I’m pleased to share this month’s Fearless Fridays interview: here, I’m speaking to Janice Chaka and, yes, she is yet another gorgeous digital nomad I met in Barcelona back in October. Here, we discuss how and why she started her business, as well as where she finds support and inspiration as a nomadic business owner and introvert.
Watch the full interview or read on for the highlights of Janice’s story!
Fearless Fridays: From HR to mentoring introverts
Working in HR and recruitment, Janice Chaka initially left to go freelance but then decided to take her work with introverts and make that full time, founding The Career Introvert. She now mentors introverts who are looking to reach the next level in their careers, whether that be via changing career, getting a promotion, or starting their own business. Janice is location independent and currently based in Mexico, which brings its own set of rewards and challenges.
1. At what moment did you decide it was time for a change?
The change came in two stages. First, I was working for a conglomerate, and they let me work from home. This meant that I was more productive and got more done – but it also meant that they didn’t have enough work for me: I’d ask for more work, and they’d answer, “No. Just get paid.” I became bored, and I started looking for other things. I started doing a side thing on my own, and then I left to work for myself.
As for working with introverts, that came from working with another company while freelancing. They were taking up so much of my time that I didn’t have time for myself. I was a freelancer, but they didn’t really understand that, and made me feel like an employee. There came a point where I was in Hong Kong and it was midnight and, of course, this was the one time that the internet went down. I was scrambling out of my hostel to go to the airport because I knew the airport had Wi-Fi, just to make this one 30-minute meeting where all they did was complain that the connection wasn’t good. That was the cut-off point for me. I asked myself, “Why am I doing this? Is it worth this stress?”
So, I stopped. Even during that time, I’d been doing workshops on introversion and networking for introverts, holding meet-ups in different countries, for example. This was a sign for me to concentrate on that, and not let other things control my life.
2. What was the biggest challenge you faced in making the change?
That’s a really good question. One challenge is that a lot of my friends, especially in the past, definitely don’t do anything of this nature. They work for a lot of big companies: they go to an office, they work overtime, they get paid, and then they come home. I also have a lot of friends who are in the medical community. I can’t talk to them about what I do, because it just doesn’t make sense to them.
Other barriers have been geographical. I live in Mexico and, even though I’m English and I have a British passport, I don’t have a British bank account, a British address, or any of the things that can be helpful when you want to, for example, set up a Stripe account, or Shopify, if I were to set up an eCommerce site. To get the back-end working, there are so many little things you need that are easier if you have a British, American or Canadian bank account; having a Mexican bank account doesn’t help at all.
The other thing is the misconceptions that people have about introversion and what it is; why introverts may or may not need help.
I think those have been the main things; but new stuff comes up all the time.
3. Where did you get the support you needed to make it happen?
I’ve done it the wrong way, and done it all by myself. I do have one friend who is a tech-y guy. He’s my go-to website person, or my “this-thing-has-broken-or-exploded-please-help” contact. Apart from that, I’ve had mentors along the way, occasionally, but mainly it has been just me. This is not the way to do it!
I’ve always been a person who does stuff by themselves and I am a bit of a loner. I don’t usually ask for help, but I’ve become better at it. Now, I have accountability buddies, and that has been useful. I don’t have just one – I have one for my book writing, one for business, one for various other things. Everyone’s different, and everyone has a different viewpoint.
4. What’s the best part of your lifestyle today?
It’s fulfilling and it’s rewarding; it’s helping people. You go through the self-doubt thing, then you have that one conversation with someone and you help them through something and you think, “Yeah! I helped them do that!” and you feel good about it.
As far as the lifestyle, it was an accident, I didn’t plan it. I didn’t set out saying, “I want to be a digital nomad.” I get to work online, which is great. A lot of my background is in HR and recruiting, and all of that I can do online. I like to travel, and I have friends around the world, so I get to stay for free – I’m lucky in that way.
You have to balance your time between, “I want to go out and drink sangria!” and “Oh, I actually have client meetings for three hours.” It takes time and it takes experimentation to find out what works for you and what doesn’t work for you. Finding the right way of working, finding your best hours of work – it’s about knowing yourself, and that’s an ongoing journey. It’s getting better, but it’s always going to be a ‘work in progress’ – and I’m okay with that.
5. What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is considering making a big career or lifestyle change?
Be open to change. A lot of people get stuck on smaller details like the website, and the logo, and the colours. Just do it! You don’t know if people want these things unless you go out there and ask. Don’t fall in love with one idea and then get so narrow and focused on it that you’re not open to anything else.
I think that happens a lot. People think, “Oh, I want to do this,” and then they realise they hate it, or they get bad clients; or they get so stuck in the minutia that they don’t realise that there are other things that they can do, or other areas where people need help. They get stuck, married to a particular idea.
Just think of it as a way of supporting yourself. Yes, you want to enjoy it, but don’t necessarily turn your hobby into your job, because then you might hate your hobby. It doesn’t work that way.
Get help; ask for help. Don’t expect everything to be free. You have to give value; but there’s a fine line between giving value and then just giving everything away for free. If you’re giving it away, people don’t respect the value that you are bringing.