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26 Mar 14

Taking the leap: Katy’s story

Katy Went - taking the leap into self-employmentWhat’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?

This week, we’re getting to know Katy Went. A self-professed label-defier, Katy’s journey of taking the leap into self-employment is a story of courage, honesty, and finding authenticity. If you’ve ever felt you’re just too distractable, too much of a perfectionist, too unconventional to run your own business, then read on:

Whilst at University, if not before, I realised I could turn every passion and hobby into a self-supporting tax-deductible income scheme to fund further interests. One of the first was photography. Getting paid to take pictures, or to sell camera gear, paid my way through university and summers abroad.

Self-belief that I could turn my hand to anything – except brain surgery – that I put my mind to, helped. Putting my mind to it was the problem as I get bored easily and need new challenges.

I still can’t believe I get paid for writing and public speaking, although payment for that currently lags behind previous projects/businesses which are still bringing me passive income. My last pay cheque from speaking was a box of chocolates! This is one benefit of being “multipassionate” – aka a distracted scanner – an older business with ongoing income can support the next in development.

My different businesses went:

  • Photography
  • Public Relations
  • Hebrew Tutoring
  • Theology Lecturing
  • Magazine editing/publishing
  • IT Consultant
  • Translation Software
  • Web SEO geek
  • Diversity Training
  • Social Media wizard
  • Writing & Public Speaking.

I still get a token few thousand annually from Hebrew for no effort on my part, almost like a pension. Software yields vary wildly, but again for little ongoing effort, allowing me to concentrate on my latest passions and projects.

My father left school aged 14 with few qualifications and despite his semi-professional interests in acting, singing, and modelling, ended up getting a successful “proper job” in the car trade. Since then he’s always worried that if I chose voluntary work – which I often did – or my latest start-up business idea, it would not furnish me with a house or a pension. He’d rather I became a stockbroker or headed up some large company.

Katy-Jon Went at work after taking the leap into self-employmentIt’s not about the money, but the lifestyle and environment that makes you happy. He had a mortgage and an expensive house. I choose to rent but have a glorious cottage and garden in the country, ten times the size. Happiness cannot be measured in monetary terms.

One of my biggest challenges on the self-employment path has been distractions. I come up with new ideas, or prefer to do voluntary work or social interaction over actually working.

I also suffer from perfectionism and it was hard to release less than my best to market in order to release anything at all!

Battling mental health issues has also been hard but being self-employed was double-edged. No sick pay – but also continued therapeutic earnings from having to keep going, even at a trickle, and being able to adjust my hours to suit my mood. 

I’ve been depressed, suicidal (ideation and attempted), indebted, so yes, I’ve been to hell and back. The important thing I’ve learned and remembered through diarying and past reflection is that I’ve come “back”, several times. I’ve kept reinventing, adapting, and transforming both my businesses and myself. I’ve done it before so I can do it again. I, like the stock market, can go up as well as down. But I’m never down for long.

If I could go back in time and offer my past self some words of advice, I’d go back 20+ years and say “Be yourself. You are your greatest asset, and authenticity wins audience, customers, relationships, more than any great oratory, sales pitch, or romantic advance“.

An unexpected aspect of working for myself is complete control over my hours. Freedom to work wherever, whenever. These have become more necessary than I could have imagined whilst juggling insomnia, gender transition, depression and bipolar mood disorders. A 9-5 job simply would not have been doable

In the past I invested in the bricks, now I’ve invested in the clicks, but ultimately I’ve invested in myself – to the extent of being a course junkie but it has all paid off in teaching and inspiring others with that acquired knowledge and wisdom.

Katy WentI’ve never really cared about money. In my experience, having it was meaningless, although not having it was stressful. I’ve had 6 figure income and 6 figure debt.

I’ve found that whether it was manifesting or marketing, belief about it and staying in the flow not the grind was more important. Some of my best outcomes were unplanned, spontaneous and the result of random things like customers liking my mobile ringtone (the theme from the Psycho shower scene went off in a presentation and I was handed a £25k contract as a result!), my nail polish (I was mid-transition from male to female) and my presenting at a prison gate to deliver training cross-dressed like a panicked Eddie Izzard. 

The “missing piece of the puzzle” for many who embark on the self-employed journey is fun! Enjoy what you do, do it for you, then it is not work but play and all the income is a bonus for doing what you love rather than what you think you “need” to do. We so often focus on finding a niche, but sometimes that niche does not exist until people see what you are offering and they never knew they needed you or your product until you created it.

As told to our community angel, Madeleine Forbes.

Over to You

Have you had to battle demons like distractions and perfectionism on your self-employment journey? How do you keep the fun in your business, and remind yourself that doing what you love can feel like play, not a slog? Leave a comment below, letting us know which parts of Katy’s story resonate with you.

Authenticity wins

If you’re inspired by Katy’s attitude and want to know how expressing your real self online can lead to paying clients and a business that works while you play, then check out Blog for Clients. Practical, actionable steps so you feel confident to show up and create a connection with more of your perfect clients. Click here to find out more.


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© Corrina Gordon-Barnes 2014

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  1. Julie Brown

    LOVE this story …
    many similar things to my world ….. just not the Psycho ringtone or a 25k contract .. but there’s hope!

    thanks for sharing

    1. Corrina

      So glad Katy’s story resonated, Julie – thanks for being here 🙂

  2. Bruna

    very humble, inspiring and honest story of one person trying to find themselves. loved it!

    1. Corrina

      You might just meet Katy at a future You Inspire Me Community Meet-Up, Bruna. That’s how we got to know and love her.

      1. Katy J Went

        Indeed, already booked into the next community meet up, looking forward to the food, inspiration, networking and open-hearted entrepreneurial energy.

        1. Linda

          Love this! Getting caught in the trap of what I think I “need” to do is one I fall into frequently. Thanks for the reminder to have fun, Katy, and enjoy doing what we do.

          Looking forward to meeting you at the next community meet-up.

  3. claire stone

    Blimey – that story was a roller coaster and a half, but I love the fact that all through it, Katy had (has) this inner self belief – I feel pretty much convinced she’d be pretty good at brain surgery too after reading that – that everything is possible, regardless of the obstacles. It’s really hit home that the key thing is to decide to do something, and then just go for it.
    Thank you!

    1. Katy J Went

      Aw thanks Claire! I love brains, psychology and neuroscience see but whilst I love taking things apart I’m not so good at putting them back together! I’ve always believed that we are pretty much all capable of anything, so long as we believe in ourselves, are self-starters and/or acquire great motivational teachers. Actually the one thing I’ve never done is go on a roller coaster – perhaps that’s another fear to conquer!

      1. claire stone

        Roller coasters ROCK! Although, it’s useful to always have something that you haven’t done, so there’s always something to look forward to!

  4. Giusi Pezzotta

    So courageous + honest! Your story went straight to my heart. Thank you Katy ( & Corrina of course)

  5. Katy Went

    Thanks Giusi! As Suey Park has said: “It takes so much courage to be authentic.” So much energy and effort is wasted in repression, denial, masks of who you are. Authenticity may be a risk but it is also an adventure of self-discovery and leads to eventual long-term health and happiness, any wealth as a bonus is gratefully received!

  6. Devi

    Love your story and your energy, Katy. I just watched the film about you too. And followed you on twitter!

    1. Katy Went

      Thanks Devi, I’m in a more positive place now than I was 3 weeks after the film! Life has its ups and downs and I prefer to ride the former and read about the latter in order to remind myself that I do get back up each time.


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