Cathy Derus bought my illustrated, rhyming (!) career change workbook (which is no longer available, but you can read about it here to see how crazy I am) back in 2011 and booked a follow-up session later that year. We talked about how she loved writing about “financial stuff”, and 5 years later here she is – a brand new day job ditcher with her own financial planning and accounting company! Get ready to be inspired by reading her story below.
Why did you decide to work with a creative career coach?
I was first “introduced” to Michelle by Jess Lively. I felt stuck in my day job and Jess shared how similar our situations were. Michelle and I weren’t loving our day jobs, but we had to stick it out while working on our next best thing. At the time, my husband and I were in the process of buying a house, so I had to be extra responsible when it came to our finances. A hasty job change could jeopardize securing a mortgage. Not to mention, we didn’t have a big enough emergency fund to support my dreams of self-employment.
I started reading Michelle’s blog and newsletter and even sent her a gushing fangirl email in response to her post “8 Ways to Get Through Your Day Job Without Shooting Yourself in the Face.” I later purchased her workbook “Operation: Creative Career Cheer!” and had a follow up coaching call because I needed help navigating my career change. I knew I had a creative side waiting to be tapped into, but I also wanted to honor my skills in business/numbers/finance. Spoiler alert: I’m a Renaissance Soul!
What were you doing work-wise when we started our sessions?
When I purchased Michelle’s workbook, I was stuck in a (dare I say, soul sucking) job in public accounting. I was an auditor and felt particularly burnt out after four busy seasons.
Prior to our coaching call, I tried out a few things on my own. I started a personal finance/lifestyle blog as a creative outlet and way to sort through what I want to be when I “grow up.” I opened an Etsy shop, researched becoming a freelance writer, applied to and/or interviewed for different positions in corporate accounting, and probably a few more things.
What was your biggest takeaway from our work together?
I just pulled out my completed workbook and my solo businesses (Brightwater Financial and Brightwater Accounting) are what I listed in the “Career Possibility” activity: CPA financial planner, investment advisor, and small business accountant. So thanks!
Michelle provided clarity, accountability, and unbiased advice. At the same time, she provided encouragement because she knew the realm of possibility after coaching clients in different industries.
Was there anything else you tried to do as a career between the time we stopped our sessions and what you do for work now? If so, how did it inform your current career?
At the time of our coaching call, I was running away from my day job. I wanted to be self-employed, but I couldn’t connect the dots. I didn’t realize being a fee-only financial planner who works virtually with 20- to 30-something year olds was a “thing.” I always thought financial planning involved selling whole life insurance policies (yuck!) or was only for rich white-haired guys.
I wasn’t ready for the “Hard & Scary.” So I did the next best thing and started a less stressful job in corporate accounting and financial reporting. The plan was to figure things out and launch a business while working that job. I kept my eyes and ears open and learned more about financial planning and how to launch my own firm. And I read Michelle’s emails and blog posts about entrepreneurship.
I finally opened my financial planning firm Brightwater Financial in mid-2015. Of course, life has a funny way of mixing things up and throwing you for a loop. A few months after launching this business, we welcomed our second child into the world. I thought I could grow Brightwater Financial while still working a normal 9-to-5 job and raising two kids. Boy, was I wrong! Maybe it would have been possible if we didn’t have kids or if they were older, but trying to do it all with two little ones is TOUGH! Especially with two kids who tend to think sleep is optional. Even though my husband is supportive and super helpful around the house, mommy is usually the default parent and I was running out of bandwidth. I was doing a little better than survival mode, but not by much.
In the beginning of 2016, I was asked to be a part of a mastermind group with four other fee-only financial planners. Over the weeks, it became apparent that if I wanted to take this financial planning business seriously, some changes would need to be made. The scariest would be to quit my comfortable corporate job. Or scale back to a part-time position.
At the same time, there were changes being made at my day job. Four or five years ago I would have been all about them. But two kids later, I wasn’t interested. This quote by Thomas Merton was pretty much written about me:
People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.
The event that brought the greatest clarity was our son being diagnosed with a blood platelet disorder. So far, it just seems to be a one time thing, but a middle of the night trip to the ER, an IV treatment, and countless blood draws have reset my priorities. There’s never a perfect time to go solo, but this was as good as any other time. It was time to stop overthinking things and take the leap.
Looking back, this part of my journey is important when it comes to relating to financial planning clients (like you!). I have more life experiences when it comes to changing jobs, negotiating salaries, starting businesses, buying a home, starting a family, updating budgets, and saving for those big goals.
I can also relate to business owners on a more personal level because I understand the motivation to be self-employed. Not to mention juggling a variable income with other big savings goals. I understand what it’s like to sell products on Etsy and what some of the unique expenses are as a blogger. I learned more about operating a business and the importance of cash flow from my corporate accounting job.
Being out in the world, I see the financial struggles of a young professional: the average amount of student debt for a 2015 graduate was $37K! A December 2015 survey by Bankrate.com found that about 63 percent of Americans say they’re unable to handle an unexpected expense like a major car repair or emergency room bill of around $1,000. And I don’t think we have to mention the uncertainty that comes along with the 2016 election.
What would you tell someone now that was in your shoes when we first started working together? What’s your best “tip” to allow them to make a grown-up living doing what they love?
Putting on my financial planner hat: use your day job to finance your dream job. Take the time to try things out before making the full-time jump. Get that emergency fund set up. If you can swing it, scale back to a part-time while growing your business. Eventually, you just have to go for it, put in the hard work, and have faith that things will work out. The worst that will happen is that you have to get a new day job.
As an entrepreneur, find your tribe of like-minded business owners. Join a mastermind or study group so you can bounce ideas off of one another, share resources, ask questions, and provide support.
If you have your own biz, what’s on the horizon for your business? We’d love to hear about any upcoming offerings or goals!
When people hear financial planning, they immediately think about investing. But Brightwater Financial provides more than just investment advice. As a CPA financial planner, I want to help you improve your financial situation and alleviate some of that money stress so you can get back to doing the things you love: spending time with your family and friends, growing your own business, travelling, running marathons, and so on. I’m there to keep you from making stupid mistakes with your money.
My signature service is comprehensive financial planning with ongoing accountability and coaching. We look at your big and little dreams and put together a financial strategy for reaching them. Nobody knows how the tax laws or economy will change, but we can work together to plan for what we do know and makes some educated guesses around what we don’t. When things (yes, including your goals) change, we’ll make decisions about how to adjust your strategy.
Some people aren’t ready to create a full-blown financial plan. Or maybe they just want their student loans reviewed or need answers to a few questions. A Quick Start Session where we tackle 2 to 3 of your most pressing financial questions might be the perfect fit.
Finally, I launched Brightwater Accounting as another way to utilize my CPA skills by offering tax prep and cloud-based accounting/bookkeeping services. Because while not everyone thinks they need a financial plan, everyone needs to file their tax returns.
I’d love to hop on the phone with you for 30 minutes to get acquainted. We’ll talk about your most pressing financial question and then we’ll discuss ways we can work together.