You don’t have to wait a moment longer to quit your job and start enjoying your life. From investment bankers and marketers, to academics and lawyers, learn how to leave the Monday morning dread behind and find freedom and fulfilment.
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Screw The Cubicle is more than a collection of case studies, it’s packed with advice on overcoming the practical and mental hurdles that stop us from getting to where we want to be.
This book shows how ordinary people from all walks of life have started profitable businesses, often with limited investment. From niching and how to identify a great business idea, to how to get validation and find your customers, Screw The Cubicle fuses lean startup thinking and with insights from personal development. Wherever you are on the route to finding worthwhile work, there are insights and practical tips to get you where you need to go.
This is not a get rich quick book. Nor is it about outsourcing your entire job to virtual assistants in the Philippines so you can lie on a beach. Nor is it necessarily about having a startup. It’s a blueprint for finding your own path to finding work that feels important to you, whether that be freelancing, entrepreneurship or social enterprise - or something else entirely. From inspiration to practical ‘how to’, Screw The Cubicle provides a mix of ideas and prompts to action, so readers can start getting closer to the working life they want. Today.
The book in a nutshell
Screw The Cubicle begins with Lydia’s own tale of corporate escape and addresses how we got to where we are - a world where over half of people in the developed world are unfulfilled by their work. At the same time, it shows that there is hope. It starts by exploring the increasing numbers of options available to us, before going on a journey to help readers identify, test and refine possible ways they could make a living right now.
It also outlines the necessary shifts that need to take place to transition, whether readers are just starting out or looking to build their operations. Including everything from tips from the most business savvy entrepreneurs to finding the best collaborators to help you bring your business idea to fruition and how to focus, prioritize tasks, and maintain momentum.
Table of Contents
Chapt 1 - Overworked and under-fulfilled
Chapt 2 - Routes to freedom: The many ways to escape
Chapt 3 How to find a great business idea
Chapt 4 - Settling on something to sell right now
Chapt 5 - Beta test your way to success
Chapt 6 - Taking time out: sabbaticals
Chapt 8 - Launching abroad
Chapt 9 - From employee to entrepreneur
Chapt 10 - Freelance your way around the world
Chapt 11 - Travel with a business and a family
Chapt 12 - Side hustle your way to freedom
Chapt 13 - Make your old job pay
Chapt 14 - How to find supportive communities
Additional Case Studies:
- Turn your side hustle into a one million dollar business (Brandon Pearce, Music Teacher's Helper)
- The benefits of living differently for a while (Ben Keene, Founder TribeWanted)
- The role of the transition business (Joel Bergeron, Founder of The Future is Creative)
- No money? No problem (Adrienne Dorison, Business Coach)
- There’s always a way (Anne Perry, Founder of Business Heroine)
- A lifestyle that suits you and your family (Maire Shanahan, Founder of Bumblebee Enterprises)
- Make your old job pay (Chrissie Lam, Founder of The Supply Change)
- How to quickly turn your idea into a reality (Ben Katzaman, Founder of Wanderer Bracelets)
- Make money while you sleep (Mona Motwani, Founder of Nidra Goods)
- A sabbatical in paradise (Michelle Tan, Founder, The Hula Hoop Institute)
From Wall Street bankers to teachers and lawyers, Screw The Cubicle attracts a broad church, attracting both male and female audiences in equal measure. Screw the Cubicle primarily attracts interest from the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and Germany.
Many of the people drawn to the message behind Screw The Cubicle are at least five years into their jobs. Most are well-educated and feel they have something to offer the world. Something more than their job allows them to express.
This book is for anyone who has ever wondered if there was another way or anyone who has ever dreamed of expressing themselves in a different way. There are over a billion people in the developed world. Many of them are engaged in office jobs. Many are climbing the ladder and wondering when all their work will pay off. Over half of Americans are currently dissatisfied at work - and unless more corporate jobs are reimagined for the 21st century - many of them are destined never to be.
Business coaches are less well known about in European markets, yet I attract a large number of online visitors from Germany and the UK. Given the number of visitors I attract from Germany, a translation could yield significant additional sales.
Lydia is the Founder of Screw The Cubicle, a movement to inspire people to break free from the shackles of conventional work.
From building businesses to forging freelance careers, she’s already helped hundreds of people create better versions of their life and become better versions of themselves.
Now based in Bali, Indonesia, Lydia’s been published in Forbes, The Huffington Post, been featured in Elle Canada and The Telegraph newspaper.
Since 2014, I have established a strong, niche, online presence. I’ve grown a loyal army of fans from around the world who read my email updates, download my materials and engage with me via social media channels. Like my YouTube channel, my website draws the lion’s share of users from US, Canada, UK and Australia.
1 - Facebook Page
The Screw The Cubicle Facebook Page has 2,000 fans. I also started a group called the Unconventionalists last year which has around 2.000 members and high levels of engagement. Group members share their stories and ask questions in a supportive online environment and membership has doubled in the last year despite the fact there’s been no advertising.
2 - YouTube Channel
I launched my YouTube Channel in 2015. It already has 50,000 views from the US, Canada, the UK, Germany and Australia, among others. The biggest audience is the US which accounts for 35% of traffic, the UK which accounts for 9.5% and Canada which accounts for just under 7%.
3 - Email List
I have an email list of over 2,500 who have actively signed up. Many have taken part in my courses and programs and many read my newsletters and updates. I use software that tracks the content my readers are most interested in so I know which messages I need to create in order to resonate with them.
4 - Twitter
I have 4,000 followers on Twitter from all over the world.
5 - Press
I’ve been featured in Forbes, Elle Canada and The Telegraph in the UK and I’m a regular contributor at The Huffington Post. My articles have been shared by the likes of Tim Ferriss.
6 - Speaking engagements
I am a frequent speaker at international events, including Hubud in Bali, named one of the world’s top 10 coworking spaces by Forbes, London-based Escape the City (which has a mailing list of over 250,000) and The Wedge, an organization based out of one of Singapore’s foremost coworking spaces.
Screw The Cubicle is not a get rich quick book. Nor is it about outsourcing your entire job to virtual assistants in the Philippines so you can lie on a beach. Nor is it necessarily about having a startup. It’s a blueprint for finding your own path to freedom and fulfilment, whether that be freelancing, entrepreneurship or social enterprise - or something else entirely. From inspiration to practical ‘how to’, Screw The Cubicle will provide a mix of ideas and prompts to action, so readers can start making the life they want. Today.
1- “$100 Startup”, New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, ‘Unconventional Strategies for Life, Work, and Travel features of 50 case studies’. Chris Guillebeau features many business owners who started their business for $100 or less. In nearly all cases, people with no special skills discovered aspects of their personal passions that could be monetized, and were able to restructure their lives in ways that gave them greater freedom and fulfillment. Critics argued that the case studies were too general with not enough practical information. Suffered from too many case studies so writer was unable to go into sufficient depth.
2- “The Four Hour WorkWeek”, New York Times bestselling book by Tim Ferris, spent more than four years on The New York Times Bestseller List, has been translated into 35 languages and has sold more than 1,350,000 copies worldwide. With its “Live More, Work Less” message, The Four Hour WorkWeek was a revelation for thousands of people. But it misses a crucial piece and that’s that people enjoy work and get fulfilment from it. Ferriss’ anecdotes and observations, which are written largely through the eyes as a single white Ivy League-educated male are not relatable for most people.
3 - "Screw Work Let’s Play" by John Williams is a ‘how to’ book with instructions on how to do what you love and get paid for it. The book argues that you can get rich by having fun and outlines how you can beat the doubts and internal blocks that hold you back. Some people think it focuses too narrowly on the ‘play’ aspect
4 - “The Suitcase Entrepreneur”. Natalie Sisson’s Amazon bestselling book, tells you how you can build a freedom business you can run from anywhere in the world. The author tends to focus on the tools and technology you need to run a business from your laptop. From fiction writers, to e-commerce entrepreneurs, Screw The Cubicle has a broader range of occupations, stories and business models.
What kind of life should we aim to lead? It’s a question that philosophers have been trying to answer for thousands of years. And yet, after all the great leaps forward made by human endeavor, it sometimes feels as if we’ve gone backwards, as opposed to forwards.
We spend more time at work and less time with our families. We work harder, not smarter. Work creeps out of the office and into our social lives, homes and weekends. And after all this progress, how many of us are honestly leading a life we can be proud of?
Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who cared for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives, recorded the regrets of those on their deathbed in her book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. The most cited regret of her patients - they wished they’d had the courage to live a life true to themselves, not the life others expected of them.
And that’s what this book is about. It’s about giving you the courage to start living the life you really want, rather than do what is necessarily expected of you. It’s about showing you the multitude of options that lie beyond those currently under your nose. And about the actions you can take today to start exploring those options.
Every person in this book acted on that nagging feeling that there was something else out there for them. And they were right. There is. Whether it’s creating a business you can run from anywhere or reinventing yourself as a romantic fiction writer, there’s another version of you - one that doesn’t suffer from the Monday morning dread.
In fact there are many. This book also shows the diversity of options out there. You don’t have to search for one purposeful career, there isn’t only one path. We’re already seeing the rise of portfolio careers. You can have multiple projects and have multiple income streams. You don’t have to pick just one forever. Every time you launch, you learn. Every time you launch, you get better.
And this is the way the world of working is going: remote, adaptable, flexible and responsive. We’re witnessing the decline of a job for life. The world of work is changing, new jobs are being created, old ones are being automated and made redundant. We are in a constant state of flux. You may worry your job will be stolen by a robot, but you shouldn’t: this era heralds an opportunity to create a life that interests you and plays to your strengths.
In many ways, this is the opposite to the corporate mindset, which teaches us to specialize. It incentivizes us to master one thing and climb the ladder. This approach generated efficient outcomes for companies historically, but it is becoming less well-suited to the world we live in.
Moreover, people are increasingly reluctant to accept a job that doesn’t allow them to be authentic and true to themselves: there are many expressions to your talents and skills that will go unfulfilled under the old model. By taking control of the work you do, you are taking control of your life. And your happiness.
And my friends, happiness can’t be hacked. People like to work. We know that. Retirement isn’t necessarily the secret to happiness. In fact, a record high number of retirees are saying they’re “not at all satisfied” with retirement. So there’s no point looking forward to being pensioned off at the expense of how you feel right now. Which is just as well, because most of us won’t be retiring any time soon. For most of us, work will be an inevitable part of our lives for many more decades to come. So let’s make work something that allows us to live as we choose to live and be the friends, partners and parents we want to be. Let’s find work we enjoy.
It can be tempting to fantasize that your latest idea is the result of divine inspiration and should be shared with the world immediately, but hold on a moment.
Before you ring up your bank manager about that loan, launch a website, and spend hours devising a fancy business name, why don’t you see if anyone might actually want what you’re about to sell? Because ask most entrepreneurs the biggest mistake many aspiring businesspeople make and they will say: ‘not testing your product or service’.
Testing may sound duller than spending an evening in reading the dictionary, but there’s a good chance it will save you money, time and headaches further down the line.
It also helps you determine value. And creating value should be at the heart of every business. Determining our own value is one of the things we struggle with the most. Especially when we’ve relied on our employers to tell us what our value is for the previous decade or so. If we are trialling a service-based business, there’s a good chance we still don’t know which bit of our offering our clients will find most valuable until we ask them.
Another key pitfall to avoid is thinking that having your own business will solve all your problems. What if it creates a whole load of new ones? When you have your own operation you will probably have to get stuck into a wide range of tasks without an army of colleagues to help you. What if you hate doing the actual work? Testing allows you to see which bits of the process you like (or loathe) the most. Testing out how the process feels first means you’re less likely to get stuck with a business that enslaves you in a whole new way.
And there’s another great thing about developing your value proposition. Not only will testing help you refine your product or service, but it will tell you whether there’s a market for what you’re about to offer. Determining value, will in turn, help you arrive at a price. So the quickest way to determine who will like what you have to offer and how much they are likely to pay is to test.
Who to test with
The mistake many people make when it comes to road testing their idea is to ask their closest friends for feedback. Even if we plead with them to be honest, they probably won’t be. And if they’re not your target market then what’s the point? Don’t test your latest idea with your Dad if your target audience is soon-to-be moms. Test with your desired audience. And don’t just test out your idea once, test it out a bunch of times.
How can you test?
Once you’ve figured out who you think you want to help, it’s time to think how you can test your idea with them. Start offering to help people. You can offer your services for free, or for a very low price and see how people respond. It’s also far less terrifying when someone hasn’t remortgaged their house to pay your fees. These small-scale trials will also allow you to get testimonials for your new business. This kind of social proof is absolutely essential when launching any new business. These trials also help you build confidence in your proposition and yourself, which will allow you to command a higher price once you roll out your business to a wider audience.
So start small, initially. I encourage my clients to give away information and see how it goes down. One option is to run a free workshop. Another is to offer a free download, or run a free trial.
Cate Hogan, a former marketing manager from Sydney, who now runs a successful six figure business editing and ghostwriting romantic fiction, did exactly that. She didn’t make a fancy website advertising exorbitant rates before she’d done any work. Listing herself on the freelance website Fiverr.com, she started off doing all kinds of different writing jobs, from author bios to descriptions that appear on the back of a book jackets for as little as $5. This allowed her to build up a higher rating on the site to win more clients over time, raise her prices and discover which parts of her work she could charge the most for. It also allowed her to see whether she liked editing and whether she could stomach doing it full time.
Testing in this way allows you to attract clients as leads and get feedback on your service. And as you get better at delivering value, you’ll get hired for more work and get more referrals. Three years down the line and she’s still using low fee trials to lure in clients. Now she’s honed her proposition so much over the years that she converts many of her trial customers into bigger jobs. For just $10, she offers content edits and assessments of up to 2,000 words of writing and many of these customers turn into jobs worth thousands of dollars.
Former business journalist Clare Harrison was freelancing for big PR firms and working for corporate clients. She had skills that worked in a corporate setting but was unsure how she could go about shifting towards startups. She also knew what kind of approaches she liked (and hated) when she was a journalist. But still, she was unconfident that she could get media coverage for a someone who was completely unknown.
The change came after she started offering her PR services to people who worked in her local coworking space on a trial basis. Initially offering to pitch for her coworkers for free, she then ran a webinar with advice on how to pitch for media. It worked. And her coworkers ended up in Forbes, Business Insider and leading national titles like the Telegraph in the UK, and The Globe and Mail in Canada.
Through experimentation, she discovered the things she did that were the most valuable to startups and individuals and it helped her devise packages that were attractive to clients.
So start by trialling your product or service. Get feedback from customers. Refine your product. Repeat as necessary. When you’re developing a service-based business, this is particularly important, as many budding entrepreneurs find it hard to know the part of their proposition people will find most valuable.
Many people despair that they don’t have all the answers and this leads them to inaction. But you can’t possibly know everything at this stage - even the most seasoned entrepreneurs are constantly monitoring and tweaking their products and services.
Nor should you feel like you have to do a ‘big bang’ launch before you’ve tested your idea out. So before you post an announcement on Facebook and tell your auntie, try your crazy little dream out with a few people and see how it goes down.
If you’re coming from a corporate setting, this process can seem a little unstructured, uncertain and daunting, but that’s exactly how it should be. If you embrace the rollercoaster of discovery, it can also be a lot of fun.
Four years ago I was on a business trip to Russia. I’d climbed the corporate ladder, I was making six figures: I had the car, the house in the Canadian suburbs and by most people’s reckoning I was successful. But I was miserable, tired, overworked and disconnected from the work I was doing. So I did what most people would do in that situation: I hired a therapist, who concluded there was nothing wrong with me.
There was nothing wrong with me. But there was something wrong with my life: my job. It was exhausting, soulless and creatively stifling. If you’re like most people, you’ll spend over 90,000 hours in paid employment over your lifetime. And if you’re like most people, you probably won’t enjoy all that much of it. We live in an era of career dissatisfaction. According to an annual survey released by the Conference Board research group, more than half of Americans find their job unsatisfactory. And from my own conversations with countless corporate escapees, many employees simply do not aspire to their boss’s job.
So why do we stay put? We get stuck because we feel like there is no alternative. Many of us are trapped on a Monday to Friday 9-to-7 treadmill of showing up for work, getting paid, paying bills, mortgages and laying the groundwork for a retirement that’s a very long way off. I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing. But it wasn’t making me happy.
Not long after my breakdown, I quit. Since then, I’ve been on an incredible journey. I’ve set up two businesses of my own. I’ve studied what makes work so important to us and how we can find work that engages us (and pays us). I’ve transitioned from employee to consultant to entrepreneur and helped many others do the same.
When I had my meltdown, I had no one to turn to. It felt like there was no way out. Which is why I’m writing this book: to show you the world there are many varied routes to leaving a nine to five job and finding work that you love to do. You don’t have to have a multimillion dollar startup idea or have $100k saved in the bank. You can start making progress towards building a life you enjoy. Now. Right now. Whether money’s tight, you’ve got kids, or you’ve never worked for yourself - there’s a path out there for you.
We live in an age with more information and more ways to work than ever before. More of us are (and can) work for ourselves. There’s been an unparalleled growth in flexible working practices. And many of us are able to work in a way that allows us to combine work and adventure.
We can design careers and businesses that allow us to indulge our love of travel, or even our hobbies, for example. And we don’t need any special equipment, knowledge or expensive kit to get started. In this book, I’ll be sharing 25 different escape routes told by 25 ordinary people who’ve built sustainable businesses (and lifestyles) that allow them to feel good about the work they do every day.