At a jobs crossroad

I don’t really know which path to take. I am 43. I did 14 years of magazine sales, then two years of food sales, then owned my own businesses in publishing and teaching Spanish. Then I got a teaching qualification (as well as my Spanish degree) and have taught for eight years. Then I had a few months off. Then I set myself up as a private tutor/author/examiner. I am at that point now where I have to decide whether to really push myself as a self-employed Spanish teacher/tutor or to find a proper job – but in what? I have lots of skills and love the flexibility of working on my own, but also find it lonely. Any advice of what I should do or who could help?

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Thank you for your question. I could have written this myself! I found myself in a very similar situation recently. Like you, I had all this experience and marketable skills and found myself at a crossroads where I could make a change, but didn’t know what to do for the best.

First of all, who says you have to do one or the other? Could you do a mixture of things? The concept of a Portfolio Career is becoming more and more popular. This is where you have a number of part-time jobs, possibly made up of part-time, temporary jobs, self-employment and freelancing with different organisations which together make up a full-time job. This may give you the flexibility that you love and also will allow you to try a couple of different things without putting all your eggs in one basket. Could this be something that you could make work for you?

Start by making a list of your skills, experience and services you could offer, get it all down (I started it for you!):

  • Sales/Business Development

  • Magazine

  • Publishing

  • Language

  • Managing a business

  • Teaching/Tutoring

  • Examiner

  • Etc…

Once this is complete, ask yourself who could be your customer for each service offering, then you will be able to start your business development/apply for part-time jobs/identify opportunities. You could also approach potential customers with your idea(s) and ask them ‘market research’ questions to really get an understanding of the pain points that potential customers have, how you could solve their problems and get an idea of the value that your particular service offering could be to them. You’ll then be able to craft your offering to solve their problems and have a good idea what your potential customers would pay for your services.

If you are one of life’s planners, be aware that it may be difficult to do a traditional business plan for this type of career as it is about making the most of the opportunities that present themselves and could involve a bit of trial and error!

You also sound like you could do with some ‘colleagues’. Loneliness is an unfortunate side-effect to working alone or remotely. A part-time job could help this by being around people and alleviate feelings of isolation. I find just leaving the house for a change of scenery helps. Do you have any co-working spaces near where you live? You could rent a desk for a day a week and be surrounded by people (possibly also a good opportunity for some informal networking around the coffee machine). Alternatively, do you know any other self-employed people who you could grab a cuppa with regularly to discuss business or arrange to work alone (together) in a coffee shop or around each other’s houses. If you don’t have any self-employed/remote working ‘buddies’ it might be worth attending some (relevant) networking events and getting to know some people. I don’t think you’ll be alone in this! Even finding a local coffee shop with free wifi and settling down for a morning of work could help.

In terms of who could help you with this, you might want to enlist the support of a friend or relative who could play ‘devil’s advocate’ to ask questions around your different ideas. Also, there is plenty of business advice and guidance available from various business networking groups, local chambers of commerce, local council business support services etc. You may also be able to get support from your university careers service – many help alumni with business planning.

The thing I have found the most tricky is scheduling your time to concentrate on all the different strands of your portfolio. You need to ruthlessly guard your time and stick to income generation activities and more social activities that get your face out there and keep you sane! (Alongside your home life, naturally).

I wish you the best of luck (but I don’t think you need it!). Let us know how you get on!

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