Anti 9-to-5 profile: Rachel DuBois

June 2nd, 2007

Rachel DuBoisThe anti 9-to-5er: Rachel DuBois, Orkney Islands, Scotland

My job: I started Do Good Design, a web design company for people who “do what they love.” I handle the creative stuff, like design and writing, while my partner does the techie side.

What makes my gig anti 9-to-5: Let me count the ways…

  1. I work in my living room in front of a fire, not in an office.
  2. My hours are when I choose, usually evenings and late nights.
  3. I do work I love, in the way that I work best.
  4. I live on an island of 16,000 people in the northernmost part of Scotland, where we don’t lock our doors.
  5. I take plenty of time out to chat with my husband (also self-employed), play with cats, and read.

Do Good DesignI could go on, but it sounds smug and I don’t mean to be. What I do hope is to help others escape the drudgery I felt in my 9-to-5 life and the accompanying compulsion to buy junk to compensate. I started my own business because I wanted to make the most of my beliefs and skills, in a way that allowed me to have plenty of time to be with my husband and future children.

My husband is British, and we spent the first two months of our relationship traveling around the UK to figure out the best place for us. We settled on Scotland, and later on Orkney, because it gave us the community, clean air, safety, and slower pace of life we both craved. We lived in a yurt (tent) for the first three months here, and we’ve learned what we need to have and what we don’t so that we aren’t spending what I alone was spending in my corporate life.

We both feel we’re on a mission: to be happy and to help others be happy. I could wax poetic on the subject, but suffice it to say it’s a challenge (yes, a challenge — it’s hard to be happy with what you’ve got and know what it is you truly need), but we’re getting there.

What I did in my former 9-to-5 life: Web manager for a major telecom company in Washington, DC, then for local government in Scotland. I did that for five years.

How I made the anti 9-to-5 leap: Saved up for two years and cashed out all of my retirement. We also sold the only thing we really owned, which was a small parcel of land that could have been used as a down payment on a house.

My husband started his business first, so we devoted ourselves to getting that off the ground for a year until I figured out what I wanted to do. I spent a year just helping my husband and living life for a while. I hadn’t not had a job since I was 12 (lots of babysitting gigs then), had worked my way through college, and always felt a steady income was a necessity.

By cashing out everything we had, we got to lead a free life for a while. It’s been two years since I left full-time employment, and it’s been great. Not without stress, but miles better than before.

My biggest obstacle: Money was an issue at first. The looming fear of it running out almost any day now. But gradually we noticed that somehow, the money would come. My husband would get another booking for his work, I’d find some cost savings, something. Then we realized money fear in our case was a state of mind: we could spend lots of time worrying about it going away someday, or focus on the fact that we have it right now.

Lack of advice and support was also an issue. My husband’s business idea of teaching courses in ancient survival skills was met with a lot of skepticism and derision. My idea of running a web design business only for people who started their “dream business” was slated as too “narrow” a focus. We’ve stuck to our guns. Ultimately, we decided that to modify our businesses to suit the professional advice of others would ruin them.

Instead, we support and advise each other. We sit down everyday to talk over our businesses, and problem-solve and cheer each other on constantly. We never could have done it without making the conscious effort to take the time, every day, to sit down and talk.

My tips for other cubicle expats: The first major tip of mine would be: DO WHAT YOU LOVE. If you’re not sure what that is, take the time and space to figure it out. I found Finding Your Perfect Work by Paul and Sarah Edwards enormously helpful. It walked me through not just finding what I’m good at or interested in but helped me shape that into a viable business. That made all the difference. [Note from Michelle: Or your could just buy The Anti 9-to-5 Guide, a much fresher, hipper take on the topic.]

Tip two: Take it step by step. It can seem such a steep mountain to climb, the path to your new life. I still don’t know what my summit looks like — I just follow the tiny waymarkers on the path, trusting I’m going in the right direction.

What’s that link again? Do Good Design

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Entry Filed under: Anti 9-to-5 profiles

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Amy T  |  June 13th, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    What an amazing idea for a business! And what unabashed optimism to build it on the theory that there is an entire client base out there comprised of people doing what they love. Good luck, and don’t be surprised if you get a project proposal from this fellow optimist in the next year or so ….

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Hi, my name's Michelle Goodman and I've been freelancing since 1992. I'm author of My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. Read my full bio here.

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