How To Rework the 9 to 5: An Interview with Michelle Morris

When I met my friend Michelle Morris, it didn’t take long for me to realize that she is a badass. And it’s not just because she puts together some of the best parties in all of Atlanta. It’s because she works in the world of corporate PR. I’ve spent enough time dipping my toes in those waters to know that PR and media relations is not easy. But Michelle takes to it with real tenacity.

So when Michelle decided leave her corporate job, I was fascinated to watch and learn from her experience. Michelle gave me great answers about what it’s like to leave the structure of “9 to 5” for the freedom (and challenges) of self-employment, and I’m excited to share them with you.

Meet Michelle. I’ll let her take it from here.

What made you decide to leave the typical 9-5?

“Throughout my career, I have worked in different marketing and communications capacities in both corporate and agency environments that range from public relations to marketing automation, from messaging to social media. I was able to work on so many types of projects with a range of clients, and I wanted to determine what I enjoyed most about marketing communications and be able to make that the next chapter in my career.

Since I give 110% of myself to whatever challenge is in front of me, I was extremely focused on my current job and clients. I knew I needed to take some time off to focus on what I wanted next – and because of a great network of people and being fiscally responsible from a young age – I was able to leave a steady job and prioritize what I wanted to do in my next full-time job.”

What is the hardest part about not having a full-time corporate job?

“Quick answer: a go-to team of co-workers in a comfortable office setting. But, that’s not quite it.

I am very much a people person. I enjoy having a team to work with, typical office culture and collaborative environments. Even though I often worked remotely at previous jobs, not having a physical space as an option has been eye-opening. It has confirmed I enjoy having people around me – or easily accessible by phone or video call! – for me to be productive, successful and happy throughout the day.

I have found a happy medium, though. For example, when I decided to leave my last job without the next full-time job lined up, I set up an LLC, Clifton Ridge Communications, to manage freelance and contract work. The process of setting up the LLC took a lot of research – but instead of working in a silo, I reached out to and spoke to mentors and peers that could provide step-by-step instructions. Unlike doing a project in a corporate environment, I couldn’t just hand tasks over to a legal or accounting department – I needed to take initiative, ask questions and learn from my network.

I’m very fortunate to have so many people around me that have offered advice, resources and time to help me set up my LLC in the best way possible.”

What does your typical day look like?

“When I left my previous job, I knew I wanted to focus more on what I really liked about marketing communications and how (and where!) I could make that my career. Since I’m not bound by a 9-5 schedule or office building at the moment, I’m able to do a lot of learning by meeting up with former colleagues and mentors, and attending seminars around the city and reading industry articles.

So, there is no typical day! Each day I make sure I email, call or meet up with a person or networking group, prioritize trying new things or revisiting old hobbies and, of course, work on any client projects that are lined up.”

What have you discovered during this time that has surprised you?

“Being on the strategy and content development side of marketing communications, a lot of my work has been mapping out plans on paper or the computer, connecting with people on the computer or phone or in big brainstorming sessions. I wasn’t prioritizing creativity through different outlets. During this time, I’ve been able to do more of that: writing for fun, drawing cartoons and sketching.”

How will you approach your next 9 to 5 job differently because of this time?

“No matter if freelancing or a full-time corporate job is next for me, I’m going to make sure I prioritize self-care and stress management.

During this time I have been able to focus more on sleeping regular hours, preparing healthy meals, spending time outside, exercising regularly, traveling and investing in friends and family without spreading myself too thin. I feel more like myself. Whatever is next for me, I want to make sure I can take care of myself so I can be the best me I can be at work.”

What advice would you give to other people who want to change jobs or careers?

“I am in a very fortunate position that I don’t have to dive straight into my next job. For others who have the stability and network, I recommend taking time off before an immediate switch. You’ll discover a lot about yourself!

If someone doesn’t have the time or resources to take a break between jobs, I still recommend prioritizing self-care and learning. Most successful CEOs and entrepreneurs start off their days by working out for at least 30 minutes and catching up on industry and world news – you can do it, too!

I also recommend making the most of your weekends – explore, learn and try new things. Speak to people around you who are in fields you are interested in. Don’t sell yourself short. No one is stuck and it’s never too late!”

Big thanks again to Michelle for sharing these insights! If you’d like to follow her next steps in her career, go say hello on LinkedIn or send her an email.

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James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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