by Heidi Rose Buckhout
My business bank account had dwindled down to a few hundred dollars, and it was time to close it and move forward.
It was a difficult decision to make, but I closed Manifest Ink, my communications, marketing, and strategy business of over 10 years in March 2021. Closing my solopreneur venture felt like a break-up with myself and my identity as an entrepreneur.
As with any break-up, I went through a grieving process. But after processing a roller coaster of emotions and starting a new chapter, I couldn’t be happier. It turns out, the break-up was mutual: I had fallen out of love. Years of the hustle of solopreneurship had exhausted me and I wanted to shift gears and apply my work ethic in a different pace and environment. I needed a change; it was time for something different.
My business was thriving up until almost a year earlier, when COVID-19 took over our world and turned life and business as we knew it upside down. Suddenly, 2 of my 4 retainer clients stopped renewing their payments. Another begged out of their contract because sadly, they had to shut their doors.
Losing those stable clients forced me to face the task of getting back online and rustling up more business; but my soul pushed back.
Looking for clients among struggling businesses during a pandemic and trying to convince others that it was “the right time” to hire me just didn’t feel right. I am truly an in-people networker, and reaching out exclusively online with little chance of in-person meetings felt inauthentic to who I truly am.
So, the truth is, I didn’t try very hard to get new clients. Instead, I panicked. Here were the questions keeping me up at night: What would my life be like if I didn’t control my own schedule? Who was I if I wasn’t a hustler? How would I face all my other entrepreneurial and freelance friends who were seemingly kicking ass at business? Thankfully, my close-knit support network coached me through the turmoil and through conversations with my husband and closest friends, and, after taking another look at my rapidly depleting bank account, I was compelled to make a radical change.
First, I started thinking about applying to ‘real’ jobs and in the meantime, worked through my pros and cons. There is great value in being able to control your own schedule, choose your clients, and pick your niche of work. As an employee, there is great value in joining an organization that aligns with what you believe in, getting health and retirement benefits, and collaborating with a team.
COVID-19 isolated all of us, and I deeply missed working with and learning from others. I also needed to be honest with myself. My company couldn’t grow because I needed to grow. I wanted mentorship, education opportunities, collaboration, and the chance to develop leadership skills. I had purchased multitudes of courses and hours of coaching but was at a stopping point because I couldn’t afford it anymore. I had hit my limit in growing by myself in many ways. The best way to grow was to move forward, close my business and open myself up to new opportunities.
As a self-employed business consultant, I had always kept a lot of doors open with networking and opportunities to work with a diverse set of individuals. I love meeting new people, building relationships, and figuring out how we can help each other down the road.
Spoiler alert: my awesome new chapter is a direct result of my years of networking. A few years prior, I had met a friend of a friend who recommended I look at her consulting firm for opportunities. I applied to multiple opportunities while my business was open and stayed in touch. In the fall of 2020, I was offered a 3-month, full-time contract with this company, with the option to go full time. It was several months into the pandemic, and I was exhausted with stress and anxiety about what to do next. This felt like a sign from the universe, and I took the offer. Six months later, I was offered a full-time position with a generous salary and benefits package (thanks, in part, to a negotiation pep-talk from Jenn Uhen). I was thrilled.
With the luxury of the hindsight of one year, I can say with integrity that closing my business was the best thing I could have done for myself. As a senior consultant at my new firm, I have met some of the smartest people I had yet worked with and have met people who are now mentoring me into my next steps. I am working with incredibly high-profile clients I would have never been able to find on my own. Also, the salary propelled me to meet financial goals much sooner than I had predicted through paying myself at my own business. I am collaborating, supporting, and reaching financial freedom as a direct result of closing my business and moving towards a new future.
Even though I broke up with who I thought of as my entrepreneur self, I realized that I would have never been able to get this position without having put my neck out for so many years on my own. My business-owning and freelance friends are still supportive and happy for me, and I have connected with a whole new network of incredible humans on the other side of the business world. The firm recognized my expertise and put me in a position to both lead and learn, which will take my career into a brand new and exciting direction.
What I realized is that I am in a way still an entrepreneur; that spirit and drive have been invested in myself and a new career chapter instead of building and growing my business. I will never be afraid to go out on my own again if I want or need to. But right now, I absolutely feel like I am where I belong. Regardless of if it’s open or closed, my business will always be a part of me, because it helped me manifest my own future and place me right where I need to be.
Heidi is a Senior Consultant in Communication Strategy & Marketing in the Public Healthy & Sustainability sectors.
You can connect with her HERE.