COVID-19 forced me to re-frame my entrepreneurial lifestyle, close my businesses and move out of my apartment and I’m happier than ever

Man in face mask walks down empty walkway near a cafe
Photo by Victor He on Unsplash

February 2020

Everything was awesome! I owned 3 amazing local businesses in my small town in Upstate NY and I was planning an exceptional summer. My cafe was going to expand and our live music venue was booked solid. I was even considering bringing on a partner in my wellness practice because I had more clients than I could handle.

2020 was going to be a fantastic year for this entrepreneur.

May 2020

NYS had been on lockdown since March. Take-out dinners were not bringing in the capital we needed. Our music venue wasn’t going to be able to open until June and then only at half capacity.

Not enough.

Every big plan we’d had was gone, along with most of my savings. I couldn’t even imagine re-opening the wellness center safely. Nothing was as I had thought it would be. I tried to come up with a plan. I tried.

I realized we might eventually get back to some kind of ‘new normal’ but nothing would ever be the same. I had to do something. There were loans available. Maybe I wouldn’t have to repay them. Except I didn’t have employees. I ran the businesses myself with my partner. Not to mention, I was debt-free at this point and I wanted to stay that way.

Our area is a tourist area and every year we have dozens of events to draw people in. They come for the wine, food, and racing.

Not this year.

Most events had been canceled already and the list continued to grow.

I spent some time that month talking to other local business owners. Most of us were feeling the same sense of loss, hopelessness, and fear. We had no idea how we were going to make it and no idea what we should do.

The process

On a Friday afternoon in late May, I chose to permanently close all three of my businesses. I was already closed due to both state mandate and my sense of social responsibility. The question was, “Will I re-open?”

My thought process went like this:

  1. I have no idea when we can even open the cafe again, legally
  2. I don’t have enough seats to make it worth it at half capacity
  3. I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of a cafe full of people
  4. Our community will not have the money to support these businesses (we have a high number of seasonal businesses and people were already struggling financially)
  5. There is no way we’ll be able to hold indoor concerts safely
  6. I don’t want to give massage with a mask on or ask my clients to wear one
  7. I haven’t made the money I need to get through the slow winter months
  8. If I continue to spend my savings, my kids will suffer
  9. If I keep fighting to stay open now and I’m right about how things will go, I’ll end up having to close in the winter and won’t have the money to move us (we lived upstairs above the cafe)
  10. My mission here was to build a stronger community, this is no longer what this community needs — how can I better help people???

The Re-Framing

I knew I was making the right choice for me and my kids. I also had no idea what to do now. We would have to move since our apartment was above the cafe.

First, I had to tell my kids what decision I had made. Their world had been thrown into just as much turmoil as mine, maybe more. They hadn’t seen their friends in months and I was worried about how they’d take the news.
My oldest, nearly 16, said, “Well, I guess we’ll have to find something else awesome to do.”
My youngest, who turned 11 just that month, said, “Yeah, I sort of thought so. It’s okay, we’ll go somewhere cool.”
I am literally the luckiest mom in the universe.

Once that was done, I had to figure out what to do and where to go. I had spent most of my savings trying to stay afloat and pay the necessary bills while being closed down. I had paid our rent there through the end of June. I had enough to get us into a new place, but that was about it. I was going to need to come up with some quick cash.

I knew I wanted a life with more freedom than we had had. Owning a brick and mortar business doesn’t leave a lot of time for travel, which is something the kids and I have always loved. A couple of days later I came across an article online that shared a number of websites that pay writers. That was all the motivation I needed.

I spent the next two days glued to my computer, reading everything I could find about making a living writing online. I read countless articles, googled every iteration of “write from home for pay” I could think of and followed every link. I even downloaded a couple of free workshops from coaches and writers.

There are so many ways to make money writing. I had no idea which was going to work for me. I only knew I needed to make some cash, fast.

I didn’t have the money to pay a coach or to take a bunch of courses. What I do have is a solid knowledge base in sales. I spent over a decade in corporate sales before opening my businesses. I had also successfully run a small business for 5 years.

It’s a numbers game

I knew I could sell, but I didn’t know WHAT to sell. Then it dawned on me. I needed to sell myself. I needed money quickly and the best asset I had was me.

I knew I wasn’t going to have the time or focus I needed to launch my online writing career for a while. I had to pack and move my businesses and my home. I decided I would use Freelancer.com to find quick work. I was going to look for projects that required only a few hours to complete. I knew it wouldn’t be big money but it would be quick money.

I began by creating my Freelancer account. Carefully filling in as much detail about myself as I could without being too wordy. I also upgraded my membership to a Plus membership for $9.95 a month. This gave me the ability to bid on 100 jobs per month. I upped my ability to play the numbers game. More bids = more exposure= more jobs.

Work Smarter

Two days into my new life and I was feeling pretty good about it. I had a plan. Or, at least I had the start of a plan. I knew I needed the process on Freelancer to be quick and easy, so I read dozens of project postings and then created a bid template. I included a short introduction telling them about my relevant experience and I used bullet points to illustrate how my writing would benefit their project. Once I had the template finalized I could bid on a job in under 5 minutes. It was plug and play.

I searched for projects using skills that matched my own. I narrowed the search to the United States so that I wouldn’t have to worry about conversion rates. (I later changed this and have accepted jobs from all over the world.) And, I started bidding.

It took me three days from the day I starting bidding to have an extra $500 in my bank account. This was going to work!

I could already picture the small apartment I would rent as my home base. I would ask friends and family to water my plants and check on the apartment. My partner was looking forward to traveling with us and I started thinking about trading my car for something that would fit 2 adults, 2 kids, 1 dog, and 6 cats.

I knew I wasn’t going to be searching for and bidding on Freelancer jobs forever. I had the confidence and the cash I needed to build a new plan.

Success feels great

July 2020

I moved out of the building, finalized the closings of all the businesses, and I’ve completely redirected my life. It isn’t perfect. We moved into a house that we don’t love because it was available quickly and we’re still looking for the perfect place. But, I haven’t had to bid on a job on Freelancer since mid-June. I am making a full time living from home and I love it.

After decades of working for someone else and nearly half a decade of working for myself, I finally feel free. I figured out that writing content for people and creating copy was not what I wanted to do. I loved the freedom of working from home but still felt confined to someone else’s timeline. That wasn’t quite what I was searching for.

I decided to go all the way and create my own business, online. The process has been fun and challenging and I can’t wait to launch! In the meantime, I write articles and submit them to myriad websites (including the 5 listed in the very first Medium article I ever read).

Six months ago I was a successful brick and mortar business owner. Then a global pandemic changed our entire world. I thought my dreams were ending, turns out they were just changing form.

I still don’t know what the world will look like on the other side of COVID-19, but I know what my world looks like and it’s beautiful!