"Is it really possible to design your own dream job?"
That was the only question on my mind on February 12th, 2015 as I anxiously gave my boss notice that I would be leaving my position at a very well known, international law firm.
"Are you crazy?!?"
That's what most people said when they heard the news.
"Why are you throwing it all away?"
I had worked hard to get where I was in my career. Four years of college. Three years of law school. Six figures of student loan debt. Free internships. Several job job/location changes. Long hours spent at the office to be a "team player."
I did all of the things that you are supposed to do to become successful. I followed the conventional wisdom.
But the truth was -- I didn't feel very successful. In fact, I had created a life that I dreaded everyday.
The Breaking Point
In 2014 I had a major cancer scare that, in retrospect, turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
When people receive a cancer diagnosis, it really puts life into perspective.
All of the sudden, your time doesn't seem so infinite. You are forced to come face to face with your own mortality.
At 33 years old, I had to come to grips with the fact that my life might be cut much shorter than I had anticipated.
Suddenly, every minute mattered and I didn't want to spend one more day living a life that was out a alignment.
Designing Your Own Destiny
This part was not easy. Designing a business and a life that is truly fulfilling meant that I had to stop listening to everyone else's opinions and expectations and start listening to myself.
I had always been pushed in the direction of becoming a lawyer. It had become my identity.
When you identify with something, whether it's a job, a weight, or a belief about yourself, it's very difficult to leave that behind. For most of us, our current identity is comfortable and it's painful to step out of our comfort zones. That's why most people never do. But it's necessary if you want to make a change.
For a while, I felt lost and directionless. I didn't know who I was or what I wanted anymore.
It was agonizing and beautiful at the same time. For the first time since I could remember, I was a blank slate.
Now, it was up to me to decide what I really wanted to do... what I really wanted to become.
The first thing I did was make a list of all of the things that I really loved or that brought me joy and peace.
- I love to read (books are my jam - especially nonfiction because I love to learn new things.)
- I love to spend time outdoors.
- I love to learn and teach.
- I love technology.
- I love spending time with people I care about (family, friends, and my awesome pets.)
- I love to solve problems in unique ways (this is a skill I picked up in law school.)
- I love to help people solve problems in new and creative ways.
The next step was figuring out how I could take all of these things I love and create a business and life that I would be excited to wake up to everyday.
The "Perfect Day" Visualization Exercise
I think it was Lewis Howes who first introduced me to this concept - but this simple exercise was essential to helping me "find my own path."
The way it works is, you close your eyes and you envision what your ideal day would be like from the time you wake up in the morning, until the time you go to bed at night.
- What do you do?
- Where do you go?
- Who do you spend it with?
Try to be as detailed as possible and write down some of the details as they come to mind so you don't forget!
Then, you can use this information to start moving in a specific direction with your work or business.
I wrote about my perfect "ordinary" day below. But it's also helpful to allow your imagination to run really wild. You can also do this exercise and think of your perfect "ultimate" day, "dream vacation" or even something that you would like to achieve, but that seems out of reach right now.
My Perfect Day
In my perfect day I am able to wake up when I want. There are no alarms. No rush to get out of bed. No stress.
As I wake up, I leisurely enjoy a cup of tea and plan what I want to accomplish for the day. I spend some time writing and reflecting on my goals.
Next, I take my dog Mindy to the park for a walk.
As we walk along the river front, I enjoy the view of the city in the distance and think about how grateful I am to be able to live here.
When we return, I prepare a healthy breakfast for myself (I never really had time to do that when I had to go into the office - so it feels like a luxury.)
Next, I grab my laptop and go to one of my favorite coffee spots or bistros to work on something interesting and creative... a new writing project, a tutorial, or an online course idea.
After lunch, I head back outdoors for a bike ride or jump into a kayak for a relaxing afternoon paddle.
I return home feeling relaxed and energized.
For the rest of the afternoon I work on an interesting book that I'm recording for a client for an hour or two before preparing dinner or going out to meet up with friends or family.
I wind down the day in my bathroom. Yes, my bathroom. The bathroom has always been like a sanctuary to me.
I soak in the tub while listening to one of my favorite podcasts or an audiobook before sliding into super comfy pajamas.
Then I crawl into bed. It's the most comfortable bed in the world. The mattress is plush. The sheets are crisp and smell like fresh laundry. I sink into a pile of pillows and drift asleep reading a good book.
That's my perfect day.
It's not overly glamorous or extravagant. Yet, a couple years ago, a day like this would have been impossible.
Getting from there to here
At this point I had lists of my personal strengths, things I loved, and what I wanted my ideal day to look like, but I had no idea how I put it all together to create something that support this vision financially.
I made a list of realistic ideas that were in alignment with my perfect day:
- narrating books
- teaching online classes
- creating other digital products (tutorials, templates, workbooks)
- helping other people promote their products
- creating videos
Then I just started trying things. You can't figure out what you like and don't like by thinking about it. You actually have to DO it. Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty.
The first thing I tried was audiobook narration. I didn't even know this was something that was possible until a few years ago. And I certainly didn't think that someone like me (with no acting background or experience) would be able to jump right in and start getting work.
As it turns out, there are millions of books on Amazon that don't have an audiobook yet. Amazon and Audible even have their own platform called ACX where you can create your own profile for free, audition for books, or invite authors to come work with you on the platform.
I've recorded dozens of audiobooks now and I absolutely love it.
Click here to view some of my audiobook work.
Some authors will pay you a flat rate upfront to record their book (I did this to grow my business in the beginning) and other will do a "royalty share" deal with you and you'll get 50% of the audiobook royalties each month (this is a great passive income strategy - most of the books I work on now are royalty share for this reason.)
I will say that there is a bit of a learning curve to this. It's not quite as easy as "just reading into a microphone."
If you want to work as a freelance audiobook narrator, you're going to need a decent microphone. You're also going to have to learn how to edit and produce your own work, at least in the beginning. It's not an impossible skill to learn, but it will take some patience.
While you can do very well as a freelance narrator, it certainly isn't a "get rich quick" type of thing. Then again, nothing really is, right?
As with everything, you'll get out of it what you put into it. Getting started isn't difficult, but mastering the craft is a long game.
As I was figuring out how to narrate audiobooks I kept very detailed notes of every step that I took and what I was learning along the way. I'm glad I did because I quickly found was that there is a lot of basic information out there on how to get into narration, but nothing really specific (no technical tutorials) that would actually help someone who is brand new to all of this successfully complete their first project.
Eventually friends started asking me how I got into narration and I happily shared my notes with them. Pretty soon I was getting so many requests that one of my friends told me I should write a book.
And that's exactly what I did.
I used my notes and experiences from producing dozens of audiobooks to write, Narration: A Beginner's Guide to Recording Audiobooks in Audacity.
While that book isn't a runaway best seller, I've been able to keep the Amazon rank consistently between 60,000 and 70,000 on Amazon, which isn't bad for a book that was originally published in 2014 (the book was recently updated in late 2017.)
If you want to see how Amazon rank translates to daily sales, Dave Chesson from Kindlepreneur created a free Kindle Sales Rank Calculator. You just put in the sales rank number, and the calculator tells you approximately how many copies the book is selling each day.
This is also a great tool for assessing potential royalty share narration projects.
Having a book on Amazon not only adds to my passive income, but it also drive traffic to my website. Just something to keep in mind if you're thinking about starting your own digital product business.
Here are a few of my favorite book publishing resources:
- [Free Workshop] How to Write & Launch Your Book to $10,000 in 90 Days (shows you how to finish your book in 30 minutes per day & you get a FREE copy of Chandler Bolt's bestselling book "Book Launch" when you register.)
- [Free Workshop] The 3-Step Process to Automate Your Author Marketing and Find Your First 10,000 Readers.
- KDP Rocket: Kindle Keyword and Self Publishing Software
Online Teaching/Course Creation
Once the book was out and people started reading it, an interesting thing happened. People started reaching out to me on social media and emailing me because they had additional questions about narrating audiobooks.
The book was great for some people, but others really like to SEE how things are done. Visual learners typically don't fully grasp concepts well by reading text alone.
I started keeping a spreadsheet of all of the questions people asked and the places where they had the most trouble. I used this data to turn my book into a video course so that I could show people how to complete complex technical steps rather than just trying to explain the steps with words.
One of the most important lessons that I've learned as a course creator is that good courses are never really finished. I still monitor, track, research and answer every question that comes in from both my free and premium courses. I use this data to better understand how my students learn and how I can help my students reach their learning objective with the least amount of friction.
The Future of Online Education (and the future of this site.)
Currently, this is the issue that interests me that most.
It's no secret that education is migrating from formal classrooms to the online/digital space, in the same way that our economy is shifting from physical labor and office work, to a global online workplace.
Online educators and course creators have the ability to offer creative, cutting edge solutions to meet the demands of the ever-changing global economy. Many colleges and universities are using outdated curriculum that can't keep up with current advancements in technology.
The demand for online courses has grown exponentially in the past five years and is projected to continue to grow.
The opportunities to teach practical, technical, and life skills online are nearly unlimited.
However, one of the major problems that the online course industry as a whole is currently facing is creating effective teaching experiences.
I believe that those who will be the most successful in the online education space are those who focus on student results and are capable or creating engaging learning experiences.
I plan to dedicate a large part of time to testing new learning methods, including the use of interactive bot technology to create richer learning experiences.