For those of you have been following my blog you know that a couple of months ago I was blessed to receive an inspirational guest post from Debra Morgan. It came when I was struggling with not sleeping and a lack of energy. I thought at the time that having guest authors on the site might be a good thing.
And then me and Kirsty started exchanging messages on face book about promoting our sites. I believe she was interested in my work doing radio shows.
These conversations lead to the idea of her writing a guest post for the site for this month. I had hoped to have it done by the 4th of July for symbolic reasons, but that just wasn’t in the cards.
However, I thought the delay was perfect because it leant itself to my having a regular spot for guest posts.
I don’t yet have a procedure for submitting suggestions for guest posts, but for now; I’ll tell you what I told Kirsty. The posts need to be personal and inspirational in some way. I prefer longer posts, so I would prefer that they are at least 700 words as I believe this is the shortest post I have personally written for the blog.
I have already have someone scheduled for August, but if you are interested in being featured on my blog; the first thing to do is to send me an email. with your name, your website or social media page, and your proposed topic for the post.
Now that I’ve set the scene, let’s get to my good friend Kirsty and her story about how she started her own successful online business.
How I turned my hobby into my career
Firstly, I’d like to thank Max for giving me the opportunity to write this guest blog.
I got to know Max on a mailing list for visually impaired business owners. Max had shared his blogging journey with us, so he became someone that I’d ask if I had questions around blogging or word press.
I’ve always been interested in languages but I haven’t always been fortunate enough to earn my living by doing something that I love.
I live in the UK and I have my own English language and communication training business called English with Kirsty
I work with people who are learning English and who need to use English at work. All of my training takes place online, which means that I can work with people all over the world. However, I mainly work with people in Germany and Switzerland because I also speak German.
I design my own materials and courses. I love to witness people improving their language skills and growing in confidence so that they can use the new things that they have learned. This gives me a great sense of job satisfaction and no two days are the same – even if I’m running the same course. The people make it different because of their different personalities, questions, stories, interests and needs.
At school, German was my favorite subject. It excited me that I could learn a whole new way of communicating with people and that I could also help people to speak to one another who, without my help, would not have been able to do so. That was fun. Also, I sometimes helped other people in my class to understand the German grammar rules or how to put German sentences together.
Sometimes, if we were watching videos, they would whisper what they could see and I would whisper back what I had understood from the dialogue. Between us, we were able to work out what was going on!
I didn’t go into a career in languages because I couldn’t really see how that would work for me. I didn’t want to be an interpreter (too stressful!) and I didn’t want to be a translator either because I wanted to be able to express my own ideas and have a voice, rather than to spend my days translating other people’s words. I have done a bit of translation, but I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do every day.
How A Friend’s Skiing Accident Accident would Shape My Future
In my early twenties, I decided to go skiing with friends. I hadn’t been skiing before, so I was excited about discovering something completely new. I was also pleased because we were going to a ski resort in Italy that was close to the Austrian border and I knew that I would probably have the chance to practice some German while I was there. I did get that chance, but as often happens, it wasn’t in the way that I had hoped for or expected. One of my friends had to go to hospital for an operation and I was needed as a translator. I did what I needed to do, but I was a bit frustrated with myself because I realized that I’d got out of practice and I couldn’t speak German as fluently as I used to be able to.
When I got home, I set about putting that right and I made sure that I did some language practice every day. I love dogs and I joined a German dog forum so that I would have something to talk about that interested me. In this way, it didn’t just feel like language practice because I was interested in what the dogs were doing, what funny stories the owners had to tell, what problems they had and how they were solved. This is one of the tips that I give my learners now – find something that interests you and look for forums, groups, websites or blogs about that topic in the language that you are trying to learn. It really helps.
Taking part in these activities meant that I built up a big network of new friends in Germany. I also started some language exchanges and I spent a couple of really enjoyable weeks with a friend from Berlin. My friend wanted to improve her English and I wanted to improve my German. We spent time together in London and Berlin and it was great for our language skills.
As time went on, I realized that I really enjoyed working with people and explaining things to them about the English language. I also started to learn Turkish and that brought with it further language exchange partners.
At that time I was working as a Communications Manager in national government. The material that I was working on was interesting and I had a lot to do with language as I was responsible for creating my own communications materials – but still something was missing. I often had to talk with people so that I could write articles. I sometimes even helped people to communicate their messages more effectively. But I didn’t have one-to-one people contact in a training setting and I was sad that I didn’t have the chance to use my other languages at work. Also, I wanted a role with more autonomy. These things bothered me but at first I wasn’t sure what to do about them.
Deciding I needed To Do Something To Improve Myself
Still, I decided that I needed to do something, so I enrolled in a distance learning course to get some English teaching qualifications. After I’d done a general course, I decided to specialize in teaching business English. I knew that I wanted to work with adult learners and I had already been helping friends out with their job applications, presentations or documents for work. When I think about my childhood games, I had always been the teacher. However I knew that I didn’t want to work with young learners, so I just shelved the whole teaching idea. Still, when I realized that I could work with adults on their business communication skills, the whole idea of teaching became more appealing again.
Deciding To Dive In Head First
I’ve never been a girl who does things by halves. I had a long commute to and from work (around three hours in total each day) and although my initial idea was to get the business up and running before I left, I knew that this would be very difficult. By the time I got back home, there was very little of the evening left. Germany is an hour ahead of England anyway and nobody would want to have lessons in the middle of the night!
So I had to decide. Should I leave the security of a permanent job with a guaranteed monthly income to follow my dream?
If I hadn’t, I would never have known if I could have made it and to be honest, I felt ready for a change.
But still – there was the security of my other job. Could I give that up?
I decided that I wanted to try! Most people were supportive. They may have thought that I was a bit crazy, but most people had the grace not to tell me. A couple did – they said that I should play it safe and forget about my language teaching ideas. But I think they were maybe thinking about what they would have done in my position and less about what I should do.
Setting Out On My Own
So, my last day as Communications Manager came and went! I said goodbye to my colleagues and set off on my new adventure.
In a way, I felt more relieved than anxious. I’d had loads of ideas buzzing round in my head but trying to juggle a full-time job, other responsibilities, a home and getting a new business off the ground meant that many of my ideas had to wait until I could dedicate more time to them. I was glad when I could finally get going with the things about which I felt passionate. However in those early days, I was also acutely aware that there was no automatic bank payment at the end of the month as there had been when I was working in my other job. I had to earn the money – invoice by invoice!
I also learned that if you are working for yourself, you have to do everything! You don’t just spend your days doing the thing for which people pay you! Fortunately I had some friends who advised me about photos and web design. However I still had a lot to learn about marketing, bookkeeping, social media and a range of other things that weren’t directly connected to teaching English online.
My Faith Was Proven Right
The concept went down well. The idea of learning online fits in well with learners’ busy schedules because they don’t have to go anywhere in order to attend the lessons. They can take part in the lessons from anywhere – their living room, their office – I even had one student who took part from her balcony on holiday!
I gave myself 9 months and said that if things really didn’t work out, I’d have to find another job before the money ran out. However after 9 months, things were going well and I didn’t need to worry about a plan B. I was working with a range of interesting people who all wanted to improve their English and who all had such different stories to tell.
Fast forward two years and I am still enjoying myself! This year I am developing new products and courses to offer alongside my one-to-one training and I have started to network more with other small business owners and language teachers.
A few people from the early days are still with me. Others have got what they needed and moved on to new things. New people have joined. My customers learn from me, but I learn from them too when they tell me about their cultures, celebrations, national dishes, jobs and hobbies. I await the outcomes of their exam results or job interviews. I’m happy to hear about their wedding plans, their successes, their holiday plans and their sporting adventures. Of course there are sad stories too, but they are part of life. This is the one-to-one contact with people that I was missing in my other job.
I can use my German language skills every day and I enjoy the freedom of working for myself. Of course this brings responsibility with it, but it also means that I can be creative, I can try out new things and I can choose the direction in which I want my business to go.
Changing Careers Isn’t Easy
Having a complete career change takes courage! I would say that it’s totally worth it but it isn’t easy.
Some might say that it was easier for me because at the time I was single and I didn’t have to think about anyone but myself. However, although I’d never been unemployed, the unemployment rate for blind and partially sighted people is quite high, and there was a possibility that I could have struggled to get another job if my business failed because I couldn’t do some of the temporary jobs that sighted people can do whilst they are looking for something more suitable. Still, it was a calculated risk and I’m glad I took it.
You Have to Decide Who To Listen To
There will always be people who tell you that you can’t do things. Sometimes they are the voice of reason, trying to bring reality to our fantasies. But sometimes such people pour cold water on our ideas because they themselves wouldn’t be brave enough to carry out those ideas. Even this year, I had to deal with someone telling me that one of my business ideas would never work out. I chose not to listen to them – and I was right!
However, it’s always good to have a few people who will listen to your thoughts and plans and whose opinions you respect. Working for yourself can be a lonely business and input from the right people is invaluable.
I Never Stop Learning
Another great thing is that I never stop learning! When I started the business, I only provided customized, one-to-one training. I still do that but I’m now launching other products and services such as a business English course and a grammar course. I have plans for some self-paced learning courses and group activities too!
Dealing With The Inaccessible
Sometimes I fight with the inaccessibility of software packages or external sites where I want to advertise. They have been programmed in a way that means they can’t be used by people who use software that reads text aloud to them and/or people who don’t use a mouse.
I have a rule that if I can’t maintain something on my own, I’ll find another way to do it, but I’ve also accepted that it’s ok to ask for help sometimes. Everyone has to ask for help – not just people who can’t see. I’m not good at formatting, so I get the newsletters checked before they go out. I’m not the best judge of which images I should use and where, so I’ll ask for help with that too. But being my own boss means that I get to make all the decisions about how the business is run, which software is used and how things are organized. This makes life much easier. I don’t target visually impaired people specifically – most of my customers can see – but when I’m working with people who can’t, I know that they won’t have any of the problems that I’ve experienced with other learning providers in terms of inaccessible content. Also, delegating a few visual tasks means that I can focus on the things that I am good at – and after all, that’s what people are paying me for.
You Decide If The Time Is Right To Chase Your Dream
So if you’re reading this and you want to do something different – to leave the job that you’re doing now and set out on your own, I would encourage you to at least look into your options. There will always be people who belittle your dreams. Sometimes now isn’t the right time to try and make your dreams a reality. However you haven’t got anything to lose if you at least spend some time thinking about what you would like to do and what you would need for these ideas to become reality.
Connect With Kirsty
If you want to find out more about me and my language training, you can head over to www.englishwithkirsty.com/blog
Where you can also sign up for my monthly newsletter.
You can also visit my Facebook page
Sharing Is Caring
I hope you enjoyed meeting Kirsty and learning about her transition from working at a traditional job to starting her own business and living her dream. If you did, then please share the post or her links with your friends and family.
I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts about Kirsty, her story, this post, and the idea of bringing you a guest author once a month. It gives me the chance to introduce you to some awesome bloggers who you might not have otherwise met, and to be honest it takes a little pressure off of me in my efforts to maintain both sites.
I look forward to hearing from you. If you have questions just ask. Until next time thanks for your continued support, God bless you and take care out there, Max