In my last post where I announced the new direction for this space (and my career), Adam asks:
Lee, I'm interested in a post about how your earlier attempts may have foundered (i.e. writing consulting), and how you are making this foray different.
The circumstances four years ago when I tried to start my own business are quite different than they are now for me. First, and perhaps most importantly, I am choosing to move on to a different role, as opposed to being forced into it. My heart, to use the cliché, just wasn’t into it then. I wanted to be in front of the classroom, not trying to start a business. And as frustrated and conflicted as I was, it was a relief for me to go back in front of a class (ok, five classes), both financially and personally. I wasn’t ready to completely let go of my dream of being an academic, and wasn’t ready to accept that my place wasn’t, in fact, in academia, teaching.
Another important lesson that I learned is that it doesn’t matter how good your “product” is if no one is willing to pay for it. The services that I offered, everyone agreed, were valuable and necessary. I wisely reached out to independent college admissions consultants to talk to them about marketing my services and possibly partnering with them. They all shared stories with me about how poor their clients’ writing typically was, as well as how unprepared many were for college life. And these were the people who could afford the services of independent college admissions consultants. However, no one was willing to pay for my services; for this crowd, one admission to a college was secured, the work was done. Parents didn’t think the services were necessary, and what college-bound senior is going to spend the time and money on more school?
However, in the process of failing that this particular endeavor, I did start to write again and use social media, two things that I am pretty good at. It radically altered my pedagogical approach, too, through my exposure to new and innovative educators and tools. Now, these are skills that people will pay me for, either as an independent consultant or as an employee. I’ve built my “brand” up over the years, and I have also acquired a fair amount of experience.
But I’m also ready now to make the move in ways that I wasn’t four years ago. I’m getting a better handle on what I want and what I don’t want out of my work and my career. I also have a lot more support than I did four years ago, which makes a huge difference, too. We’re in a better position financially now than four years ago as a family, having lived in an area with a low cost of living, spending our extra money paying down debt. I’m not panicking, nor am I as desperate as I was. This time, it’s my decision, and it is being made for the right reasons.
There are no guarantees. This might turn out to be another relative failure that leads me into a similar position than the one I am in right now. Or worse. I’ll keep learning, though, and I’ll keep trying.
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