What does it take to leave an office job behind to become an independent Freelancer Writer? In this episode of Career Relaunch, Kat Boogaard, a former Marketing Assistant for the Green Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau turned Freelance Writer shares her thoughts on not allowing yourself to be defined solely by your job and managing the people who critique your career choices. I also share some thoughts on more meaningful ways to respond to the question, “What do you do?”
- Taking charge of your own career future and doing something really scary can also be really exciting.
- Taking the decision to leave your full-time job is often the most challenging part of the career change process.
- Keeping your eye on what you’re working toward and celebrating the small wins can help keep you on track.
- What you do professionally in your career does not define you. You have an identity outside of your day job.
- Don’t limit your response to the question “What do you do?” to simply your job title. When you share more about yourself, others get a more complete picture of who you are.
Tweetables to Share
- Visit blog Lemonade Linings & subscribe to Kat’s newsletter to receive her articles on career, lifestyle, and personal development topics.
- Joseph’s TEDx Talk, Reshaping the Story of Your Career on the question, “What do you do.”
- Dr. Suess Quote on Being Who You Are (although this has also been attributed to others)
Free Tool: Expand Your Identity
During this episode’s Mental Fuel segment, I talked about other things you can say when asked, “What do you do?” For some help in doing this, you can download your “Expand Your Identity” Worksheet
About Kat Boogaard, Freelance Writer at Lemonade Linings
After working full-time in the “real world” as a Marketing Assistant, Kat made the decision to leave her steady job and pursue a career as a freelance writer.
Now, she spends her days crafting content—mainly related to career and self-development. Her work and career advice has been published by the likes of The Muse, Forbes, Inc, Mashable, and LifeHacker. You can check out her articles on her blog, Lemonade Linings.
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Episode Interview Transcript
Teaser (first ~15s): Truly, nobody out there cares about your career the way that you do, remembering that it’s what you do and not who you are. You do still have an identity and a personality outside of what you spend eight hours a day doing. I think that’s an important thing to remember.
Joseph: Kat, thanks so much for joining me today.
Kat: Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.
Joseph: I’d love to start by, first of all, just understanding what you’re focused on right now in your life and your career.
Kat: I own my own business as a freelance writer. I do a lot of different content creation for different brands and online publications. Really, the majority of my focus lately has just been on both running and growing my business, which has turned out to be a delicate balance between the two things. Mainly, my work is online rather than print these days, so I do a lot for The Muse. I do actually a lot of career advice.
Joseph: Did you know that you wanted to be a freelance writer, or did you think about working for a publication? How did you wrestle with that decision?
Kat: That was an interesting thing for me because I live in an area where writing isn’t really a big career field. I live in Wisconsin, not New York City or Chicago or San Francisco, so I guess I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a freelance writer. I always knew that I wanted writing to be a part of whatever career field I was in, but I didn’t really explore the whole freelance side of things until a ways into my traditional career.
Joseph: Can you take us back to what you were doing before you were doing freelance writing?
Kat: I worked in marketing. I was a marketing assistant for my local Convention and Visitors Bureau. It’s just this mouthful to say we market and travel to our local area in an effort to bring tourist dollars into the local economy. Marketing travel was a pretty fun gig, but I guess I never really felt that fulfilled or challenged by what I was doing. A lot of the work was administrative, which I don’t want to say that I was above because I was still a young, entry-level employee, but it just wasn’t really work that my heart was in. That was when I knew I needed to explore some different opportunities.
Joseph: How did you know that your heart wasn’t in it?
Kat: That’s an interesting question, and that was something I wrestled with myself because I’m kind of a creature habit. I’m somebody who likes stability and routine, so I probably could’ve dealt with that for years because it was predictable, and it was safe, but after a while, I realized that I didn’t really enjoy the work. I just felt comforted by the monotony of it all.
Work is such a big part of my life, and I don’t want to sound like a typical entitled millennial, but I feel like I deserve to enjoy at least the majority of that piece of my life, and so that was when I really knew that maybe I needed to try something different.
Joseph: I found you by reading a fantastic article you wrote, Kat, for The Daily Muse called ‘Four Lessons I Learned from Quitting My Job with no Backup Plan.’ Can you take us to the moment when you decided to leave that job to pursue freelance writing? How did you go about that process of quitting?
Kat: It’s funny to even hear ‘a moment of quitting’ because for me, it was just like this months and months long process. It was something that I really kind of wrestled with for a long time because I went back and forth between thinking, ‘This is something that I really want to do. I have to do this. I have to quit in order to freelance,’ to, ‘Are you crazy? What kind of person would do that? You have a stable, full-time job with health benefits. Why would you ever leave?’
I went through that kind of internal conflict for a few months and brought the conversation to my loved ones who were very encouraging. Eventually, I reached the decision that this was something that I wanted to do, and now is the perfect time to try to do it, so I made the decision to put in my two-weeks’ notice and say goodbye to my full-time job.
Joseph: One of the things that you talked about in your article was that you don’t need the approval of others. Can you describe what it was like to share your news with others?
Kat: Honestly I got a lot of, ‘You’re doing what? You have a full-time job. What are you thinking?’ That was really hard for me because I’m somebody who has the tendency to really seek the approval of others. I like being told when I’m doing things right or when I’m doing things well. It’s just very reassuring to me. Anybody that really plants a lot of self-doubt in your head, if everybody else thinks it’s crazy, is it really crazy? That was really a tough thing for me.
Joseph: How did you manage those skeptics who were questioning your decision?
Kat: That was a challenge, because honestly, I didn’t really want to get into a long dialogue with them about it because I realized it wasn’t necessary for me to change their mind. In the long run, why did that really matter what they thought about my career choice or the changes that I was making?
I really learned to take a lot of it with a grain of salt. I tried to really consciously not let a lot of that get to me or tear me down. I also recognized that these people were probably really coming from a well-meaning place. They were genuinely concerned or confused or just intrigued by what I was doing. They weren’t trying to be malicious or condescending or to tear me down. If you can recognize pure intentions and always consciously remind yourself that these people are coming from a good place and then take everything they say with a grain of salt, because in the end, it really has no impact in what you’re doing, that makes hearing all of that over and over again a lot easier.
Joseph: So you’ve dealt with the skeptics, you’ve decided to launch off on your own, can you take us through what it was like on those first few weeks when you’ve moved from working for a stable organization to being out completely on your own?
Kat: Even though I know people who run small businesses and I had some great resources there, there really was no rulebook or step-by-step process for how I could pull this whole thing off. I felt like I was standing at the bottom of this giant mountain looking up, which was really kind of terrifying, but it was also really exciting because I finally was really enjoying what I was doing, and I was excited about where I was heading, and there’s just a lot of pride in what I do.
Joseph: You talked about that in your article that scary is exciting. What did you mean by that?
Kat: I remember putting in the article even that there’s a good reason that people pay money to walk through a haunted house or to go see a horror film or something like that because scary is scary, but there’s also a big thrill to it. It gets your adrenaline going.
I think one of the things that makes it so exciting is the thrill of the unknown. I think knowing that I was really taking the reins and I was being proactive taking charge of my own career future, that was really exciting to me even though I didn’t have a crystal ball that could tell me what was going to happen.
Scary was exciting. It was scary, but it was also exciting. It was just this really weird rollercoaster ride of emotions.
Joseph: What was the hardest part about changing careers for you, Kat?
Kat: The hardest piece of the puzzle for me was actually taking the leap. Leaving my full-time job was a decision that I wrestled with honestly for months. Finally making that clear-cut choice of, ‘Yes, I’m doing this. I’m out the door,’ coming to that conclusion was definitely the most difficult piece for me, because I think for a long time, I kept trying to find these loopholes where I could make both things work for me. When I eventually realized that that was just never going to happen, making that final decision of what my next step was was the biggest challenge.
Joseph: What do you think has been the most surprising part of changing careers for you?
Kat: How fulfilling it is. You read all these articles and you hear all of this career advice about when you’re doing something that you love and you’re doing work that you really fulfills you, it changes your whole life. I was kind of one of those people. I’m one of those people that writes that advice now for a living, but I was kind of one of those people that would roll my eyes at that and say, ‘A job’s a job. Work is work,’ but it really does. Your work doesn’t define you, and it’s not your whole life, but it’s such a big piece of the puzzle that when that’s not really working for you, it has such a huge impact on all other areas of your life.
Once I was in a career field and doing something that I really enjoyed and really made me excited to sit down at my computer every day, it just felt like all these other pieces of my life fell into place. I guess it surprises me how big of an impact it had on my life overall and not just on my career.
Joseph: Can you take us through what some of those changes were outside of your career that you were experiencing?
Kat: I think the ‘Sunday’s scary’ is a term now that’s been really popular in social media. Like I said, it wasn’t that I hated my job or my career. I didn’t loathe it, but I didn’t love it either, and so that had kind of a big impact on my energy level outside of the office. I come home from work, and I just want to sit on the couch and veg out for the rest of the day because I felt so blah from how I spent my entire day, and that had a big impact on my relationships, like I said, my energy. It’s just I wasn’t feeling like myself anymore. I didn’t have the same energy or zest for life that I have when I feel really excited by what I’m doing every day.
Joseph: Do you feel like other people who maybe aren’t pursuing their passions, do you feel like they understand what it’s like to have these other things now going for you in your life, or do you feel like you have to experience it by going through it to understand how much of a positive impact it can have on the rest of your life?
Kat: For me, it was definitely something that I needed to experience. Like I said, I had heard a lot about it. Going through it firsthand definitely illustrates how big of an impact your work has on your life.
Joseph: What have you learned about yourself through this process?
Kat: Probably that I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was. I think when I came out of college and had a full time job and stuff, rejection or even edits or criticism and stuff, those were everything that I focused on. It’s a normal thing to do. You can hear 10 great things about yourself and one small piece of constructive criticism, and you’re going to obsess over that one thing.
Now, running my own business and writing for a living, that’s pretty much my every day: getting rejection emails from people who don’t want to work for me, revisions from editors, people telling you places I can improve. Even when I was trying to build my business, like I said, getting ‘thanks but no thanks’ emails from all these people that I wanted to work with but didn’t want to work with me. I think a few years ago, that really would’ve torn me down and put me in a pretty bad place. Now, I’ve learned to really move on, so I think I have a lot more internal strength than I ever thought I did, which is a big thing I’ve learned about myself.
Joseph: Do you have any suggestions for people who are dealing with rejection? Because I’ll tell you what, as a small business owner myself, I hear you completely that it’s important to somehow remain a little bit detached from your outcomes because some things work out, some things don’t work out, but overtime—I don’t know about you, but—it does get to you sometimes, and it does wear you out. How do you manage that? How do you manage the rejection or how do you manage the people who say no?
Kat: That’s still something that I struggle with. I don’t want to sound, by any means, like if you get slapped in the face enough times, eventually, it doesn’t hurt because it always stings a little bit, especially if it’s something that you’re really excited about, and the other part is not as excited about it.
Keep your eye on the big picture and what you’re really working toward. I know for me in the beginning, it was so easy to get so wrapped up in those little details and those constant no’s that I kind of forgot to keep my eye on the prize and wasn’t celebrating my wins because I was so focused on my losses. Always keeping your finger on the pulse of what you’re working toward and what you’re building, you’ll still see progress even if there’s a lot of no’s along the way. That in and of itself is encouraging. It gives you something to keep working toward. You know that you’re taking steps in the right direction even if there are a few steps back along your course.
Joseph: Another thing that you talked about in your article, which I’d love to spend a couple of minutes on is that your career really doesn’t define you. You mentioned that your job isn’t who you are. It’s what you do. How did making this move change how you defined yourself?
Kat: For so many of us, our career really does define you. I mean what’s one of the first questions you get asked when you’re anywhere making small talk? It’s, ‘What do you do?’ I think that that’s a big part of not only everybody’s professional identity but their personal identity as well. Those two things, like I said on the article, really become intertwined. What you do really becomes who you are.
That was something that I struggled with when I decided to do my own thing because I think there was a little bit of that impostor syndrome because I felt like I couldn’t really call myself a writer, and I couldn’t really call myself a business owner because I felt like I really wasn’t doing it yet. You know what I mean? I don’t know what I was waiting for. If it was some big accomplishment or some grand byline where I would finally feel like, ‘Now I can tell people what my job title is.’
That was something I struggled with because prior to starting my own business, I would always respond to people and say, ‘I work in marketing,’ or, ‘I’m employed here,’ and it was so easy to define myself. Once I started doing my own thing, I felt like it needed so much justification behind it, if that makes sense, because I still get people today that will look at me like, ‘Sure, you do.’ I even had people tell me, ‘So your husband makes the money then,’ which is always so funny to me. I always feel like I need to explain my choices to people.
I just realized nobody really cares that much, which sounds brutal, but truly, nobody out there cares about your career the way that you do, remembering that it’s what you do and not who you are. You do still have an identity and a personality outside of what you spend eight hours a day doing. I think that’s an important thing to remember.
Joseph: It’s such a great lesson, Kat. I can tell you that I definitely have experienced some of the similar things that you mentioned, especially when I went off on my own: almost having to justify and over-explain what I do. It’s almost like I’m trying to convince myself. When you look back on your career change, what’s something that you wish you had known that you now know?
Kat: Just to have a little bit more faith in myself and faith in the process. I think if you want something bad enough, you’ll definitely do everything that you can to make it work and make sure things take shape. Patience was a big thing for me too. I wanted it and I wanted it now, but the world just doesn’t really work that way.
Joseph: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Kat: Everybody really has their own path and their own experience, and so you really need to rely on your own instincts and trust yourself with the decisions that you make because no two career paths are the same, so there’s really nobody out there that can give you this perfect roadmap to navigate you to success. You really need to lean on yourself and put a lot of faith in yourself in order to get the end result that you want.
Joseph: Just to wrap up here, Kat, can you tell us a little bit about your blog, first of all, which is Lemonade Linings, and a little bit about what you’re focused on right now?
Kat: Lemonade Linings is actually my blog that I started a few years ago. I actually started it when I was still working full-time. It’s just this innocent, creative outlet where I could just write about the things that I wanted and share my interests with people. I started going to this huge career shift and this huge change in my own life, so I really changed my focus to career and self-development. Now, I blog about people who want to kind of get out and do their own thing, particularly if they’re in editorial or writing fields.
Joseph: Where can people go if they want to find out more about you, Kat?
Kat: They can definitely check out my blog that’s just LemonadeLinings.com, or they can come find me on Twitter. I tweet a lot, especially about things that I’ve written. I like to interact with people who ask me questions on there, so that’s a great place to find me as well.
Joseph: Thank you so much, Kat, for talking with us today and sharing some thoughts on how to define yourself outside of traditional ways and then also just to remind yourself to trust your instincts. Thanks so much for your time.
Kat: Thank you so much for having me. It was great to be here.