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Entrepreneurship

Reflections on Working for Myself

For the last eight years, I’ve been an eat-what-you-kill entrepreneur, no steady paycheck, total freedom to do whatever I want.

I can’t imagine working a traditional 9-to-5 again.

I still sit on tables.

Freedom

“Freedom” is the goal in my life – freedom to do, to see, to create, to live. Being an entrepreneur allows me to pick when and where I work, to handpick my clients, and to decide what else I want to do besides practice law (speak, write, travel, teach, etc.).

One of the reasons why I started Carter Law Firm back in 2012 was not only because the Phoenix job market for lawyers was poor and I was basically unemployable as a blogger/flash mobber, but also because I didn’t want to be an associate at a firm that would want me to work 80 hours/week and wouldn’t want me to be a public speaker. I changed careers to be happy. I didn’t want to settle for a potentially soul-sucking existence.

Joining Venjuris

Becoming an Of Counsel practitioner at Venjuris was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my career. I was looking for more stability and support, and they were looking for lateral hire with their own book of business. Being Of Counsel (legalese for independent contractor) means I’m still in an eat-what-you-kill work environment.

It’s been a mutually beneficial arrangement – I’ve been able to take on litigation clients, and they’ve expanded the firm’s practice areas to include internet law. Plus, they’re privy to my knowledge about social media and content marketing, and I do in-house continuing legal education (CLEs) for them.

Fear

The day I decided to become an entrepreneur, I was so scared, I sweat through my sundress. I still get scared all the time – every time I launch a new project, step up on a stage to speak, or when I have a lull in client work. (Client work seems to be feast or feminine. It’s usually when I haven’t had work or prospects in three days and I’m starting to worry that I’m going to have to survive on ramen, that I get a handful of emails from prospective or returning clients.)

Fear has become part of my process. Whenever I’m scared, I remind myself that I’m doing the best I can and that everyone around me wants the best for me. That helps me calm down and trust that everything will work out.

Doing Work That Matters

I’ve always been a bit of an existentialist. I have to know that what I do makes a difference. I can’t just create widgets and send them out into the void. I had a summer job, that was a bad fit personality-wise, doing mostly legal research, and it seemed like nothing I did mattered. It wasn’t until my last week that I learned than my research had resulted in changes in company policy.

One of the upsides of working for myself is I get to leave the office when I’m done with my work for the day – even if it’s only mid-afternoon, sometimes earlier. I don’t have to pretend to look busy. When I have downtime, I get to work on other projects, or take time for myself. When you work for yourself, you don’t get in trouble for leaving the office early or running errands in the middle of the day.

Over the last eight years, I’ve learned that no one cares when or where I get my work done, as long as it gets done well and on time. I’m so lucky that I’ve crafted a life that allows me to attempt to live a Renaissance life. There’s no difference between me the person and me the professional. I consider all the work I do to be valuable. Ultimately, my job is to be the best version of me I can be, and I get paid for some of it.  

My 2019 Reading List

Included in the scary lofty goals I set for 2019, I have a stack of books I want to read. Everyone has a stack of books on their bedside table, right? I’m excited to dig into these books and spend less time mindlessly watching videos online. Here’s what’s on my reading list, in no particular order.

Note: These are all affiliate links. If you click on a link and purchase any of these books, you’ll pay the same as everyone else, but I’ll get a small commission.

My Bedside Book Stack

Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Business by Joe Pulizzi
As the godfather of content marketing, when Joe Pulizzi speaks, I shut up and listen. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him speak since joining the Content Marketing World family in 2015. I come away from each of his talks with pages of ideas and actionable steps to apply to my content. After devouring Killing Marketing earlier this year, I’m excited to read this book.

 

Break the Wheel: Question Best Practices, Hone Your Intuition, and Do Your Best Work by Jay Acunzo
I started following Jay Acunzo’s podcast, Unthinkable, after seeing him speak at Content Marketing World. I spent many mornings running with his interviews with non-traditional entrepreneurs in my ears. He highlights people who found success by ignoring “best practices” and doing what made sense for them. I believe my intuition is never wrong (though sometimes inaccurate), and I look forward to reading about other entrepreneurs who follow their gut instincts.

 

Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together by Pamela Slim
I consider Pam Slim to be one of my entrepreneurial mentors. I lovingly call her “Aunt Pam.” She has exceptional business instincts and she’s nurturing of others. Many entrepreneurs do a lot of different types of work and this book should help me tell my story effectively and “continually reinvent and relaunch [my] brand.”

 

The Definition of Success: What Living Homeless Can Teach You by Derek Snook
I heard about this book at Content Marketing World this year. Derek Snook voluntary became one of the people he was trying to help in order to learn how to best provide for their actual needs, rather than speculate what their needs are as an outsider looking in. Additionally, I’m drawn to the belief that the definition of “success” is personal. As a minimalist, I know my definition of success has nothing to do with the car I drive or what jewelry I wear.

 

The Storytelling Edge: How to Transform Your Business, Stop Screaming into the Void, and Make People Love You by Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow
I was impressed by Joe Lazauskas’ talk on storytelling at the Intelligent Content Conference this year. I hope this book will help me engage and connect with my audience by telling more powerful stories related to my work.

 

With Lolly the Llama

Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth by Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin
I loved Jay Baer’s talk on talk triggers at Content Marketing World this year. These are things that companies do to get people to talk about them – like the chocolate chip cookie you get when you check into the Doubletree Hilton hotel or how everything at Content Marketing World is orange. Jay’s book has llamas on the front and he sent it to me with stuffed llama toy. I’m curious to read the book and learn about the connection.

 

Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days by Chris Guillebeau
I like Chris Guillebeau because he seems like a quiet guy in person, but beneath that calm exterior, he’s dripping with grit and determination. I started reading this book a few months ago and it lays out what you can do day-by-day to bring an idea to market in under a month. Reading his work helps me not get bogged down in the minutiae of creating a “perfect” product but rather focus on bringing the minimum viable product to market and revise based on actual customer feedback.

 

Your Brightest Life Journal: A Creative Guide to Becoming Your Best Self by Caroline Kelso Zook
Earlier this year, I bought Jason and Caroline Zook’s future. I paid a flat fee and every time they come out with a new product or service, I automatically get it. I’ve used Jason’s products in the past, and it made sense to make this investment. This is my first Caroline-create product and I’m excited to see her thoughts. I think I might be like her – someone who was hesitant to get into the product-creation business, but willing to try because she had something of value to offer.

 

The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly and Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
I picked up these two books at an invite-only event for lawyers called TBD Law that was only open to forward thinking practitioners. Other attendees spoke well of both books. I’m all for more focused work and success, especially with everything I have on my plate.

 

DMCA Handbook for Online Service Providers, Websites, and Copyright Owners by Connie Mableson
Connie Mableson is a lawyer and a colleague who works in my building. She knows the DMCA forwards and backwards, and I’m always looking for resources that will make me a better practitioner and help my client be more effective in protecting their intellectual property.

 

The E-Myth Attorney: Why Most Legal Practices Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber, Robert Armstrong, and Sanford Fisch
I read the general E-Myth book early in my experience as an entrepreneur and I was enormously helpful. It helped me think about creating systems and a master document for how my business should be run. I hope this book gives me suggestions about how to be a more effective business owner.

 

Alight and Alone by Scott Sigler
These are the second and third books in the Generations Trilogy Series. I’ve already read the first book, Alive. I rarely read fiction because my brain knows it’s not real, so it doesn’t easily remember the storyline. Scott Sigler is one of the few writers who captivates my attention. If you like sci-fi, I highly recommend him. I’ll be reading Alone along with the audio version of the book that he put out via his podcast.

 

Books I’m Re-visiting in 2019
Killing Marketing: How Innovative Businesses are Turning Marketing Costs into Profit by Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose
I devoured this book in three days while Rosie and I were on vacation this year. The pages are filled with underlined passages and notes in the margins. I came away from it teeming with ideas for creating more blog content. I’ll definitely be going back to review my notes.

 

Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans by Peter Shankman
I’m interested in doing more research and speaking about integrity. As a lawyer, I know there’s a huge difference between what someone can do and what they should do. So many issues (legal and otherwise) would be prevented if people merely did the right thing. I know this book has many examples of companies doing the right thing by their customers, at least after a substantial misstep.

What’s on your reading list?