My View from 10 Years In as a Self-employed Coach

You know how they say you can call yourself an expert after ten years of doing something? I’m right here at the ten-year mark since I had my first paying coaching client in November 2009. I’m taking this moment to look and see what it feels like at this stage, at the end of a decade.

Val Nelson

I’m looking calmer than I used to feel. Haha.

There is certainly an interesting and different feeling at this stage than even a couple years ago, and a vast difference from the early days.

One thing for sure, ten years in feels amazing for me.

There’s a level of security, ease, and trust in my work life that I’m so appreciating. A settling in. Leaning more and more into a natural flow.

I think that ten-year mastery idea, and part of why ten years in feels so amazing, is about the concept of Flow.

When you’ve done something you enjoy for a long while, you are more likely to get to a state of delicious flow, where things “just happen,” or move through you, and you barely know how it’s happening.

It just feels.. natural.
Like I was born to do this.
Like a spiritual experience that I can’t explain in simple terms.

I call this feeling “natural flow” and when you get to know me, you’ll see that natural flow is a favorite topic. I want everyone to have this.

There’s a joy, a trust, a deeper knowing beyond what’s right in front of your eyes… if you allow this energy to move through you. It’s a mindfulness practice whose internal benefits build on itself year after year.

I don’t think it’s about “expert” or not (and I have issues with most uses of the word expert).

The ten-year mastery idea is about being able to fully rely on your wisdom and heart to lead the way, and even let yourself stake your livelihood on that! That’s a big trust. One that now feels easy. I feel so much gratitude for that ease as I write this.

It wasn’t easy at first. I had to learn to live on faith, and self-employment is a great teacher.

I’ll explain how it has evolved and continues to evolve, such as what I’m learning now. I even wrote a poem about it, in this post. It just showed up.

Then and Now

Flow doesn’t just happen overnight by magic. It comes from a lot of real life experience. But it feels magical for sure.

In the beginning, I often had a sense of flow in my coaching work, I think because I had chosen something that aligned with my past experiences and my natural strengths.

But there is still something different at this stage of coaching, ten years in. Not just flow sometimes when I’m coaching. But a genuine trust in the flow most of the time with coaching.

Plus, I even feel that trust in the flow with much of the business and marketing side! Who knew that was possible?

image - Maze of confusion

It was kinda like this maze at first.

That business and marketing side wasn’t so easy at first. Umm, it was stressful. Tearful at times. A lot of times.

Juggling so many parts was also a challenge. So many worries. Yowza. Bookkeeping, taxes, websites, email, keeping track of contacts, computer problems, and steep learning curves with various technologies.

Some of those things are actually relaxing now. I never would have guessed bookkeeping could feel so easy.

Looking back, I am in such awe of how easy my life is with self-employment today.

It’s hard not to feel a little guilt when I see others struggling so much with work or juggling self-employment needs. I worked hard to get here, and I love to pass on what I’ve learned so it won’t have to be so hard for others.

This Poem Came to Me As a Way to Describe the Journey

I had no idea it would actually work, this crazy self-employment thing.
It seemed so foreign, so crazy.
And yet something mysterious pulled me forward.
There was a rightness to it.

And it just kept going.
And then it kinda worked a little.

And I followed those signs.
And then it worked some more.

And then
Oh God, please get me through these big waves.

Oh, waves happen.
Still alive.
Learning learning.

More signs. More waves. More learning.
More growing inside and out.
Sailing with the wind and waves.

And now I’m a believer.

I wonder what else I could do that I can’t believe right now?

The Joy Inspires Me to Pass On These Lessons

My joy and ease today is definitely part of what inspires me from a deep place to help others have this same quality of experience with their work.

I know it won’t be blissful Flow right from the start for people, but I also know the moments of flow along the way are the guideposts to follow. Flow moments mean the body is saying “Follow this sign. This is the direction of joy and ease. More of this please.”

Also I know that moving more and more in the direction of that Flow feeling is the direction of sustainable work that feeds you and feeds the world. I know it. I literally feel this Knowing in the peace in my body. And in reading the signs of it in others’ bodies.

Where I’m Learning and Growing Today

Let me be clear that I don’t have bliss or flow at work every day. No one has that all day or every day.

I have days where I wonder what to focus on or where my brain gets foggy, or I get frustrated with technology (ugh), or I feel lonely and need companionship with getting back to focus. And there are also occasional slow periods where some self-doubt can grab a hold and try to scare me.

leap of faith

Trust! This image was on my vision board and now it feels real.

But with all the challenges, I am now in a place where I have such trust in the life I’ve created that I (usually) know “This too shall pass.”

I also know how and where to reach for support. Supportive connections are worth more than gold for sure.

So many many steps were part of getting here. Ten years of full-time work is a lot of little steps that add up.

One big growing area in the last year is to allow much more co-creation. Even though I’m a business of one, technically, I know we all need a team for doing our best work. I’ve had a coach and colleagues all along who I turn to, but this year I have stepped it up on doing more co-creating. I’m calling it my year of co-creation and I need to write about that more later.

I also continue to learn that it’s OK to take days off when I feel like it. I still have a “good girl” in me that wants me to feel bad about that. But I’m getting better and better at letting go.

I’m even at a place recently where I realized, gasp, that I don’t have to work five days a week if I don’t want to. I don’t need to focus on marketing and visibility so much.

The time I have already invested in my business keeps paying off now. I found some good places to invest my time that have lasting benefits (like blogging and Google visibility for instance).

I have to keep refreshing my perspective of what is the life I really want now, rather than working certain hours or doing certain things out of unconscious outdated expectations.

How Can I Possibly Sum Up Ten Years?

How in the world can I capture ten years of learning in this one post? Or all the reasons I think I was able to get here when many businesses don’t. I long to help all those folks with a dream that they are struggling to manifest. Big sigh. I’m so glad I get to help many of them.

I’m going to have to accept that this note is enough for today, as a simple way to celebrate this feeling and this accomplishment. Ah, going ahead with good enough has been one of the key lessons (and essential ingredients) of self-employment.

If you want to ask me questions about the journey, or decisions I made along the way, please do so in the comments below. I would love to answer.

Past Posts About My Journey Along the Way

I’ve tried to be transparent about my own journey and touched on some key pieces of it in these past posts:

P.S., here’s one reason I have a problem with the word “expert”: 
Your Inner Compass Is Better Than You Think.

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