I read Soloing: Realizing Your Life’s Ambition with the hope that it would help me plan out how to transition from an unsatisfying full-time job to a freelance career. After all, most yoga teachers are freelancers, or “soloists” in Rubin’s terms. While Rubin has some good advice about following your passion, it ultimately wasn’t useful in answering the questions I had, and because the book was published in 1999, some of the information came across as a bit dated.
Rubin spends much of the book discussing how to reinvent yourself and your identity outside of the corporate model, how to discover the work that truly inspires you, and how to generate the courage to pursue that work. While there’s some great content here, it’s not as useful to someone like me – I know my passions (writing, editing, teaching yoga and teaching writing), I just need to figure out how, financially, to build those passions into a viable career. In this area Rubin is lacking. The cover blurb notes that Rubin, a high-powered publishing executive for many years, now works with “leading CEOs” in her solo career, and this comes through in the content. Although Rubin strives to interview a wide variety of professionals in researching this book (including a master bonsai gardener and a corporate guy turned race car driver), her target audience is the dissatisfied exec looking to build a consulting career (and with a lot more cash in the bank than I have). For example, Rubin states that, when leaving your corporate job, you should be able to negotiate a retainer, exit package, or continued Cobra health insurance, which just sounds laughable to any average cubicle jockey. In general, employees in the lower echelons of the corporate world just don’t have that kind of bargaining power, and Rubin doesn’t seem to know it.
Rubin states repeatedly that a soloist can make far more on her own than her previous corporate salary, and with only a few clients, but Rubin never addresses the practical concerns of how to identify and market yourself to your client base and find those lucrative clients. As a yoga teacher, I guess “clients” in this case would mean starting my own yoga studio and identifying private clients, but that’s not as feasible for a brand-new teacher just starting out when there are plenty of more experienced yoga teachers around. Making ends meet as a yoga teacher just doesn’t seem possible at first, letting alone turning a profit, and how do you get through the months or years of financial struggle to get to the point where the ends meet? I did appreciate some of the practical information Rubin provides – how to calculate expected business expenses and the income needed to pay the bills, what legal advice and insurance you should invest in. I also liked Rubin’s discussion of proposals, which will be directly useful to me as a writer/editor and possibly also as a yoga teacher (proposals could be useful if I do want to start my own studio, if I want to propose a special workshop or class, if I want to sell myself to a corporate client that wants to offer yoga to its employees, as a few examples). But overall I wanted more on the practical side of things.
Rubin spends a long chapter discussing how to set up and structure a website and what sort of content to post there, and here’s where we see how far technology has come in the past 10+ years. No longer must you pay a web design firm to create a site for you (again, an expense the little folks can’t really afford) now that there are plenty of websites that help you easily design a professional-looking personal site and blog for free. It’s also cheap and easy to buy, register, and use your own personalized domain name. Rubin details the conversations she had with her web designer about how her site should be structured, and while it’s interesting, most of this just isn’t applicable anymore.
Overall, Rubin gives some great advice to the soloist, and the book is still valuable and worth reading. However, it didn’t have everything I was hoping for, and I never really felt like I was the target audience.