What’s it actually like once you’ve battled those initial doubts and taken the leap into working for yourself? What do successfully self-employed people wish they’d known from the start?
In the second of our ‘Taking the Leap’ series, we’re meeting Juliet Landau-Pope. Juliet is a certified coach and professional organizer, based in London. She helps busy parents, professionals and teenagers to manage time and space more effectively. Here’s her story, in her own words:
In 2008 I enrolled at the Coaches Training Institute. Having worked for two decades in adult education as a lecturer, editor and study skills consultant, I wanted to explore the role of motivation in teaching and learning.
Around this time, an elderly neighbour, who had been widowed for several years, asked for my help to sort her husband’s belongings. Although relatives had offered assistance, she preferred to tackle the task with someone who had no vested interests.
It was a bold experiment for both of us! As she opened drawers full of personal items and reminisced about the past, I posed questions to clarify what mattered; it was an emotional process but within a few hours, we had sorted and found places to store letters, photos and other cherished souvenirs. A bag of clothes was ready to donate to a charity close to her heart and a few items put aside for her children and grandchildren.
Exhilarated by the achievement, she turned to me and said: “You should do this professionally!” That’s when I first started to think about becoming a declutter coach.
Shortly afterwards, a fellow coach confided that she was struggling to organize her new home after a difficult divorce so I offered her a trial session. By the end of the session, both her home and her head were much clearer – and she was so thrilled with the results that she insisted on paying me.
Since then, I’ve worked with dozens of different clients: elderly people dealing with bereavement; parents of young children who need space for their families to grow; men in the throes of separation or divorce; women returning to work after maternity leave; and teenagers struggling with huge questions about their identity, relationships, study and work. Clutter provides a wonderful metaphor to explore all kinds of questions about what matters most in their homes and in their lives.
In my working life I look forward to meeting new clients for the first time. It’s reassuring for many to hear that I don’t have any opinion on how much of anything they should own. I define clutter simply as ‘whatever’s getting in your way’. There’s a great deal of shame and anxiety linked to clutter so I often start by pointing out that self-perceptions, like clutter, are based on habits that can be shifted.
One of the most rewarding aspects of my work is developing trust with clients; decluttering involves not only listening but literally opening up spaces, stories and secrets. Working with teenagers who are guarded about privacy is a particular challenge – and also a great privilege.
The best part of my day is often at the end of the session when clients express wonder at what we’ve managed to accomplish. I also enjoy returning after the first session or two to find out what clients have managed to achieve. Sometimes it’s simply a question of maintaining order but often there are major breakthroughs.
Last week I visited a teenager whose room we had sorted together a couple of weeks before. While clearing her clothes, books and papers, we’d talked about how she makes and communicates decisions to friends and family. During the follow-up session, I witnessed not only practical changes in her room but also her renewed confidence and motivation.
The greatest challenge I’ve faced in self-employment has been working on my own, not being part of a team of having someone else to bounce ideas off. Hiring Corrina as my coach was vital at the beginning; she helped me to clarify the purpose of my business to think strategically about how to reach my ideal clients. Defining goals and evaluating progress on a monthly basis with someone who understands what I’m trying to do and hold me accountable has proved invaluable.
Social media has helped me to build connections and get involved with new projects, such as contributing guest blogs, and I’ve benefited enormously by joining the UK Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers. I’ve become an active member on the operations team, coordinate local meet-ups for members in London, and am now helping to develop training, mentoring and professional development for others.
An unexpected aspect of working for myself is the range of opportunities that present themselves and my ability to repackage what I do for different audiences. When I started the business, I offered talks on decluttering to local groups such as the Womens’ Institute, which proved so popular that I started to run my own coaching groups. I’m now developing workshops on time management and organizing skills for corporate clients. I’m also thrilled to be presenting an expert workshop at Grand Designs 2014.
The “missing piece of the puzzle” for me was discovering that even motivational coaches can lose their mojo! When I’m working with clients or preparing to run a workshop, I’m so involved in my work that I don’t notice time pass. I often experience that classic feeling of ‘flow’.
But there are also days when I’m working at home, dealing with admin and invoices, struggling to write a guest blog or find the courage to prepare a proposal for a new project. At times like that, it’s essential to know that you can reach out to friends and others who understand what it’s like to be self-employed. Connecting with others online as well as networking face-to-face can be vital.
As told to our Community Support Angel, Madeleine Forbes.
If you want help with finding a community of like-minded souls to support you on your self-employment journey, we’d be delighted to welcome you to a Community Meet-Up. Our next event is sold out, but you can click here to sign up to be Front-Of-Queue when tickets go on sale for the next one.
Over To You
What can you relate to in Juliet’s story? How do you find support and community when you’re working for yourself? Let us know in the comments.
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© Corrina Gordon-Barnes 2014
“Self-perceptions, like clutter, are based on habits that can be shifted” – @jlpcoach via @CorrinaGB