“How did you become self-employed?” – How I got into freelancing.

I’m frequently asked what prompted me to leave my secure, well-paid job as a salaried lawyer in a bank and become self-employed instead. Many people seem to think it was a very courageous move.

They’re less surprised, however, when I tell them that for me it was not so much a courageous move as a logical one. But how did it come about?

Well, I’d have to go into a lot of detail to explain all my thoughts and desires behind this decision, but that’s not what this blog post is about – and I certainly don’t want to bore you. So what is it about? I want to tell you about the last straw that made me take this step in the middle of the 2008 financial crisis.

I was, of course, fully aware at the time that I was earning good money and had job security. But there were two sides to that coin: I simply didn’t feel happy in my job. It didn’t match my personal strengths, nor did my personality fit into the world of internal banking structures.

I spent a long time thinking about what a good alternative might be, but I couldn’t come up with anything. It seemed that I didn’t really have access to my own resources and, what’s more, to my own desires. I only knew what I no longer wanted. So I stayed where I was.

Until something happened (be forewarned – the story might get a little bizarre for your taste now ;-) )… Are you familiar with the following? You dream so intensely at night that you wake up in the morning not knowing whether what you experienced was real or a dream? Or the dream was so intense that you just can’t shake or wash off the feelings associated with it? That’s what happened to me.

In my dream, a giraffe was running through our living room at night, calling out to me, “Go for it, go for your goal!” The dream was so intense that when I woke up, I knew that the giraffe could never have run through our living room for real. Yet at the same time, it had completely captivated me with its words and triggered something in me.

I told my husband about this dream over breakfast and he asked me what I was going to do with it. My answer came spontaneously and enthusiastically: “I’m going to quit my job at the bank today!” No sooner said than done. I wrote my letter of resignation and handed it to my manager. She looked at me in horror, or surprise, and immediately said, “This isn’t what I’m afraid it is … is it?” I told her it was. She asked me how I had come to this decision and I told her about the giraffe, beaming with conviction. She shook her head and said, “You’re just plain crazy. Well, never hold up a traveler.”

And so, as of January 2, 2009, I found myself self-employed.

Now you might be wondering, did I know what I was going to do for a living right away? No, I didn’t. I was just really sure that it was the logical and right next step and that the rest would fall into place. Suddenly, for a brief moment, the coin had only one side.

It took me a couple of months. I figured out my USP, the subjects I was passionate about. I explored my strengths and skills. And it all led to: crisis and conflict management. Dealing with difficult situations and/or people. Voilà. This has been my focus ever since, and I continue to be passionate about it. Every day and every moment.

By the way, I later realized that the giraffe symbolizes conflict-free communication in “Nonviolent Communication” according to Marshall Rosenberg. I didn’t know that at the time. And giraffes had not played any role in my life up to that point. So the dream also held an answer for me in this regard.

Why am I telling you all of this? Our subconscious, or unconscious mind, processes more knowledge than our rational mind, and we just need to listen to these processes. This is something we can learn. And visualization – like dreams for me – opens the doors to them.

This is also the reason why I allowed myself to spend the generous bonus a client had given me for my good work on what I considered a luxury: having a painter paint my giraffe dream in my favorite color, green, on a 1.5 by 2-meter canvas. This work of art has been hanging across from my desk ever since. And whenever things get a little bumpy in my life or when important decisions need to be taken, I find myself “lost in thought” staring at the canvas, trying to come up with an answer or a solution.

And now you know why I always end my blog posts – including this one – with the following heartfelt words:

Go for it, 

Your Crisis Manager

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