investment. You can just put up a website, you can chat to people, you can develop a great business quite easily, as it were.
The reality is, you’re unlikely unless you’re very lucky, to be bringing in a whole lot of money and replacing your salary right away, right? So generally we say you’re lucky if you break even your first year, if it’s a product business it can take three years to break even. So it’s just being a bit realistic.
The final option I want to talk about, is creating a portfolio career, and this may well be my favourite, because it basically means you’re doing some combination of those options, right? So it’s really a great proposition for people like myself, and I’m sure like you, who are multi-passionate Renaissance men and women like Leonardo Di Vinci, lots of talents, interests, and we can’t quite settle on one type of work to focus on. If nothing else, it’s a great transition. So for example, I might continue with marketing consulting, because I’ve been doing marketing in my corporate job for those types of clients on the one hand, but then in parallel I’m building my true passion business, so in my case more of the coaching, writing, speaking side.
So lots of advantages. You can really find a great match you can bring to the fore your different skills and interests, have different roles, different sectors. So lots of variety, really bringing to life the different aspects of your personality. Potentially, you can work from anywhere, at least in a variety of different locations. You are your own boss, you can work flexibly, and again, you set your own rates. And having a portfolio of different roles and jobs, also means that you have a more diversified income, so if one area has a bit of dip, you can compensate with the other.
Again though, if you have that portfolio, probably one of the jobs in your portfolio will be directly connected to a similar role in the sector as before, so you won’t have the clean break that you might be after. It can end up having several jobs, because you’re running back and forth between different clients, different locations, you might need to have different social media platforms for you content for different audiences. You may still have a boss or clients to report to, depending on the type of portfolio you develop. Lots of more complexity. And again, you might not have a lot of steady income, at least in the beginning.
So those are the options in terms of looking at alternatives to the nine to five.
Moving into a different sector, so keeping more or less everything the same just moving into creative, or different kind of environment, non-profit perhaps. Freelancing, launch your own business and creating a portfolio career. And coming back to the book, the final category, the final sectio in the book, is actually taking a leap of faith. Now, this is perhaps not a longterm strategy or alternative to the nine to five, but it is the, hey, just taking some time off, enjoying the freedom of leaving the nine to five, and then exploring what you might want to do instead.
That is a very real option, especially if you’re perhaps untied to a massive mortgage and children or so. Maybe your children have… you’re an empty nester now, they’ve moved on. Maybe you’re at the beginning of that journey like I was, single with a sort of very cheap rental flat that I could easily get rid of, no car, no kids and so on. But taking a leap of faith means of course, you can say goodbye to your job today if you want to, assuming you have the savings and so on, the safety net. You can travel the world, you can rest, you can learn, you can do whatever you want. Complete control of your schedule, plenty of time and energy by the way to work out what you want to do, and then to actually start building that business. And taking on new opportunities as and when they present themselves.
However, pretty obvious, you’re not going to have an income coming in right away, so you will either need to make some big compromises when it comes to your life, or you’ll make a big dent in your savings, and that can be quite stressful. The initial euphoria that you have, the enthusiasm, can soon be replaced by panic as you begin to struggle to decide on what it is you do want to do, and, “Oh, is it going to work out? Oh my goodness, do I have to get another job?”
Ironically, and I certainly found this, I was less productive when I had all those weeks and months stretching ahead of me without any structure, right? So you do need deadlines, structure, support, to make sure that you’re not just letting months and years pass without getting anything done. You may unfortunately again, be tempted to take on work that you don’t want to do, or even going back to that full-time job. And again, it does take time, so in the meantime there’ll be a lot of uncertainty. So that is a bit of a risky proposition, in terms of just taking the leap of faith, but it’s certainly a possibility. It’s something that I, to be honest, pretty much did and many people in the book did too.
So of course, in terms of which alternative is right for you, it depends on your goals, what success looks like for you, but I hope I’ve opened up your mind to different possibilities that are out there, and also helped you to consider more seriously the advantages and disadvantages so you can work out what might be the best fit for your goals and priorities.
So again, that’s sort of the beginning section of the book, Leaving the Corporate Nine To Five. We’re celebrating three years this week. 3rd of October, 2018 was when we published it last… well, three years ago in fact. It was my birthday, still is my birthday, 3rd of October, and divided into these five sections of alternatives to the nine to five. So do grab your copy if you haven’t already got it, I’d love to hear your feedback. And of course if you have read it, please do leave a review, it helps me, it helps people like you find the book as well. And I hope it is valuable to you as you consider leaving the corporate nine to five.
Thanks so much for listening. Happy three years to the book, and hopefully you can join us in the next edition of the book with your escape story, I’d love to have you. Thanks so much for listening, I’ll see you next week. Bye for now.
If you’re ready to start to reimagine what success could look like for you, here are some of the ways in which Anna can support you:
Get private mentoring for your business – Partnering with a business coach can help you see those blind spots and get both external accountability and expert guidance to take your business to where you want it to be. www.onestepoutside.com/freeconsultation
Get private career coaching – Individual coaching is fully tailored to your specific goals and desires so we can create the programme that works best for you, with the support that you need to move forwards. www.onestepoutside.com/claritycall
Grab a copy of Leaving the Corporate 9 to 5 – After interviewing 50 people who have left the corporate 9 to 5 to forge their own path, Anna has collected their stories in a book that will inspire you with the possibilities that are out there and reassure you that you’re not alone in looking for an alternative. www.leavingthecorporate9to5.com
Join the One Step Outside the 9 to 5 Business Incubator – This is your roadmap to transitioning from a corporate job into setting up a meaningful business that will bring you more freedom, flexibility and fulfilment outside of the corporate 9 to 5. www.onestepoutside.com/9to5
Level up with The Outsiders Business Accelerator – This is a mastermind for entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners who want to create a long-term sustainable brand and business. www.onestepoutside.com/accelerate