The Side Hustle and Flow Interview Series is designed to inspire hard-working corporate employees to either start a side hustle if they are interested in eventually starting a business, or to keep going with their existing side hustle through the inevitable challenge of limited time and energy.
So far we have profiled Chandoo, Willie Jackson, Dan Schawbel, Laurie Gay and Carmen Sognonvi.
Today we profile Gwen Morrison, whom I learned about from her enthusiastic email with the subject line: “I’ve escaped!”
What was your former day job?
I was an online marketing manager for a large software company. They have a global client base of more than 6.3 million SMB customers around the world–with 13,000 employees. My role at the company was to manage the digital marketing efforts for the mid-market ERP. This included social media, search engine optimization, pay-per-click management, and content development for several websites.
What was your side hustle?
In my side business, I provided consultation on social media strategies and provided (and still provide) individualized social media strategies tailored specifically to meet their overall marketing goals, and get them in front of their target audience. I also provided social media training for clients, and set them up in systems that allow them to manage and measure their social media campaigns on their own, while still making myself available for ongoing support. Each client I worked was (and is) unique. That’s what I loved about it. Being able to get to know their business, and develop a plan to help them tap into the two-way conversations with their customers and increase their brand awareness.
When did you start working on it?
I’ve been working on the side biz, along with my full-time job, for more than a year. I was working from 5:30 am. till 10 p.m. every day — along with weekends. I rarely took time off as I knew my end goal was to launch my business–officially–within the year. And I knew it took hard work, and loads of pre-planning, to set myself up for success..
Did you tell your employer you were working on a side project? Why or why not?
No, I didn’t tell my employer that I had a side business. It wasn’t a conscious decision NOT to tell them, I just didn’t feel it was necessary to share what I was doing outside the 9-5. I didn’t make a secret of it, though. My LinkedIn profile listed my company, and I had a company Facebook page and a Twitter account where I communicated messages posted directly on my blog. The topics I was writing about were completely relevant to my day job responsibilities — social media, web content, SEO — and many of the employees in different departments who were managing the same for their division, were sharing my message. It worked for a long time.
How did you know when it was time to quit your day job?
I actually wish I had quit sooner. I think if I had to do it over again, I would have left at least two months sooner than I did. How did I know it was time? Well, I knew there would NEVER be a perfect time. I had been planning the work and working the plan for over a year, and my sister said to me one day “Did you quit yet?” And when I told her I had not, she said, “You won’t quit.” And maybe that did it. Maybe I don’t like to be challenged? Maybe it was one of those “I’ll show you!” moments, but by that Friday, I had given my notice.
It’s difficult to make that decision to leave a good paying job, with benefits and a great commute, to launch out on your own, but I knew that I had to do it if I didn’t do it soon, I might never do it. The idea of looking back two years from now and wondering what I was still doing there scared me far more than packing up my plant (which, by the way, struggling to survive under those florescent lights as much as I was) and leaving cubicle world.
What scared you about that decision?
I have a house and a husband and two teenagers still at home. That about sums up what scared me. We’re still paying for braces and college and have a mortgage. Having a steady paycheck helps. So, like most new entrepreneurs, I was a little afraid of the uncertainty, which is why I planned ahead. I highly recommend it if you’re thinking of leaving the day job.
There’s no guarantees, of course. No matter how much you plan. But I’ve worked in corporate America, and if you think that there is job security in that environment, think again. I’ve been through three rounds of layoffs and 6 bosses (or was it 7) in the past 3 1/2 years. One thing I know for sure: there are no guarantees …anywhere.
How did it turn out?
Well, I guess it’s likely too soon to call it, but I’m having a blast! The phone is starting to ring and I’m meeting the most amazing small business owners. What’s most gratifying to me is seeing the look on their face when, after I tell them about what I can do to help them, they look at me like they finally get it. I’ve even had some clients say “Wow. I wish someone would have shared this with me 5 years ago. It all makes sense now!” Not THAT is a good feeling. Finding that fit.
For me, there’s nothing better than waking up in the morning knowing that the day is filled with opportunity. You never know what that next phone call will bring. Maybe it’s that–the unknown– that drives me. I like surprises, and every day I learn something – or someone – new.
What are you doing now?
My company is called Endurance Marketing. We do all of the above: social media marketing and strategy development; content marketing; search engine optimization; custom Wordpress site development; press releases; ghost writing…and more. You can find me online, all the time.
What advice would you give for others who are working on a side hustle now that you have a bit of distance?
If you’re planning on leaving the day job, set a date and a plan of action. There will never be a perfect time, but when the clients start calling, you want to be sure you’re up and ready to go. Build a website. Order business cards. And then, go for it!
How can people find you, or hire you?
I’d love to help your readers discover new ways to reach their target audiences! Let’s talk!
You can reach me various ways. Go here to find out how!
Congratulations Gwen, we are so proud of your hard work and dedication to building a solid foundation for your emerging business. We wish you great success!
Hello! I know this is kinda off topic but I’d figured I’d ask.
Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest
authoring a blog article or vice-versa? My blog discusses
a lot of the same subjects as yours and I feel we could greatly benefit
from each other. If you happen to be interested feel free to shoot me an
e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you! Fantastic blog by the way!
Love it Gwen!
Can you talk about your husband (if you have one) and whether he works or not? What about health care benefits and such?
I find that if one spouse works, it’s so much easier to launch… but maybe not! What about reaching a certain income target of your day job and savings?
I’m thinking of going out and working on the Yakezie Network full-time, but of course, I am unsure.
[…] an interview with Pam Slim that does a good job of answering […]
[…] have profiled Chandoo, Willie Jackson, Dan Schawbel, Laurie Gay, Carmen Sognonvi, Desiree Adaway , Gwen Morrison, Jenny Blake and Glen […]
It’s like you were reading my mine! I just spent the last week or so looking for ways to cut my expenses as part of my plan to leave the 9-5 (or for me *-4:30…lol). I have been working towards developing my business and blogs for the past 6 months. I am hoping that this is the year I can take the leap and branch out on my own.
Congrats on your success and I look forward to joining you and the rest of the escapees soon!
Thanks for the congrats, Kendra! Please be sure to drop me a note when you take the plunge! Love to hear about it.
Great post Gwen and quite inspirational.
I have just reduced my responsbilities and salary in my day job to free up some time and energies for my side job – helping those made redundant (laid off) follow their passions in life. But of course less money means less ability to save for my ‘cushion’ when I leave. Your post has just given me the push I needed to reduce my living expenses by moving to a cheaper place. Thanks!
Allison, that’s awesome! I’m so thrilled that you were encouraged by my story! Sometimes just taking a look at the little ways you can cut expenses — that cup of coffee every morning or lunch “out” three times a week — can bring you closer to your goal. Wishing you all the best as you move toward your new venture!
Love the honesty here – it is hard work to launch a business. Appreciate your openness with this Gwen 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing your story! I think that your idea of setting a specific deadline is sage advice. The more concrete you can make your plan for leaving – the better.
Congrats on going full time!
Hi Courtney! Thanks for the congrats! Seems like I’ve been out of the corporate world a long time already! Have connected with some awesome business owners, as well as inspiring (thriving) entrepreneurs, like yourself! Appreciate your well wishes and look forward to working with you.
Pam — your Side Hustle and Flow interviews are one of my favorite things about your blog. Please keep them coming! Gwen — congrats on making the leap, thanks for sharing your story, and good luck! Who knows? I may be calling you to help with my side hustle soon!
Thanks you so much for the well wishes! And as far as your side hustle, yes..call me! Have a great day and thanks for reading!
I 100% agree with you. I love Pam’s Side Hustle series.
[…] Side Hustle and Flow Interview Series: Gwen Morrison […]
What an exciting business. Kudos to you!
I think that it’s different for everyone. I think that if you assess where your comfort zone is, it helps. Ask yourself: how much money do I need in the bank before I will feel safer about quitting? what can I do to downsize my current expenses? Those kinds of questions helped me to set somewhat of a timeline. I created my comfort zone, but it may look completely different for you.
Do I think there is no perfect time? Yes, I kind of think that I could have talked myself out of it again and again. If you don’t take the leap of faith, you will never know if it will have succeeded.
Best of luck!
Awesome, I am not sure how your company let you leave when you have so much skill.
Thank you so much, fas!
What you said about there not being a perfect time to escape is reassuring.
Does that mean you think one must take a leap of faith at some point?
you are such inspiration to mo this morning as I am getting ready for a job I don’t hate, but would rather leave for my side hustle. My side hustle seems so much further away due to the added layer that my energy level is already compromised due to autoimmune illnesses. Of course it doesn’t help that I am working the equivalent of two jobs. Two years later, I am still trying to make enough money to justify leaving my steady (union) job and benefits. I really hope to be there with you someday.
I’m sorry to hear that you are struggling with health issues. I’m sure that makes it a lot tougher to work 2 jobs (as I did, as well!)
I know it’s scary to leave a good paying job and launch out on your own, and maybe having a side hustle and a full time job is the best approach for some people. I will, however, say that I do believe that “where this is a will, there is a way.” If you want something bad enough, you’ll do whatever it takes — and that might mean making some tough decisions, like downsizing your home, or cutting off your cable — in order to afford to quit your job.
Starting your own business is risky, for sure, and the less expenses you have, the more comfortable you will be to leave your day job, if that’s your goal. It’s really about sitting down, setting some clear goals, and then creating a plan (with a date!).
Best of luck to you! And thank you so much for reading my story!
Thank you so much Robert!
Really nice interview and inspiring for sure. My favorite quote from it came at the end:
“Build a website. Order business cards. And then, go for it!”
It’s so true, there’s really not much more needed than that in order to build your own side hustle business online and turn it into something amazing.
Keep up the awesome work Gwen! And Pam, keep up these awesome side hustle interviews. I’m enjoying the hell out of them.
I agree Robert – keep hem up Pam!
That was a very inspiring story Gwen. I love hearing Pam’s escape stories. I will escape someday sooner rather than later.
Thanks Fred! Work the plan, Fred!