Yesterday I wrapped up my final project with a retainer client who’s been with me since my earliest days as a copywriter.
It signaled the end of my retainer-only style of working that’s been the core of my business model since 2016, and at the moment I’ve actually (peacefully) parted ways with all of my retainer clients save for one.
It didn’t happen suddenly, or with any kind of disappointment or ire. In fact, it had been a fairly long time coming.
But I’ll tell you this: It is surreal.
The best comparison I can make is the day I realized I needed to leave my sunny hometown in Florida.
I didn’t choose to leave because anything was particularly wrong, or destructive. I didn’t leave because I’d been pushed out or kicked out.
I just noticed one day that I wasn’t feeling quite right in my skin anymore. The things I’d loved and found beautiful all those years were beginning to lose their luster, even grate on me.
When I thought about my future I wasn’t surrounded by beaches and palm trees — I was towered over by skyscrapers and lifted up by concrete.
I was feeling pangs of a new, strange hunger inside me — a rumble in my soul I couldn’t really express, except the two clear words it kept speaking to me: Move along.
After that, the urge turned to impatience and eventually discomfort, similar to wearing a too-tight pair of pants, or an old bra that digs into your ribs.
The reality was: My home hadn’t changed. I had.
But was I supposed to leave? My friends were there, my family was there, my boyfriend (at the time) was there too.
What if I disappointed them? What if the only end result of stepping out into the world was a crushing loneliness?
Like so many of us (my womenfriends in particular), I live in constant fear of hurting others. I always feel the compulsive need to apologize. To explain. To justify. Even when no one’s asked me to, and it isn’t expected.
That excruciating itch to outline my reasoning in order to temper the inconvenience or pain I’m about to inflict comes to me often, but it rarely softens the end result.
Empathy does not equate to painlessness, or even total zen understanding.
But sometimes… you just know you’ve gotta go.
“You’re allowed to just be done if you want to be.”
A coach laid that truth on me as I was agonizing for the fourth month in a row about whether to leave my retainers or somehow figure out a way to bolster the current state of my business without ruffling any feathers.
(The latter is impossible, duh. But stay with me.)
In response to her words, my body felt like running over a speed bump too quickly.
Gallump — gulp.
Hold up. Really? I could just “be done” without much fanfare or fuss….?
Or would I leave a mess of disappointment and unfulfilled promises in my wake?
But still, I didn’t move quite yet. Instead, I sat down to think about what I wanted in my business.
Less stress. (My propensity for workhorse-ism has both served me very well, and very poorly. After putting my burned out body together post-2017, a more sensible way of working has since become my priority.)
More of the work I loved doing. (Coaching, consults, teaching, and writing my own stuff is what’s filling me to the brim with energy right now. Yes, thank you, more please).
Mo’ monayy. (This kind of audacious ask doesn’t come naturally to me, and never has. However, it’s our key to survival as business owners.)
Fun, pleasure, and lightness. (I don’t want to drag myself through long days anymore. I’d rather float.)
I knew my vision likely wouldn’t align with my retainer clients’. I knew it could signal the end of my predictable month-to-month income altogether.
Still — it had to be done.
I’ve sent some scary emails in my life (“You’re fired”, “I quit,”, “I deserve better,”) but this “I need these things, or I must walk away,” had to be the scariest.
I didn’t have the fire of righteous indignation to spur me forward. Just a quiet sense of duty to myself — and when you’re used to those flames and heat pushing you forward, that steady pull of the simple desire for growth feels strange and almost wrong to act on.
And, as expected: My vision for the future did not align for the client’s current trajectory.
Thus, without much fanfare, the mutual decision was made to part ways.
It was simultaneously incredibly liberating and utterly terrifying.
How strange they are, those moments in business when you realize there’s just not enough room for the person you want to become in the place you’re currently standing.
How odd it feels to reach out your arm to find the door, turn the handle, and willingly walk out into the unknown.
But this is the gig.
Entrepreneurship requires evolution. It requires a certain flavor of perpetual dissatisfaction and restlessness, a tiny voice in your mind that reminds you things could be better, the work could be more fun, your ability to help others could be stronger, the rates could be higher.
Often the only thing that keeps us from making sudden brash pivots at the slightest breeze is also the same thing that keeps us stuck in places we’ve outgrown for too long: Our perfectionism, and our desire to get things juuuust right before anyone else sees or experiences them.
But the longer I’m in this game, the clearer I see the middle ground between the two.
It’s possible to make change with alacrity when you feel confidently called… without becoming a shiny-object-chaser.
It’s also possible to make shifts with mindfulness and clarity… even when you’re unable to say everything in a perfect and painless way (because it’s impossible to anticipate every possible emotional reaction).
I decided to walk that middle line like a tightrope — and while I’m stepping into the unknown, it feels spacious. Delicious. Free.
I now have the time and the space to create what I want. To take projects that have meaning for me. To teach, coach, and (most importantly) build.
It didn’t always feel like bliss — but it was the right thing to do.
So now the question is… If you’re feeling summoned from the soul for change, how quickly can you turn and face it?
How agile are you when it comes to responding to your clearest desires?
Will you agonize for months, and procrastinate?
Or will you take notice, listen, and step forward?
Just remember — your inability to anticipate every need and walk away from something “perfectly”, and your burning desire to “make up” for putting yourself and your goals and needs first, isn’t going to quiet the voice within you, or create the shifts you crave.
Only you can do that. But you have to decide.
You’re allowed to notice when you’re too big for the beliefs or patterns you’ve clothed yourself in.
You’re allowed to move along.
You’re allowed to quit.
You’re allowed to just “be done”.
Just be brave enough reach your arm out, open the door, and… go.