This podcast is an interview with me about career and life change which is relevant for the New Year. I was interviewed a few months ago by Kathleen Alexander from Clever Fox, who guides self-motivated individuals, budding entrepreneurs and solo-preneurs though starting their own business or in launching an ‘outside of the box' career.
Show Notes (full transcription at the bottom of the post):
- What motivated me to try to change my life and career after 13 years of being a business consultant. How life got in the way for years before I made the goal to write a book and finally achieved it.
- About how I wrote my first book and then took my own advice and started something on the side whilst still working. How I wanted to share everything I learned along the way which is why I started the blog.
- On scalable income. The myth of passive income but how you can create a book/product to earn more money than just swapping your hours for cash.
- On finding your passion and getting what you focus on. How The Creative Penn has changed in the two years since I started it, and how my own goals have changed. Start with some goal in mind but start down the slope like a skier and then you can zigzag down, changing your direction as you go. The law of attraction requires action.
- Why should someone try to write or publish a book as a serious business strategy? It gives you credibility and helps you stand out from the crowd. With Amazon.com, you can publish globally and market internationally. It can also solidify your own knowledge and help you understand how you can share your work with the world. Creating a book can be the basis of your other products for multiple streams of income.
- On the phrase “published author”. You can be published on Amazon.com and have the same digital shelf space as anyone else.
- My top 3 tips on marketing your book. Based on my experience, blogging is my no. 1 tip. My blog has been the basis of all the income I've made online with book sales, speaking and all the other opportunities that have come my way. It's your home on the internet, your online hub.
- Social networking is a must. I started doing this because I had to, but it becomes a pleasure and a hobby. I like Twitter but you might like other networks. Twitter is full of entrepreneurs and bloggers, although now it's also more mainstream. On growing Twitter followers.
- Multi-media is powerful, including audio and video. You stand out in a world where people are still scared of the technology. It can help people get to know you, then they might like you and trust you.
- Being helpful is a massive driving force for me, as it is for other people. It's also the best way to build a following.
- How self-publishing is now moving towards indie publishing, or independent publishing. The stigma is diminished and being replaced by the pride of indie authors! How print on demand can change your life, saving you time and money. No stock, no money upfront, no postage pain. On publishing ebooks and the Kindle. (Lots more on publishing options here) On perceived differences between print and ebooks, and my rant on why you should be selling ebooks even if you don't want to read them. (Note – the costs for formatting ebooks are more like $100-$150 now)
- On working 4 days a week and achieving while working. Working 4 days a week has enabled me to make the change and grow The Creative Penn slowly. It frees up a whole day worth of creation. I had done the big event before when I quit and sold my house to make a go of writing. It failed so this time I decided to work on it slowly, with a period of transition. How my job just pays the bills now, I opted out of the IT career. It pays the bills while I build my future. Having the bills paid means you don't desperately grasp any opportunity, but you can choose what fits your ultimate goal.
- You also have to consider what you want to give up to write your book. I gave up one day a week of work and also gave up TV, as well as a very small social life! I also know what I want to achieve and I'm focused on that entirely. I am controlled about my time and diarize work time, novel time etc. I mention Hyla Molander who is writing a memoir with 4 kids.
Thanks again to Kathleen Alexander from Clever Fox for the great interview.
Transcription of the full interview
This interview was carried out in November 2010 while I was still working four days a week as an IT consultant for a large corporate in Brisbane, Australia. This excerpt focuses on how I built up my business while still working in order to give you an insight into how I transitioned.
KA – My guest, Joanna Penn, wears many hats. And she really wears them well. She’s an author, blogger, speaker and business consultant. Joanna has written and self-published three non-fiction books, and she’s now writing her first novel thriller, Pentecost (republished as STONE OF FIRE).
Her blog, TheCreativePenn.com, is an incredible resource for all of you out there who are thinking about writing, publishing and promoting a book. So, welcome, Joanna, and thank you for joining me on this call.
JP – Thanks for having me.
KA – Joanna, I’ve been a big fan of your blog, and I’ve been following your posts for over a year now. It’s so full of useful information, podcasts and interviews, and I’m really simply astonished that this is something you’re doing in addition to your work as a business consultant!
Many of the listeners are interested in making that transition from being in a full-time job to owning a business or a project that they are really passionate about.
Can you share with us what motivated you to get started on this path of writing and publishing, and now helping others to do the same?
JP – Yes, sure. Well, I guess a lot of people want to change their careers, and I’ve been feeling like that for a long time.
I’m 35 now, but when I was 25 I left England – I used to work in London – and I left England looking to change my life in the year 2000. I arrived in Australia and then realized about five years later that I still hadn’t changed it for the better!
As many of us know, we have these high hopes and then life just happens. We earn money, but we haven’t achieved our goals.
So, again, a couple of years after that I said to myself, “You know, I always wanted to write a book.”
Writing a book was one of my life goals, and here I was at 30, and I still hadn’t done it. So it took me a couple of years, but basically I started writing a book. I didn’t really know what I wanted to write; but the one thing was that I worked as an IT consultant, and it’s a pretty miserable group of people!
KA – Hopefully your boss isn’t listening to this!
JP – Pretty well everyone in my industry admits that they’re not there for the love of the job. They’re there to earn money to pay the bills and for the rest of their life. And so I pretty much thought, well, what do I want to know?
I need to know how to change my job, and how to enjoy my life more. I was very diligent, I went to university, did all the things one should do, paid my taxes, you know, but I needed to look at what I wanted to do in order to change my life.
So I wrote ‘How To Enjoy Your Job,’ (republished as CAREER CHANGE) which was my first book. Pretty much what I suggested was working to pay the bills but also doing things on the side in order to make life more rounded and more interesting and move towards the ultimate goal.
So I took my own advice and started The Creative Penn. I basically wanted to get my book out there, so I started to learn about self-publishing, about how publishing works, and I realized that there was a lot out there that people didn’t know. I was spending money and time learning, and I could share those lessons with people.
So basically what motivated me was my own desire to write and publish a book in order to change my own life.
But then also to help people save money and time and effort and heartache themselves, because so many people dream of writing a book.
I guess I have IT skills as well as being a writer, so I could blend those two things. So I started The Creative Penn with that goal in mind. I also wanted to aim for scalable income, which I think some other people also want too.
And when I say scalable, it’s what some people call ‘passive income,’ but I actually think that’s a misnomer; I don’t think there’s such a thing as passive income. So we call it ‘scalable income,’ where essentially you create something, whether it’s a book or product or a course, or for some people it’s shares or property investment, and you can make more money than just your time. You’re not switching your time for money, you can do things that are scalable. So I guess I started on that business model of what I wanted, and that was pretty much what got me started.
KA – And you haven’t stopped, have you!
JP – No, well it’s funny you say that, and I was looking at some of the other questions about what I do, you know, about my time and everything: yeah, literally, I basically haven’t stopped writing books and working on The Creative Penn since I started. But I think it’s about finding something you’re passionate about and then you get what you focus on, you know? I spent a lot of my 20s having a lot of fun and partying, now I’m spending a lot of my 30s changing my career, slowly.
KA – When you started The Creative Penn, did you envisage it to be what it is today, or has it just evolved as part of the journey?
JP – That’s a good question, because I don’t think any of us realize where we’re going to end up when we first start this journey.
Certainly, when I wrote ‘How To Enjoy Your Job,’ my goal really was to get out of my job and change my life, but I didn’t really know where I was going. I did want to write books, and I did want to speak. I have actually just come back from Bali, where I had my first international speaking event for writers, so that was amazing.
But I certainly never thought when I started this, really only two years ago this December, that I would be paid to go and speak in Bali to a group of writers. I mean, that’s amazing.
I didn’t think I would be writing fiction, and I have my first novel, Pentecost, coming out in January, so it’s almost like – I know many of your listeners will have heard of the Law of Attraction – I do believe that when you make the first steps in your journey that the universe comes to meet you, or however you want to put it, and that you attract the opportunities and people who will join you on the journey. And that’s been really exciting.
And I really see great things happening. I believe I’ve only just started, and I guess I should say to people who are just starting as well: you do need to get going with some kind of goal in mind, but also a bit like skiing – go and zigzag down the slope towards your goal! You might not always be heading in exactly the right direction but you’ll get there, if you keep moving.
KA – That’s right. And I must say, when it comes to the Law of Attraction, I totally believe that you have got to take action as well, because just dreaming about it and not doing anything, I don’t think works. It’s just not going to materialize. And I can see that you’ve actually done more than you think you’ve done in order to make this happen. You just go on a course and it gets bigger and it gets bigger, but it’s exciting when it’s a little bit out of your comfort zone in a lot of ways.
JP – Oh, yes, and it’s funny you say that: I have done a video, What The Secret Forgot To Tell You. The Law of Attraction is all very well in terms of thinking about what you want, but you have to take a lot of action, doing calls like this, getting online, writing, doing stuff – it is more about doing stuff, but obviously you have to come up with the idea first so you know where you’re going.
KA – Absolutely. Now, Joanna, as someone who still works, is it 4 days a week, currently?
JP – Yes. Four days.
KA – At your full-time job, while successfully writing and publishing and running your blog, and learning all this new information, what have you personally found effective in terms of habits or thinking patterns that have really kept you motivated?
I mean, what advice would you give someone who wants to get started but feels just that little bit overwhelmed by what they have to do? How have you gone through it, and what’s your advice?
JP – It’s a good question. Basically, a couple of years ago, when I decided to write a book, and change my life, I said “Actually, I’m really going to do it now.”
So I went down to four days a week at work. And I really believe that that has been the thing that’s changed my life. It gave me head space and time to work on my future goals.
Now, a lot of people say, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly work four days a week, I can’t afford it” or “My boss wouldn’t let me.” But in these days of changing financial times, a lot of people are far more likely to give you four days a week. Now, if you think about that as 80% of your salary, you have to look at comparing that to what’s important in terms of changing your life.
So, I decided that would rather have 80% of my income and another day a week to work on what I wanted to do.
And I decided to keep my job and not just give it up, because I had tried that a few years previously and it didn’t work out.
I had given up my job, sold my house, you know, sat in a place and decided to change my life. But the pressure of having no income and basically no clue drove me back to a job and stopped me writing for about three years. So I definitely don’t recommend chucking everything in and just trying, unless you’ve got some kind of safety net. So I decided to keep my job, to build my business up slowly. So that’s my first tip: move to four days a week work.
Then, the next thing is, what are you going to give up? So I say this to writers as well, who want to write a book. Everybody has the same amount of time, you know: we only have a certain amount of time, so what are you going to give up, because it has to be something. It has to be sleep, or it has to be something else.
And so for me, I gave up that one day, but I also gave up TV. So we don’t have a TV in our house although we do occasionally watch shows or films on the laptop. But that means actively choosing a show to watch, not just switching on the box and watching for hours. I don’t have children, but I do have a husband and I do have a life, but I also gave up, you know, I don’t really drink any more, I don’t really go out and do much socializing. It sounds like I have a terrible life! But I have a real goal.
And I also diarize everything, so I have in my diary what I do on certain days. So we booked this session in a while ago, and I have appointments. I set appointments with myself so I do videos on a certain day, I do novel writing on a Sunday, you know, so I split up my time in quite a controlled manner. I am quite a control freak!
KA – Or, I’d like to say, very well organized.
JP – Yes: very well organized! But I think you have to be, I think we all have to be pretty well organized, and women are good at this, even if you do have kids. Like I interviewed a lady, Hyla Molander, a few weeks ago on my podcast, and she has four children and she’s just writing a book. And I said, I don’t know how you do it with kids. I think I get a lot done, and you have four kids, but she does it all … So people definitely do it, it’s just about what are you prepared to give up? I couldn’t give up sleep, but I could easily give up TV.
KA – It’s really also having that goal. You’re very purpose driven, I think. You know what you want and you’re, like you said, prepared for the cost and consequences that it takes to actually achieve that.
And it’s also really interesting what you said about not just jumping ship and trying to do everything by quitting your job, and I often tell this to my clients who, by the time they come in to see me, are so sick and tired of their job, and there have probably been signals happening for years before that, that they’re unhappy. And then a few years later, they’re consciously aware that they’re unhappy at work, then it takes probably another year for them to actually pick up the phone and make that appointment with me. And by this time they all just want that answer: OK, what should I do next? I always tell them, “Look, there is a transition phase: you really need to think about what you want, you need to make that transition and prepare yourself”.
And it may often include doing something that’s not just another job, but like what you’re doing, Joanna: it’s something you love. And no one’s going to go out there and hand you a job and a pay check doing this. So it’s something you have to create and build. But I think that’s exciting; I mean, that’s what I guess makes you wake up and you see the bigger picture, and you don’t care about, you know, going out for a drink down the pub, watching TV.
JP – That’s exactly right, and I think, for me now, I’m an IT contractor, so I get paid the days I work. It’s not a career path for me any more. I decided I didn’t want the career in IT, I didn’t want to be a career consultant. So it literally pays the bills.
So people should think about their job, if they want to leave it, as the thing that pays the bills while we actually build something that we want for our life.
What’s important, I think, is that if you keep your job that pays the bills, you don’t desperately grasp at opportunity. So I get a lot of opportunities offered to me for The Creative Penn now, because I’ve built up quite a platform, but I say no to the vast majority of them, because I have a goal, which is 80% scalable income, so, selling books, selling digital products, 20% speaking income, live events.
But if things don’t fit that goal for my business model, then I say no. And I can say no because I’m making money in another way. So yes I am now making money online, but it’s not enough to pay all my bills. So I keep the job – not just as a safety net: it allows me creative freedom to create the business I want, because I do not want to create another job. And so many people create another job!
KA – Absolutely correct. And that’s important. And the other thing that’s important is, I think for a lot of people who start a business, when they first go in, they’re not really sure initially what it is they want to do.
And often they spread themselves so thin. And then they’ve got to come back and really focus on what’s important. And even if you have to do that, that is key.
It’s not that you’ve failed, it’s just know that you’ve tried it and you’ve realized you’re not enjoying it. So you know, coming back to what’s core and why you started the business to begin with.
What you’ve done is great, because you’ve got your goals and you’re already, you already know what you want, so you’re discarding what’s not important. Because that can be very draining, if you start doing things that are not within your vision for how you want your business or your life to be like.
The other thing is, once your business starts becoming a job, and you don’t like it, it’s not just you who are not enjoying your job, it’s the people around you, as well, who are not enjoying you!
JP – Absolutely. And given I pretty much work my day job four days and the other three days are pretty much work on The Creative Penn, if I didn’t enjoy it, then my life would be pretty bad! But I do, I really enjoy it.
KA – That’s right. The Creative Penn is just fantastic, Joanna, and I am just astounded at how amazing you have been in putting up resources and just making the world of publishing so much more accessible to the individual who wants to get started. I mean, yours is like a one-stop shop for information.
JP – Thank you: that’s what I aimed it to be, so I’m glad it works!
KA – It does, it does. So, Joanna, thanks for your time, and all the best with what you’ve been doing and what you’re continuing to do in the world of self-publishing. And for all you out there who are interested in finding out about what Joanna can offer, please visit her website, www.TheCreativePenn.com. Thanks a lot, and good luck!
JP – Thanks for having me!