In Part 1 of this series, I revealed why I spent last February working remotely, in an AirBnb 1,300 miles from home. This experiment with location independence was part of my broader, career-driven effort to reclaim my most valuable assets: talent, time, energy, wellness, and money.
The post addressed the question: Did this experiment help me reclaim my energy? In Part 2, I asked: Did it help me restore my sense of time? Here in Part 3, I tackle whether the trip increased my income. (As a former nonprofit museum educator, I’m still recovering from my longstanding belief that money means greed. Now I’m committed to talking openly about wealth as a tool for empowerment in today’s creator economy.)
Disrupting Old Ideas About Wealth
I have an entrepreneurial friend who thinks having fun and making money are directly connected. And I’ve got to admit: I want to believe it, too, but for me the verdict’s still out. For the first twenty-five years of my career, choosing fun work wasn’t something people prioritized; at least not in my world. It’s not that I don’t value meaningful work–that’s been a priority since kicking off my career in my twenties–but what mattered more was working hard.
I am changing some of my old views, though, so there’s hope for me! We can’t thrive in today’s economy without disrupting traditional norms about wealth, such as who is worthy of opportunity. I’m intrigued by business coach Susan Hyatt, who asserts that, yes, more fun does mean more money. And while I haven’t proven this directly yet, I do know this: When Hyatt says “working yourself to the bone is a terrible business model,” she knows what she’s talking about. I know, because I’ve learned this lesson myself. When I Ieft employee life and started a business of my own, I did what a lot of new founders do. I took any project that came my way, and I considered constant busyness to be a badge of honor.
But over time I’ve learned not all money’s the same. Some projects drain your energy, while others increase it. And recognizing this distinction isn’t just fluff. Every referral I’ve ever received has come from a project that lit me up. Not only that, but in today’s world, we must learn the skill of managing our own energy. No, nobody’s there to do that for us!
Despite knowing this in theory, it took me a few years of business ownership to start protecting my energy for real. This past fall, after completing a beast of a project, I learned a critical lesson of entrepreneurship: If you’re so busy you can’t think straight, you’re not in control of the strategy. And when you’re reacting too much of the time, you’re vulnerable.
Does Fun Lead to Income?
After letting it sink in that constant productivity was holding me back, I allowed myself to plan this trip. I opened my mind to this 1,300-mile drive to New Mexico. Finally, I’d actually take the snowbirding jaunt I’d dreamed of for a few years. Yes! Instead of laughing it off as a joke, I was suddenly ready to make it happen.
Now that our 5-week getaway has come and gone, I’m enjoying sharing what it taught me. Within days of returning, my fun-seeking friend asked, “So . . . it may be too soon to know, but did the trip set you up to make more money?” I’ve been pondering the question ever since.
First off, I can report that the trip didn’t keep me from making money. In fact, I generated the same income I would have made at home. While there, my client work continued seamlessly. I developed workshop content for two clients, consulted with a third, ran a meeting for my cohort program, and fielded a discovery call with a prospect. Not one of these people resented the fact that I wasn’t attached to my chair at home. In fact, whenever the trip came up, each client celebrated me for prioritizing family and exploring my horizons.
At this stage, though, I can’t say the trip increased my income, at least not directly. For example, meeting new people wasn’t a focus. Thanks to COVID isolation, we avoided indoor gatherings throughout the experience. A funny thing happened, though. Though networking was not on my mind, I did meet a potential client while having fun one day!
One of our day trips was to a New Mexico desert town called Truth or Consequences. (Wonder how it got its name? The origin may surprise you.) Better Half and I drive an electric vehicle, which means stopping to recharge every couple of hours. In T or C, as the locals call it, another couple was charging their car, too. It turns out one of them is a health practitioner who’s been wanting to turn his methods into online courses. After chatting enthusiastically for awhile, we texted each other about working together, so we’ll see what happens. I promise you: If he books me for a gig, you’ll be the first to know!
A Catalyst for Advancement
Regardless of what happens with him, I’m watching for other ways the trip will lead to financial gain. Though I’m still too chicken to shout from the rooftops, “WOOOOO, HAVE MORE FUN IN YOUR BIZ,” I can confirm the trip was a catalyst for advancement. Yes, what was good for me also turned out to be good for business, so let me explain. At the time, I sensed Teach Your Thing was ready for a big new phase, but I didn’t couldn’t say exactly what that meant. I’d known for months change was coming, deep in my bones. But found myself struggling to orchestrate it, buried in project after project.
Not only did I need to think bigger about what my business could become, but I needed to revamp my business model in order to make it happen. Now, looking back, it’s clear the trip provided a critical new vantage point. Under a different sky, where the Sandias burn pink and coyotes howl in the dark, I began to envision what could be.
Then, in the months since returning home, I implemented a string of fundamental changes. I narrowed my services, clarified my audience, and rewrote my website. And I built a brand-new infrastructure, one that set me up for a different kind of growth.
It’s hard to think big while sitting in the same chair, day after day, not shifting your point of view. If you want to build a business or passion project, you must make time to ponder your overall strategy. And when I say ponder, I mean it. You must make space to let your ideas breathe. You must create margin, some how, some way. Every mission-driven founder I know has a steady stream of ideas flooding their brains. Space to think doesn’t just happen. As I’ve learned, you have to make it so.
What Happened When I Made Space for Strategy
Next, I committed to narrowing my offerings. Of everything I’d delivered in the past few years, I chose only the ones that yield the most value, for my clients and me. (If you’re a service provider, it’s easy to fall into the customization trap of too much time and too little money.) It was important I document my process, so these offerings would be easier to repeat. And so, while tucked away in our rented home in Corrales, I set out to capture how my sausage gets made.
Seeing What’s Possible, It’s Time for Action
Once we returned from our 5-week road trip, I was armed with new information about my services and my audience, not to mention a renewed sense of time and energy. I was now prepared to embark on the next big steps: building a new structure for my operations and updating my website to reflect new changes.
If you run your own business, you know these tasks are no joke. But once you see what’s possible, you figure out a way to make it happen. For me, like anyone else, these actions didn’t happen all at once. Alas, I discovered that redoing your website is like painting a house: Once you refresh one page, you see how badly the next room needs updating, too! And so, I redesigned the whole thing, one page at a time. But with each new version, the next phase of my business become more visible, and thus, more exciting.
Will these efforts lead to more money down the road? Stay tuned, but I can say this: I’ve never felt more confident in my business than I do now. My first few years were a rite of passage. They taught me I was capable of running a profitable venture, and that I enjoy the ride (most of the time, anyway).
But now, I can’t wait to see what happens as I enter Phase 2. What will happen when I make use of this foundational structure, and work with new vendors to help me execute repeatable plans? I’m grateful my first few years gave me the confidence to take these steps.
As I reflect on what these shifts mean personally and professionally, I’m reminded of a podcast that may inspire you: The Creator’s Journey #57, Why Taking a Pause Can Make Your Life More Satisfying and Productive. In this interview, visual storyteller Charles Gupton and Rachel O’Meara discuss the power of taking a intentional pauses. These breaks from your norm can be as large as a year-long relocation, or as small as savoring a deep breath.
It’s time to take O’Meara’s advice. As she points out in her book, Pause: Harnessing the Life-Changing Power of Giving Yourself a Break, changing the scenery is an option available to all of us. As she points out, taking a pause isn’t careless. In fact, it’s a sign of strength: “Your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your ability to relax, to pause.”
For me, the power of intentional pause was indeed real. My experiment with location independence brought benefits, to me and my business. It helped in the moment, while enjoying family, mountains, and sun. And it forth set of a chain of actions that expanded the prosperity, even months down the road.