Earlier this week, I handed in my notice for the last remaining contract of my legacy business.
This signalled the start of my career as a full-time YouTuber, content creator, and fully independent entity.
I’m scared, nervous, excited, and, above all, incredibly happy. I also hope that my story might help you if you’re facing a similarly life-changing decision.
I spent nearly 18 years working for the same company.
Joining at the still relatively tender age of 21, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. The company in question was a small, independent software development house that specialised in building applications for the hospitality industry.
I started on the support desk, graduated to installations, and then took an entirely sideways step into the role of travelling salesperson. From there, I made my way into the boardroom and eventually became the Sales and Marketing Director.
I learned so much during that time. It made me the person I am today and included some of the biggest challenges and toughest moments of my adult life. Indeed, there were deep-seated issues within that business, which resulted in, unfortunately, some rather unhappy memories during my time there.
In 2015, I left to start my own freelancing business. My dream was to create content (at first, with words – later, with the addition of video and audio), for small and medium-sized businesses. It worked out pretty well, and I even took my previous employer along for the ride.
To cut an incredibly long story short, that business for which I worked for nearly two decades was eventually bought by a global acquisition firm. And, somehow, I wound up working with that global acquisition firm’s marketing team, by way of association.
That’s the big contract for which I’ve just served notice. This followed a couple of months towards the tail end of 2021 where I’d gradually peeled away some of my smaller contracts, thus paving the way for an eventual dive into the world of YouTubing full-time.
The original plan
Getting shot of that big contract was no small feat. It represented 50% (sometimes, more) of my annual revenue. It felt relatively safe and offered what every independent worker craves – predictable revenue.
But it had to go. Beyond the money it was generating, it was also taking up huge swathes of my time each week. I’d wake up to multiple meeting invites for that day; invites that would completely throw out my to-do list and leave me working into the dead of night to keep the Mark Ellis Review brand going.
Up until now, I’ve built my YouTube brand with my foot only 50% of the way down on the throttle. It has consequently suffered in terms of rushed content and insufficient time to plan more thoroughly.
Despite this, as 2022 began, the Mark Ellis Reviews brand was continuing to grow its revenue from multiple streams. There was also a decent war chest in the business account, and I’d just started renting a studio. To make matters even more exciting, my monthly active audience had quickly surpassed the 100,000 mark.
Everything was clearly urging me to make the leap.
But I’m risk-averse, which is why I came to the conclusion that I should wait until 2023 to kill off the remainder of my legacy business.
Then, in January I changed tack.
Why wait until 2023, I thought. Why not go for it in July when my financial year officially begins?
That sounded far more sensible.
Until I woke a few days later with another idea.
The new plan
“You need to reframe your thinking on this,” said one business mentor I spoke to on the run-up to the big decision. “You keep saying you’re ‘giving up’ 50% of your business. You’re not. You’re reclaiming 50% of your time.”
This year, I’ll become a dad for the first time. Our little one is due in June, and I cannot wait.
It may, therefore, seem entirely bonkers that I’m even contemplating giving up a sizeable chunk of income and security at a time when we’re likely to need it the most.
But that’s missing the point. And those business mentor words are still ringing in my ears.
I’m not leaping into the unknown. I have funds behind me. My audience is growing consistently. The Mark Ellis Reviews brand is already a business.
Every single indicator is pointing in the ‘just do it’ direction.
The only thing I don’t have at the moment is enough time. But that’s only because I’ve decided to give it to something else.
There’s never a good time to make leaps as big as the one ahead of me, but, equally, there’s not enough time in the day to do all of the things I want to do. And, when our baby arrives, I want to be present. I don’t want to be working every hour god sends. And, boy do I not want to miss a single moment because I’ve had to jump on a last-minute Teams call.
That’s why I realised I needed to do this now. Waiting is simply putting off the inevitable, whereas making the leap as quickly as possible gives me the chance to settle into my new way of working well in advance of our little arrival.
Family is non-negotiable and I hold the keys to my time.
What am I waiting for?
What this means for Mark Ellis Reviews
I’ve loved every second of the Youtube journey so far, but I’ve been frustrated by the lack of time available to really drive the brand forward.
That might sound odd coming from someone who has built an audience of over 50,000 subscribers on YouTube in a little over 18 months. But YouTube is only one piece of the pie.
I have a presence on Medium (you might be reading this on there!), classes on Skillshare, a website that attracts tens of thousands of unique visits each month, a bustling Discord server, the awesome Eight or Sixteen podcast, and much more.
All of that stuff deserves my attention, but in a structured, strategic way – and that’s what has been missing since I started in 2020.
The content itself won’t change tact or get too big for its boots; it’ll just get progressively better. Indeed, since making this decision, I’ve already managed to put more time into each video and blog post, and I’m personally happier with the results.
I’ll be creating more Skillshare classes, too – something which I’m incredibly passionate about; I want to share everything I’ve learned during this journey.
I’ll also be doing more work with AppleInsider, which is brilliantly surreal given how long I’ve been a reader of their website.
There are other things I’m working on, too, which I’m not quite ready to reveal, but which are equally as exciting.
You can’t buy time, but you can find more of it if you decide to focus on what matters, and that’s what this big leap is all about.
I cannot wait to continue building this community and sharing my work with you. Thank you for joining me on the ride.
The book that helped
I’ve listened to so many podcasts and audiobooks over the last few months while preparing for my ascent into content creator freedom.
One has stood out: Courage Is Calling by Ryan Holiday. Featuring the entirely apt tag line ‘Fortune Favors the Brave’, this book is a must for anyone who is on the verge of making a big decision about their life, career, relationship, or anything that requires significant courage.
The book is full of quotes that force you to do something with your life. I have many favourites, but this one probably sums up everything for me at the moment:
“You have to realize that you are not average. You never have been. You are one of one. You have always had what it took to defy the odds. If you don’t believe that, might you be reminded that your very existence is perhaps the least likely thing to ever happen? The odds of you being born, some scientists have estimated, are in the realm of one in four hundred trillion—but in truth this understates it. Consider everything that had to happen for your parents to meet, for you to survive, for you to find yourself here at this moment, thinking about what you may embark on. You are more than a miracle, you are a miracle on the spectrum of unlikely miracles. Yet here you are.”
Ain’t that the truth?
Let’s get on with this!
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I took a pay and responsibility cut when our second son was born so I had more time for my family and it was absolutely the right decision. I actually went in the opposite direction, giving up freelance work for something steadier and it was the best decision I ever made. The place I worked for took a chance on me and it not only turned out really well but it gave me the confidence to, once our second child was at school to move into a similar role at a much larger outfit and pursue it as a proper career.
I also believe that at 39 I am of similar age to yourself and I wish you and your partner all the best with the impending little one. Nothing shakes up your life quite like parenting but it is such a rewarding endeavour.
Thank you for sharing your story, Carl – that’s so inspiring. And I’m glad it worked out for you. I think, deep down, we always know we’re making the right decision 🙂 Appreciate the kind words, too – I’ll pass them on.