Last week, I told you what led to the decision to quit my job. This week, I’ll tell you what happened after and key takeaways for you to transform your side hustles into your life.
My husband was surprisingly calm and supportive when I said I wanted to quit, with no back up plan in place. He had seen me struggling for years, coming home upset and depressed because I was caught in a life I did not want.
When I first told people I was quitting, their reactions fell squarely into two camps: supportive and unsupportive. Although everyone was well-intentioned in their reasoning, it was not easy to hear the negative and at that time my only way to deal with this was to push the naysayers aside and just move forward. I wanted to give myself at least six months, because what was the worst that could happen? If all else failed, then as miserable as I would have felt, I’d retreat back to securing full-time employment, even if it meant starting at the bottom. I didn’t want to end up on my death bed later in life, sad that I hadn’t taken up the opportunity to take control over my own life and on my own terms. I had spent too many years holding myself back because of logic and it was time to unleash my more creative self.
My first plan of action before officially quitting was to secure a home equity line of credit, since I had spent my last chunk of savings on a film project just a few months ago. My initial plan was to continue to build up a business around creative coaching, working with individual clients, delivering workshops and presentations. I would produce other film projects and keep an eye out for contract opportunities in production management/coordination in the film sector, especially Toronto. I would also network and find opportunities to pitch film project ideas to broadcasters and production companies wherever I could.
Every year I find myself stuck in grey gloom and deep freeze for months on end…next year, must escape for several months…
I quit my job in early December and of course given the timing, there was little on the radar. My plans were completely stalled and I counted down the days until the holidays were over and business returned to normal. My birthday is three days after Christmas and I felt completely miserable turning another year older. What had I done? Although I still had no regrets about my decision, my plans moving forward felt incredibly flighty. I started to roam through ads for temporary positions. I had never put myself forward for physical labour before, but maybe I could help out on a farm?
January rolls around and it’s the heart of winter in Ottawa. I am experiencing the stirrings of cabin fever, but I refuse to go out in the cold, or to spend money sitting elsewhere in a coffee shop. I stick to a fairly organized schedule, while pushing myself to take care of as many domestic errands as I can during the day. Every day I review a vision board to remind myself of what I want for myself and I force myself to meditate for up to 10 minutes.
And then slowly, things start happening. There’s still no guarantees on the other side, but I start to feel hopeful again. I get callbacks for interviews in Toronto for contracts gigs: producer, production coordinator, film screener, development producer. My application is accepted for an opportunity to pitch to production companies. My pitch to deliver a workshop at the local school of art is accepted. By the time February rolls around, I’ve signed a contract to direct a five-episode television documentary series. And as of April, I’ve become a consultant on another web series, with a second one potentially on the way. In that same month, I was also flown out to Toronto for the 2018 edition of Hot Docs, where I took part in a development lab for documentary filmmakers, while attending the conference.
My life has changed in under six months and as a friend said to me recently, “you sound like a different person”. What she meant was, I sounded energized and excited. To top it all off, my massage therapist told me recently the tension in my back has dissipated, something that had never been the case for years.
But enough about me, here’s what I want YOU to know if you want to take a leap in your life too:
DO IT. Don’t put anyone around you at terrible risk for your decision, but don’t sit around waiting until you have three months of savings in your bank account either. You will never have enough in savings because life constantly gets in the way and if you do, well that’s just icing on the cake.
Create a vision board and take some time to look at it at least once five days a week. It’s scary to see how much of what I wrote down a few months ago has actually transpired - I’m talking 90% in stats.
Know what you are worth in your wisdom and experience. As you know, as creatives we are often asked to do work for extraordinarily low sums or pro bono “for the experience”. These requests will never stop and it is important that if you want to spend the majority of your time doing creative work, that you can easily name your price and know how flexible you can be on it before the question even arises.
Let your friends, acquaintances and family know when you decide to make the leap and why you are changing from side to full-on creative hustler. Part of figuring out how to get gigs to arrive at your doorstep is letting people know you are available to do them, as well as getting the word out.
Think broadly about your side hustles. Just because you’re a musician, for example, doesn’t mean that is all you have to do in order to do it full-time. Are there any other aspects of the music industry that you could get involved in, which are creative and interesting to you and which could even help elevate your personal brand?
I hope you enjoyed reading about my journey as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you these last couple of weeks. Onward and upward with your side hustles now! Tell me about your journey and where you are currently at in your process.
Amen Jafri is a documentary filmmaker, producer and creative coach. She spent 10 years in communications and HR in the federal public service, before pivoting into film and television production. She got her start on the feature thriller Penthouse North before working on Radio Canada’s Toi et moi: malgré tout and in Acquisitions at the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Her latest project, The Secret Lives of Public Servants, is currently on the festival circuit and she is directing Creatorland, a documentary series on entrepreneurship. She is also a 2018 fellow for Hot Docs’ Doc Accelerator Emerging Filmmaker Lab. Visit amenjafri.com for more info.