Ever since I started in the working world, I’ve had this notion of finding my “dream job”. Even before there was any talk of work-life-balance, I was dreaming of a job that I would love so much that I would never care if it was work or free time.
Most people back then called me crazy and said that job didn’t exist if I weren’t an artist, which I am most definitely not.
Some are lucky enough to know early on what they want to do. Not me. There was so much I wanted to try, I never thought I could focus on just one thing. When I went to college, I studied languages, business & cultural studies. There was no clear career path to follow, so I had to find my own way.
Over the years, I have tried lots of things, employed on my own: managed a language school, built the Berlin office of a Swedish internet startup, taught Russian immigrants computer skills, worked as a business and financial translator, built websites with WordPress, did sales cold-calling and managed large marketing projects.
In the end, I found that I’d have to invent the job that would fit me.
Over the years, I have picked up a lot of sales and marketing skills, and that is what I’m selling today. I’m a hand-on marketer and marketing coach helping entrepreneurs win clients in new markets, especially in Germany, of course. My aim is to get things up and running and to help my clients become better marketers themselves.
I also speak about marketing, and managing workshops and seminars.
To be honest, I don’t care too much about the latest fads in marketing techniques (although I do want to know how they work). Rather, I’m interested in helping cool people who love what they do enjoy their business even more by working for clients that really get them.
To be taken with care: Advice from others
When my second son was born five years ago, my last employment had just ended. Frustrated up with the restrictions of the corporate world. I set out on my own again, this time in the marketing field. I’d been a freelance translator for a few years before that last corporate gig. This time I wanted to do it right. Build a “real” business.
I read tons of books, every scrap of advice out there on building a business. You know what: I ended up more confused than before. One book said I needed to build systems, and I spent weeks with long lists of things that I never used. Another said I had to decide if I just wanted to build a job for myself or be a “real” entrepreneur. It took me half a year to get passed this.
I always thought: If I can only define my vision and my mission, then everything will be fine, kind of build itself.
But you know what? All this heady stuff just kept me spinning my wheels, looking for answers. For years, I felt bad because I couldn’t come up with a grand, dent-in-the-universe vision like curing malaria or something like that. Yes, I have an idea about my values and what I’d like to do for people and for my family, but a huge vision? Sorry, I don’t have one.
Sometimes, the answer is right in front of you.
I was so focused on this whole passion-doing-what-you-love thing that I completely overlooked one thing: There had been someone right in front of me all this time, doing what he loved, and being very content with it.
He was a college professor for English, a man who grew up in postwar Germany. Coming from a humble family of butchers, he put himself through college with little money and lots of willpower. A very quiet man, not one of those big-shot professors with great acclaim in the academic world. He was not a rich man, but there was enough for his family, his wife and four kids, enough to support his old mother.
Sometimes you’d hear him talking in his study, proclaiming Chaucer’s Canterbury tales aloud with a funny accent. When he passed away, the little church was packed, and there were piles of cards from former students expressing their gratitude. He wasn’t famous, but for the people who knew him, he made a big difference.
That man, of course, was my father.
So I am blessed to have lived with someone who encouraged me to do what I enjoyed, to follow what made me happy; and who led by example. Only now do I realize, it’s not always the grand and loud things that are important or meaningful, but passion can be quiet as well, focused on the little details.
Doing what makes you happy
About a year ago, I found a kind of diary I must have written when I was 17 or so. It said: “I’ll just write. Writing is what makes me happy.” I had completely forgotten about this. Here I was, over 20 years later, and all the writing I did was marketing texts for other people. And a marketing blog that bored me because I filled it with stuff I thought people wanted to hear.
So I set up a fresh blog and started writing. In English, a language I had missed. (I’m German, and my business had been mostly in German lately.) It was much easier than my marketing blog. The texts just started to flow. I don’t think about pleasing anyone with it. I just write. Little observations on life and happiness. I don’t even know if anyone reads it, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s called Irene’s Notes, if you want to take a look.
And there’s another project: Last summer, I discovered the sport of triathlon. I was so enthused that I contacted a small brand of triathlon clothing just for women. And ended up writing their German blog, which is extremely fun.
The thing is, I’m not earning any money to speak of with these activities, but just doing it makes me so happy that my business life is also affected. And from the triathlon blog, I’ve attracted people to my marketing pages, as well.
As for my marketing blog, I started one in English, too at www.irenesmarketing.com. And I started writing about things I care about. I don’t follow all the “how-to-write-great-blogposts” advice, rather, I’m finding my own style. It’s much more fun than ever before!
When I turned forty last summer, I decided I would not pretend any more to be someone I was not. My company is called “Die Marketinghelfer” or “The Marketinghelpers”. Only, it’s always been just me, and it felt like I was hiding behind the name. So I’m in the process of changing it, putting myself more on the line.
Also, I made a vow never again go against my instincts or do things just because I thought someone wanted me to do them that way. Sometimes, I have to take a closer look and see if it’s just fear holding me back. Often enough, though, my gut is right, even if I can’t explain it rationally.
There is some advice I really did learn from all the business courses: Just think in little projects. Try different things. See what works. See where it gets you and go from there. Without thinking this has to be THE ONE THING.
So really, I’m back to doing what I used to do: Enjoying the adventures of life and business day by day and being open to the opportunities that arise. Who knows where this journey may lead.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Irene Waltz is a hand-on marketing & sales woman, writer, speaker, business translator, a mother of two boys, and probably Germany’s slowest triathlete. Based in Berlin, Germany, Irene helps knowledge-based businesses get clients in new markets, especially in Germany. Follow Irene on Twitter or check out her blog at http://www.irenesmarketing.com