How I Went From Corporate Slave to Self-Made Using 2 Simple Success Techniques

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about launching a business. The biggest myth is that it takes a lot of money and resources, and that anyone who has been successful at it had a lot of money and resources from the get-go.

But, the reality, and what every aspiring business owner should understand, is this:

The most successful entrepreneurs start with nothing.

After moving out of my and my husband’s house as a result of an impending divorce, I rented a small loft. The living room, laundry room and kitchen were downstairs, and the bedroom and bathroom were upstairs. The only place to set up my home office was a tiny nook in the bedroom, into which my desk and an old printer fit just perfectly. Little did I know, this is where the humble seeds of my business would take root.

During this tumultuous transition from a life I once knew to a state of total uncertainty, I began to feel the tug of entrepreneurship. For ten years, I had been working as a full-time “cubicle minion,” in an environment that sucked the wind out of my sails and performing work that was inconsistent with my intrinsic gifts. I knew that giving all my precious energy to a job that I loathed was no way to live. And, I couldn’t keep up the lie anymore. The stress of it was manifesting itself everywhere — namely, my splintered spirit and collapsing health.

Since childhood, the only activity that had brought me true joy was my writing. I had been writing for years, not in a formal capacity, but as an English major in college, graduate school, internships and then countless personal diaries and travel journals. It was time to give my true love a proper home in the world.

But, I had no business cards and no website, and no money to invest in those things. I had no head starts or privileges. No contacts. No email marketing list. I had to start at square one — to start with nothing — and figure things out for myself. 

One day out of desperation, I began looking at freelance job websites. I applied to every copywriting opportunity I could find. With each proposal I sent, I included a small writing sample that I had created especially for that client and that directly related to the client’s niche. Before long, I received my very first job. The client wanted a writer to compose 140-character Twitter posts to summarize her blog articles. I had NO experience in social media writing, but, because I had sent her samples demonstrating my writing capability in that specific niche, she hired me immediately. I learned very quickly that I could take a skill I already had and apply it to solve other people’s problem — for money. To jump-start my career, I also learned that I didn’t have to wait for other people to give me the chance to earn experience; I could create my own. I could write my own.

Unfortunately, writing tweets doesn’t pay the bills entirely. I had to up the ante. I read a book about how some web copywriters, who write sales pages to convert web visitors into buyers, earn 4, 5 and 6 figures per project.

Although I had been an English major in college and had been writing since I was a kid, by no means was I a sales writing expert. But the more I practiced writing sales pages, the better I got. I bought, borrowed and read the books by the best in the business. I rewrote actual million-dollar-generating sales letters, word for word, so I could get into the “mindset” of real sales copywriters. I learned everything I could about the psychology of selling through words.

Supported by my newfound knowledge, I started to look carefully at the sales pages of existing websites and realized that there’s a lot of junk out there. I saw many websites that failed miserably at many core copywriting principles: to engage the customer in a conversation, to provoke the right emotions, to use the customer’s language, and to ask for the sale. And, that’s just the short list. My first thought was, “How do these people even sell anything?” and my second was “There’s obviously a huge need for my copywriting services.”  

I knew that if I could break into the lucrative sales copywriting niche, I could write my own future, no pun intended. But, once again, I was up against the dilemma of “how to gain experience when no one will give you a shot at gaining the experience.” To take matters into my own hands, I relied on the same technique that I used to land my first social media writing job. To generate just a few samples to add to my portfolio, I wrote web copy for products that I made up. Yes, faux products for faux websites and faux clients, but 100% original writing. I then submitted these “real life, made-up” writing samples to clients to demonstrate my ability. I guess you could call this success technique “fake it ’til you make it,” but it worked. And, the most important part was that it gave me the opportunity to prove my talent and convince a few clients to hire me — without having any “experience” in the traditional sense.

Using this technique, the first major sales copywriting job I landed was for an investment trainer. The rest, as they say, is history. After completing that gig, three more rolled in from the same client. The praise and success from those first few projects unleashed a steady stream of customers that still hasn’t dwindled. For the first time in my life, I experienced the luxury of handpicking who I wanted to work with and naming my price.

I couldn’t believe it. For ten years, I had squandered my precious time and talent in corporate servitude, just for the sake of being like everybody else and for fabled “job security.” But, by applying two simple principles, I was able to launch a new, zero-stress, profitable copywriting business that is 100% consistent with my passion. When I applied those two principles, my dream career seemed to rise up and meet me.

Not only is my new career a better fit, but being a boss lady of my own business has enabled me to make some dramatic changes to my lifestyle. I moved out of my stuffy, overcrowded loft and bought a larger home with a spacious yard. I built my own monster garage, which was one of the things on my wish list when I launched my business. I furnished my home exactly how I wanted it to look. I’ll go to the gym, lunch, a massage or a facial whenever I like. I have cultivated a dream lifestyle and a life I can be proud of. I had been under the demonic, watchful eyes of managers and lived by the hands of the corporate clock for nearly ten years, so to finally have the freedom to do what I want has been the ultimate blessing.

I sit in my house, in a coveted neighborhood just outside of center city, watching the hummingbirds chase each other outside my office window. And it’s just me. I don’t have to report to a boss and get permission to take a vacation (honestly, when you work for yourself, every day feels like a staycation). I don’t have a need for staff. I don’t have co-workers. I don’t have any overhead. I work from home, on my own hours, and just have a cell phone and a laptop to run my soloprenuership. I went from being divorced, fearful and alone to totally independent, confident and happy. And it all started with nothing.

When you start with nothing, it forces you to think creatively and to think differently about how to turn your dream into “something.” Nothing is a place that’s devoid of excuses. It’s uncluttered, unblemished and spot-free. It’s a clear lens through which to see the resources you do have — such as the Internet, free networking meet-ups, friends and public library — that will enable you make major strides toward your goal. It’s a blank slate on which you can begin to sketch out your own meaningful experiences.

My point is this: if you have even a twinge of desire to turn your true bliss into a business, there’s no need to wait. There’s no need to hire a pricey web designer, print slick business cards and create a newsletter right away. All of those elements will come eventually. The simple techniques that I used, like examining online job sites for fresh clients and studying the masters in books, can be applied to many niches, from photography and graphic design to coaching and home organization.

If you are currently working at a job you despise, it’s not a life sentence. Think about the low or no-cost, minimal-risk baby steps that you can take immediately to help set you free and onto a profitable, rewarding career path.

I encourage you to forget about the startup myths you’ve heard and be confident in the power of starting with nothing and creating your own experience. You can share what you love with the world, while earning an income and being blissfully happy.

Now, isn’t that something?