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From hobby to full-time: the 5 rules for success

Published by Incomedia in Success stories · 26 September 2019
We all love the idea of success. We get excited when we achieve results, and we love to hear or read about successful people. But we often forget that behind every success story lies a lot of hard work, commitment, and tough choices. The celebration is the culmination of a long process that's full of sacrifices, all of which serve to make the moment of “victory” even sweeter.
It's a familiar story for Sabrina Bertazzo, who worked tirelessly to turn her hobby into a full-time job. Read her interview below.

Hi Sabrina, can you start off by telling us about yourself?

Hi! My name is Sabrina, but I go by the name Andrea Sachs online.

I'm 34 years old, I studied Business Administration, and before graduating I accepted a 3 month internship in London. This turned into an open-ended employment contract which led me to live abroad for 10 years.

At 20 years old, I only had one goal in mind: to build a career. So I put my nose to the grindstone and got to work. I worked hard. Very hard. I made huge sacrifices to get where I wanted to go. I had set two objectives for myself: to earn a managerial position in a successful company, and to have a great salary. At 30 years old, I achieved both of my objectives (a position as Senior Project Manager at Amazon Europe and a six-figure salary). I then decided to focus my efforts my on passion: travel.

Before we get into your success as a “digital nomad", can you tell us about what you do?

I work in the digital sector: more specifically, I'm a digital strategist for SMEs. That means my work revolves around social media, branding, community and SEO;
  • training: I lead courses on digital strategy topics and finding your own path;
  • web writing: I write for myself and for clients;
  • I'm a content creator/influencer/blogger.

Also, in late 2017 I decided to put another long-time dream onto paper, literally, by launching a little design stationary brand. It happened almost by chance, and very quickly, but today, “Inchiostro and Paper”(Ink and Paper) is on its third collection. The brand is sold in over 25 stores in Europe and we have clients in over 40 countries around the world.
Basically, I wanted to turn my lifestyle and philosophy into something concrete, so all of Inchiostro and Paper's products are based on the idea of living life to the fullest, always following your own dreams, as well as prioritizing sustainability and respect for others and for nature.

It's still a new brand, and even though all the profits are currently being re-invested in the company's upcoming collections, I draw a lot of satisfaction from it.

Why did you choose to leave the life you'd built for yourself and decide to change it?

I'm not sure exactly, maybe it's because I've always been a voracious reader, and I've always identified with the main characters experiencing all these adventures. I never thought I'd live a one-dimensional life. I've always craved a life that's rich in experiences, places, and people, so that’s what I created and what I want to continue to create. I think life is too short, but that it's also long enough to live two, three, or a thousand lives as long as you have the courage to re-invent yourself and challenge yourself.

My twenties were dedicated to gaining as many skills as possible and to my corporate career. My 30s are about proving myself on my own, and seeing if my skills are enough. Who knows, when I'm 50 or 60 I might finally open that bookstore I've always dreamed of!

We've identified 5 fundamental rules for successfully changing your life and turning your hobby into your job. - First: analysis, or how to abandon your comfort zone, quit your job, and go freelance. How did you approach this step?

In this phase, saving money was essential. A couple of years before the switch, I decided to open a savings account, in which I automatically deposited one third of my salary. This is something you can do no matter the size of your paycheck. I know it's possible, because before earning a top salary, I used the same method to buy my first moped (and then a car), on an intern's stipend! There are no excuses. As for leaving your comfort zone, you first need to have a parachute ready. This is what the savings account is for: so you can sleep soundly even if business slows down or takes a turn for the worse.

The second rule is "from dream to reality": how did you first put your idea to paper?

Once your parachute is ready, you need to understand what you want to do. I actually recommend doing both these steps at once, because it's easier to save when you're envisioning a different life than to save without a clear idea why. To understand what it is you want to do, and recapture your dreams, I recommend reading the manual I recently wrote: Make it Remarkable Journal is a book with numerous practical exercises to help you identify your talents and dreams, as well as a roadmap for turning them into reality.

Now it's time for maintenance: the third rule is about how to proactively seek out work, what kind of relationships to have, the advantages of new technologies…

The reality is that the Internet has almost completely eliminated the logistical limitations of the past. Only a decade ago, the concept of “agile” work would have been impossible. Today, it's not uncommon to work with clients all over the world without ever having met them. For example, I've worked for a client in Madrid for 4 years, and I spent over a year working for a client in Hong Kong whom I've never met.

In the digital world, as well as beyond, it's very important to nurture interpersonal relationships and to ask for feedback from the people we work with. In my 4 years of being a digital nomad, I've never had to seek out work, because it's always been dropped into my lap by satisfied clients. When starting out, especially if you're not an expert, you need to be humble and learn on the job. In my case, I took on unpaid work for around six months, and then charged peanuts before I felt good enough to ask for payment. This training period is perfect if it melds with the first rule of analysis, which we discussed earlier.

Fourth rule: organization and planning. How do you manage your time effectively?

This is a delicate topic. Working in an office makes it simple, while working alone, sometimes in fantastic places, makes it a little harder. These days, I think I've found a perfect solution for myself. I use a mix of analog and digital tools which allow me to manage all of my projects and clients, as well as my to-do lists. Ever since I discovered the bullet journal method, my life has changed completely. I finally found a way to keep track of my to-do lists in a really efficient way, and guess what? Now I'm able to cross them all off (sooner or later!)

I also use the “Pomodoro” method: I take a 5 minute break after every 45 minutes of work. Working at the computer all day means you need to take breaks to look out the window or stretch your legs. Another great tip is to open only one single browser window, and not open another one until you change tasks. It's crazy how much time you can waste looking for information online and clicking one link, then another, and then another. You can also block all the sites you don't need, like Facebook, Twitter, and so on. Another tip is to block off time to check your e-mail. For example, I only check it in the morning, for one hour, three times a week.

Last, but not least: delegate. Now that my business is growing, I need help. So I hire friends to take on tasks that I don't necessarily need to handle myself.

Final rule; analysis How can you learn to regularly analyze the way your business is going?

The last day of the month is when I do my accounting. It's when I add up my business for the month, issue invoices, look over outgoing and incoming payments, and make sure everything is under control. I recommend additionally doing this once a trimester, and of course, one a year, to check if everything is going as planned, and to make adjustments where necessary.

So in the end, what tips would you give someone looking to successfully reinvent themselves?

My tip is: study. I know so many people who want to change their lives - I meet new ones every day - but who want it to happen now, without effort on their part.

Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that. Reinvention includes the prefix “re”, which means re-starting and re-learning, or learning something from scratch. You can't pull off a huge life change while remaining the same person as before. That's why I always tell everyone that they need to study. Training is absolutely crucial, whether you're 18 or 50.

Another important thing is to clearly understand the motivations behind your desire for a life change. If you don't have a clear idea, you risk hurting yourself and those around you.

Thank you to Sabrina for sharing her success story, including the sacrifices and key rules for turning your own hobby into a full-time job.
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