Online marketing expert Liana Ling shares how she made a drastic career change from lawyer to digital marketer and business owner and how she overcame the challenges of having her identity so tied up with her career.
Liana Ling of Power Up Strategy
Website: Power Up Strategy
LinkedIn: Liana Ling
Facebook: Power Up Strategy
Liana Ling is a former attorney turned internet traffic pro and has gone from marketing trickling campaigns to scaling across networks for her clients.
She’s helped her clients diversify their traffic sources across Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and Google.
Liana’s clients are leaders in the information product industry and they rave about her ability to grow campaigns methodically.
In this interview, Liana explains how to change careers even when you’re in a specialised role, what it’s like to have a sudden shift in your identity and how important it is to think about the transferable skills you’ll gain when choosing a job.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- [01:41] What a digital marketing agency is and how Power Up Strategy works.
- [03:19] Why Liana decided to become a lawyer.
- [05:49] The value Liana puts on education.
- [07:07] How Liana used her networking skills to find the right field for her.
- [12:22] How to start effectively networking.
- [13:47] What Liana learnt from working in loan collection and litigation.
- [18:17] When Liana decided to change her career.
- [19:56] What it was like being made redundant.
- [22:09] The career skills programme Liana went through.
- [24:38] The benefits of being part of a franchise when starting a business.
- [26:15] Why Liana didn’t start her own legal practice.
- [27:20] Why Liana went into marketing and the value of the transferable skills she’d learnt as a lawyer.
- [29:45] How Liana knew it was the right time to go solo.
- [33:46] The difference between buying yourself a job and starting a business.
- [34:32] The importance of joining the right type of communities.
- [36:05] What Liana’s team looks like and how involved she is with the daily running of the business.
- [37:45] What Liana’s vision is for the future of her business.
- [39:02] Liana’s new membership programme she’s getting ready to launch.
- [41:22] The book that has had the most impact on Liana’s business life.
Resources mentioned in this episode
Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase. This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.
To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.
Episode 76: Changing your career, changing your identity - with Liana Ling of Power Up Strategy
Jeremy Cline 0:00
How much of your identity is wrapped into what you do for a living? When someone asks you what you do for a job, you'll probably say something like, I am a doctor, I am a lawyer, I'm an accountant, I'm a journalist, whatever you might be. You really have a sense of identity with what you do. And sometimes that can make it quite difficult to change jobs. If you stop being a doctor, lawyer, accountant, journalist, whatever, then do you somehow lose your identity? Do you struggle to find what your new identity might be? That's what we talk about in this episode. I'm Jeremy Cline. And this is Change Work Life.
Jeremy Cline 0:49
Hello, and welcome to Change Work Life, the podcast that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. Now, most professional careers involve quite a lot of work just to qualify, and then there's even more to actually get good at it. Whether it's law, accountancy, medicine, they often involve years of study and training, which just continues as you get more experienced and specialised. So, if you decide to make a change from one of those professions, does that mean that you're effectively throwing all that away, all those years of training and experience? That's one of the things we're going to discuss this week with my guest Liana Ling. Liana was a lawyer before she started Power Up Strategy, a digital marketing agency. Liana, welcome to the podcast.
Liana Ling 1:30
It's great to be here.
Jeremy Cline 1:32
So, Liana, could you start by telling us more about Power Up Strategy? What it does? And, for those of us who don't know, what is a digital marketing agency?
Liana Ling 1:41
Absolutely. So, I have my own company and what I do is I work with people who have an online business, so maybe they're selling coaching services or info products, and I help them get more clients and to sell more of what it is that they're offering to help others in the world. So, I do that primarily through things like paid media, like Facebook ads, and social media as well.
Jeremy Cline 2:11
Okay, so if I've got a coaching product of some particular kind, and I think I've got an audience that lives on Facebook, then you'll help me get my service in front of them, basically.
Liana Ling 2:22
Jeremy Cline 2:24
And do you have a particular type of client, any particular areas, any particular specialisms?
Liana Ling 2:30
Yes. So, I work with a lot of people who sell business-to-business, because that's basically the people that I've been working with, probably almost my entire career. So, I know that space really well. Yeah, so it's mainly a lot of people who are offering other business owners different types of services. And also, because of my background, which we can talk about more as well with the podcast, I also have some clients who are in more complex type of scenarios that need more than just what the average media buyer provides. Just because of my legal background, we can approach it better and better understand some of the nuances about compliance and things like that, that maybe other people might not be able to bring to the table.
Jeremy Cline 3:12
Let's talk a bit about your legal background. So, when did you decide that you wanted to go into law in the first place?
Liana Ling 3:20
I think, like everybody maybe, in school, maybe from grade six or seven, they start putting you through career classes, and you're supposed to figure out what you're going to be, right, for the rest of your life. And I don't know, I think one of the aptitude tests I took in high school said I was supposed to be an engineer. And what was interesting is, as soon as they said that, I knew I definitely did not want to be an engineer, because I just immediately felt that. So, that kind of helped me move towards other things. And when I was in university, it's interesting, because I was actually trying to figure out what I wanted to do and a friend of mine, we looked at it and said, 'Hey, let's actually take criminology', because the classes were all at night, and it was in the nicest buildings, and it looked really interesting. So, then I got into that and it was really, really interesting. And then, that really piqued my interest in the law. And how I saw that is, I noticed that lawyers are trained to figure stuff out. And for me, what I do is, whenever I'm not sure about something, I go out and try and talk to as many people as possible. So, I took out as many people as possible just to coffee, just to ask them what it's like being a lawyer. And what I figured out was, I didn't know what I wanted to be, but a lawyer would probably be the better bet because they teach you how to figure out stuff. So, even if I didn't want to be a lawyer, I figured it would give me a lot of skills in which I could be anything else that I wanted, because there were so many other people out there who had different careers, and they were actually based in the law and they said it just really helped them and gave them a really good foundation for whatever it is that they wanted to do.
Jeremy Cline 4:56
So, even at that stage, were you starting to think one step ahead – 'Okay, start with law, but I don't think that's necessarily where I'm going to stay'?
Liana Ling 5:04
Yes. Because I didn't know. I mean, I'm not one of those people who had this firm calling that this is what I'm supposed to do. I really didn't know what to do. I knew I had to graduate, I knew I had to figure out what to do after that to get a job, because that's how I was raised back then. So, I thought, well, you know, let me try and get into law. My backup was an MBA. So, I was actually writing the tests to get into law school, and I'd get an MBA at the same time. And I happened to get the law school acceptances first. And so, that's basically why I went into law.
Jeremy Cline 5:37
Did the training process and the fact that going to law school and everything can be quite expensive not put you off, if you had this idea in mind that you weren't necessarily going to stay in it?
Liana Ling 5:49
Definitely, becoming a lawyer or a doctor or something like that, it's definitely expensive. It's not as expensive in Canada, where I'm from, than the States. I'm not sure what it's like where you are. I think one of the things that I've been raised with is, my family has always made education a priority. Even my mother, I have two other sisters, so after she had us, and now she's a grandmother, she even went back to school, and she got her Master's and then her doctorate in education, which I will never, ever get. So, education is a priority in our family. So, I was raised that part of our job was to also do well in school, get a good education and that was basically something that our family prioritised and made sure that it wouldn't be a problem for us to go to the school that we wanted to go to.
Jeremy Cline 6:43
When you decided that you were going to become a lawyer, do all the training, at what point did you decide or did you need to make a decision about what your specialism might be or which sort of area you might go into? Because you've got, at one end of the spectrum, you've got criminal lawyers, public defenders, that kind of thing, at the other end, you've got enormous commercial firms, and they are really poles apart.
Liana Ling 7:07
Yes, they are. Well, in Canada at least, for the first year, the courses are general, because you need to have a foundation. And then after that, you can choose what specialties you want to do. So, again, playing to type, I didn't want to be put into a box. There were a couple of different courses that we had to continue to take, so I did that. And then what I did was, for my second and third year, I did the same thing I did when I was trying to decide to be a lawyer. I reached out, I really learned how to network very well, I think. Because I would just reach out and I would ask people, who did they know, and I wanted to talk to as many different lawyers in as many different areas as possible. And I discovered that, especially when you're a student and you ask somebody who you may have been introduced to with a tenuous connection, even, to say, 'I'd love to take you out to coffee', or, 'Do you have like 15 minutes just to talk with me?' And they're more than happy to share anything about their job with you, about going to law school, about what they like and what they don't like about the area that they're in. It's funny, because pretty much, I think 99% of the people that I spoke to all told me not to do it, not to go to law school, and that just made me want to do it even more. Because it is hard, it's a hard life. And that's how I figured that I didn't want to do criminal law, even though I had a criminal law background. And I also didn't want to do family law, because the lawyers that I spoke with in those areas, and I primarily actually ended up speaking with women in those areas, really shared with me that it was quite challenging for them just emotionally and mentally, because of the different types of cases and the types of people that you have to deal with. And again, me knowing how I tended to be, I just felt like I wouldn't be able to possibly handle that type of pressure. So, part of it was having a strong sense of how I performed best, and then also getting a variety of opinions from people. So, I knew that I didn't – I did it more by, I didn't want to do certain things versus I really wanted to be in a certain area. Other areas, like for example, if you want to do maybe environmental law or something like that, most of the people in that area have a strong scientific background. So, I definitely stayed away from those areas too, or intellectual property, like trademarks or something, because I didn't have a scientific background. And then, after that, it was really more about where you could get a job, too. So, I was fortunate enough to get a summer job in a commercial law firm. And that's really where I learned more about it and I really started to fall more in love with it. And then I was able to get another job as an articling student in a small boutique commercial and litigation firm. So, that was really great because I was able to get sort of the experience that I wanted to, and then because it's a small firm, you're also able to get experience in a wide variety of areas, because pretty much when you're this new person and you're the student, they give you the stuff that nobody else wants to do. So, when somebody's friend of a friend comes in, and she needs to have a divorce, and it's a favour to her, they give it to the articling student, which is what you have to do for a year after you graduated from law school. So, you just get kind of all different sorts of things, and you learn about them, which was a great experience, again, just to try and help you figure out what areas you're really good in, and what really lights you up and gives you a lot of passion.
Jeremy Cline 10:22
Can I just go back to this period when you were taking all these lawyers out for coffee and asking them what they did and what they thought and what they enjoyed and pressing them for information? Was the idea of doing this, was this kind of your own idea? Or was this something that someone else had suggested would be a good thing for you to do?
Liana Ling 10:43
It was mainly my own idea, I don't really have a recollection of somebody saying, specifically, you should do this. You know, my cousin who is a lawyer, and it is, I think, there's only three lawyers in my family and it's myself and my cousin and his brother. And that was it. I remember talking to him, I wanted to do this, and I just thought he was giving me some good advice. For me, I know that brochures and what they tell you in school and what you learn in school doesn't always match with what happens in the real world. So, that's another reason why I thought I really just wanted to go out and try and find out as much as I could. And this was basically before the internet really, really took off, so I'm old, right? That was really the best way to find out the truth, really. And I just wanted to talk to as many people as I could. And it just started to snowball, because I talked to my cousin and then he said, 'Hey, you know who you should talk to, you should talk to so-and-so', you know, he would introduce me to somebody else. And then they would say, 'Hey, I think you should talk to somebody else.' And then my dad found out I was doing this, so he started introducing me to people he knew. And so, it just sort of snowballed naturally in a way there. And I stumbled on to this when I was starting to decide if I wanted to go to law school, and I just found it a really valuable thing to do.
Jeremy Cline 11:52
It's something that's come up numerous times, actually, on the podcast, and previous guests have recommended it, but I just get the impression that it's something that either people don't think of, or they're, I don't know, maybe a bit reticent to do it. I mean, okay, if you've got an introduction, that's one thing. But if it's a tenuous introduction, or you're approaching someone completely cold, then people – and maybe it's a British thing, I don't know – just seem a bit more reluctant to go out and have these conversations. But it's clearly worth doing.
Liana Ling 12:22
It is. And I would be shy about that too. For sure. I think what I've really cultivated over the years is how to network better. And I found that a lot of people just don't ask the right questions. I just started asking people I knew and asking people at – church was a really big source for me, actually, saying, 'Hey, who do you know, who do you know?' And the few lawyers at church, they were just so excited that, here's somebody that they've seen probably grow up from a little kid, is trying to find her way. And they were so excited that I was really passionate about this, that they also went out of the way to find people for me to talk to, and what I just noticed is that, maybe it's mainly in the professionals, I don't know, but I noticed that most people are pretty happy to try and help you out by introducing you to somebody or introducing you to somebody who might know somebody, but you need to ask, because they don't know how best to help you. And I'm not going to them asking for a job. I'm just simply asking them for their opinion. And people love to talk about themselves. And I think they feel flattered, too, when you ask for their opinion. And it only takes 15 minutes. I think that they were just very open to it and I just found a lot of people, in this profession specifically, were, for the most part, very generous with their time and with their advice. And I think they were just excited to see somebody who was just also excited to go into this profession.
Jeremy Cline 13:39
So, having been through the process, the article training process, where did you end up specialising?
Liana Ling 13:46
I ended up working mainly for banks and doing, and so this doesn't sound very nice, but I ended up doing a lot of loan collection work, small business collection work, and then I morphed more into mortgage enforcement, as well. It may sound a little bit, I don't know, callous to say that I enjoyed that. It was exciting work. And I really believe that you end up with certain people and in certain careers because you were meant to be there to serve people in a certain way. And what I thought was really interesting was a lot of times when it got to that point where the lawyers were involved and then we actually ended up having to talk to the actual people that we were suing, a lot of times they needed help, or this was the first time that they could talk to somebody and just had their story be heard. It doesn't mean that they got out of paying. But it was interesting to me how there was this human element that I hadn't thought about and then, in some ways, we were trying to help people, as well, just because a lot of times in the world of corporate, you know, it's easy to get caught up and you're just a number and you can't talk to anybody. And it's like, the lawyers were the first humans that they were able to talk to, and we were explaining how this was going to work. And again, trying to help them in some way. Even though we were representing the bank, they really had no idea what was going on. So, it was just really interesting to me that way. On the flip side, I also came into it a little bit naive, and out of it, I realised that a lot of people don't tell the truth. More people than I thought didn't tell the truth to your face. So, that was also really interesting for me to learn, too, and figure out poker faces and things like that.
Jeremy Cline 15:20
You mentioned towards the start of this interview that you saw law as potentially being a transitional step. Was that always in your mind as you were doing this? Or was there a point where you'd been doing it for a bit and you came back to it and thought, 'Actually, now I'm ready to make that transition'?
Liana Ling 15:40
So, I'm not sure if it's just me, but I think that when you're brought up in a certain way, where you're expected to go to school and graduate, it's just expected from you, and have a type of career... I didn't have the pressure that I had to be a doctor or something like that, but I definitely knew that I was expected to become a professional. I also have a music background, but I was told very clearly, that's something you do on the side, you don't go into music as a profession. That was just how I was brought up.
Jeremy Cline 16:08
Could you have done, do you think?
Liana Ling 16:09
I could have. Yes, I actually studied the harp and the piano for many, many years. I could have. But again, I was just told that's not what you do as your main career. You know, you kind of go into it and we talked a little bit, you and I have talked a little bit, I think, about how your career becomes your identity. So, I think once you graduate and you get a job and you're so relieved by that point, and you're so proud to have gone this far, because it's so much work to get there, that it really became my identity. I was a lawyer, and I loved that. And I loved having a job and everything that entailed and especially in the first couple years, you're so busy, you don't have any time to sleep, eat, think, anything else. It really does take over your life. But I always kind of had that, I think, in the back of my mind. But part of it, too, is your working conditions. Because places that I worked at, as an employee, they put restrictions on you, right? You're not supposed to, you know, be doing other things, on the side type of thing, that you're supposed to just do that. I did a lot of volunteer work because I come from a family who does a lot of volunteer and philanthropy. And I also knew I was entrepreneurial. But I really suppressed that because I wasn't able to do anything else. Because that was the terms and conditions of my employment. And I didn't have time, either. So, probably way in the back of my mind, I knew that this was always good, because basically law is just about figuring out problems. The subject matter changes, but you're pretty much just trying to figure stuff out and solve puzzles. So, I knew in the back of my mind that was going to help. And also, being in litigation, I think I also knew that those types of skills would help as well, because a lot of times you have to think on your feet, or you're pushed into situations where you have major butterflies – you just want to turn and run, but you can't. So, you figure out ways to push through and you have to perform at a high level, even though you're totally scared to death. So, those types of scenarios, I think, just develop character and develop certain skills that can definitely be transferred into many other different areas. But I didn't really think about it at the time.
Jeremy Cline 18:12
So, what stage were you at when you started to think about leaving law?
Liana Ling 18:17
So, I had actually gone from being in a boutique law firm, and I moved into working for one of the big banks inside of there. And quite frankly, it was after I had kids and just not being exactly happy in my job. And I knew something was off, so then I started to think, maybe there's something else out there. You dare to dream that there must be some life on the other side, just you hadn't thought about it before. And so, that's when I really started to think about it. And I was forced into it because after being in law for about eight years, my position at the bank was actually redundant. I had my son and then I came back to work. And there was a whole bunch of turnover in terms of who I was working with. So, I was floating around a little bit, and eventually they just said I was redundant. It was at a time when there was a lot of people in Canada getting laid off and things like that. And so, I was forced into that situation very abruptly, where I lost my identity for a while and then I had to refind it and discover what my true passion was and what I feel like is my true calling, really. But you had to go through that. And I've talked to other people who've been through that sort of more traumatic experience and we all have the same epiphanies, but you don't realise it till after you come out on the other side.
Jeremy Cline 19:36
When you first found out that you were going to be made redundant, was it a feeling of panic, a feeling of, I've got to go and get another job doing the same thing? Or was it a feeling of kind of more of relief, of, okay, I've been starting to reconsider anyway, now I've got this golden opportunity to make that happen?
Liana Ling 19:57
I think the first thing for me was, I got put into shock, because any time I had changed jobs before, in my entire life, and I had been working since grade seven, I had jobs, it was my decision. So, I'm more of a type A personality, to control things, so I'd never ever come across the situation before. And as I mentioned, I think that how some of us are brought up, or if you maybe have a career that you spent so long and sacrificed so much to get to and it becomes so much of your identity that, when something like this happens, like to me, I was in shock. Looking back, I realized I was in shock for a little bit, because to me, it was, somebody had just cut off my identity. I didn't know who I was anymore.
Jeremy Cline 20:40
Was there a feeling of, why me? Hang on, I don't deserve this, I'm good at my job, this is who I am, what do you mean, you're making me redundant? Somehow it was like you, I don't know, haven't been good enough or something?
Liana Ling 20:52
It's interesting, because I think it depends how you're let go. I mean, how I was let go was not because I wasn't good at the job, but because of the position. So, it was a bit odd, right? I think for me, and then, yeah, at some point, I think I probably fell into some self-pity. But what they did was, they put me in a programme pretty much right away after that, because I think they just want to make sure mentally you're stable and you're okay. So, they put me in a programme that was for a couple weeks, where they counsel you on your career and things like that. So, I think I was in shock, and then they put you into another programme, so you don't have time to think about it. I think I didn't really think too much about why me, I think I was just in shock, just for a while, because I had always worked, like I said, my identity was so wrapped up into this. So, then I threw myself into the programme they put me in, where they give you all these different tools, and they look over your resume, and they help you with your interview skills. But it was just another place, it was actually a place you could go to, as well, because otherwise you're just at home and you're not really sure what you're supposed to do.
Jeremy Cline 21:56
Is this a programme that was intended to help you find another job in the same area? Or was this wider than that and intended to help you figure out whether you might make a change?
Liana Ling 22:07
It was both, actually. So, they, I can't remember what they were called, but they were specifically for larger corporations, I think, who hire them just to help people develop their career skills. So, they were helping me, they gave me different tasks to do and they were helping me try and improve my resume, my interview skills, so yes, I could get another job in the area. I was signing up for legal recruiters and things like that as well. So, I imagine it must be like when you're trying to find an agent, if you're an actor or something, if you're trying to get in front of all these recruiters and hope they see you as a star, so that they'll place you somewhere. But they also brought in other speakers as well. True to type, I went back to, okay, who can I talk to? But I didn't have the same goal that I had before. So, before, I was very laser-focused, right? I want to do this. But again, the networking paid off, because there were two things that happened. So, number one, my dad was like, 'Hey, come to this event, I think it'll be good for you. There's somebody there I want you to meet.' I was like, 'I don't want to go', but I went anyway. And it was actually just a small gathering where they were talking about networking. And one of the speakers there was Carissa Reiniger, who is well-known in Canada for being one of the youngest female entrepreneurs to make a million dollars. And I just really loved how she talked about networking. And I got her book after the session. And I just felt, wow, here's somebody I could really relate to. And for the first time, my eyes opened up and realised that I was probably a frustrated entrepreneur all this time that I was an employee. And maybe this is something I should also look at. And then, at the programme I was at, at the same time, somebody else came in to speak and he talked about becoming an entrepreneur instead of getting another job. And what he does is he matches you up with the right business. He basically matches you up with a franchise. And so, I talked to him as well. And then from there, I started to talk to more people who were professionals who turned into entrepreneurs. Probably similar to the types of guests I guess you're trying to find on your podcast. And I did the same thing. I took people out to coffee. I also took other lawyers out to coffee and asked them to look at my resume, to give me pointers. I wasn't asking them for a job. I was asking them for advice on, what do they think about this, what do they think about that. Because I just felt that coming out and asking for a job, everybody does that and that turns people off. So, I went back to the networking thing again. And that helped me figure out what my next move was, which is, I ended up buying a franchise, which is like a transitionary period from being a full-time employee, to sort of your own boss, like being an entrepreneur.
Jeremy Cline 24:35
So, what was the franchise?
Liana Ling 24:37
So, I bought a franchise called WSI, which was a digital marketing franchise. And the reason I bought it was, and again, I did the same thing. I researched and I figured out all the top people in there and I reached out to them. And I called them up and I said, 'Can I talk to you?', and of course, they're happy to talk to you about what it is that they do. And what I noticed was they were all really, really friendly and supportive. Which is not what I've heard from other franchises, where it was very competitive and you're always watching your back. It just felt to me that it was the same type of environment that I had when I was working in a law firm, because I liked the collaborative part of it. But I liked also being able to call the shots, as well. It just felt to me like it was another family I could go into, and it was very supportive, and they had a coach that would help you, they provided you with sales coaching, and they give you a lot of support. So, it really felt to me like it was the best of both worlds. I could be an entrepreneur, I can have a level of freedom. But on the other hand, I have this community as well, so I wouldn't feel isolated and alone. Or if I got in trouble with something, I could lean on somebody else to figure stuff out, which is what I was used to in the law firm and at the bank where I worked at. So, that's why I made the plunge to there, because I just wasn't having fun hitting the pavement, going to interviews, trying to get recruiters to sign you up. To me, it was just too depressing, and I wanted to take some more positive steps, instead of just getting so many rejections to get a job.
Jeremy Cline 26:03
Being a lawyer and being an entrepreneur at the same time aren't mutually exclusive. So, having built up this strong identity of being a lawyer, did you ever think about starting your own practice?
Liana Ling 26:15
I did. And that's definitely something I'd even thought about when I graduated. But to be honest with you, I was pretty terrified to do that. Because I always felt like I needed somebody else to lean on. And when you first graduate, you don't know that you can do that with other lawyers, or form your own sort of little group where you can talk to each other. So, I was actually too terrified to do that. It was interesting, because when I went this way, when you compare it to law, it's pretty easy, because it's mostly sales, and it's systems and the problems you have to figure out are not as hard. Whereas with law, at least the one where I was exposed to it, it's so much more complex, there's so many things happening, and I didn't have the confidence, because I realised, many years later, that I carried this sort of imposter syndrome with me my whole life. But that's basically why, so I went more with starting off with a franchise, because they have systems, they have a structure that I can follow, so it makes you feel confident to go out there. Does that make sense?
Jeremy Cline 27:15
So, why digital marketing? Because that's some way away from law.
Liana Ling 27:19
Yeah, you know what? It was the exact same reasoning why I went into law. So, I told you I went into law because I thought, that's good training to do something else. After looking at everything, I figured, if I can learn marketing, I can sell anything. So, I could be anything I want, I can sell anything I want, I could create any other business I want. Because I know the secret of how to get more customers. And that's what, if you talk to any small business owner, what's one of their number one problems, is getting leads and getting customers. So, I know how to do that, I figure, I can do anything I want, I can help the charities and stuff that I work with and volunteer with, I can help them better too. I have the same MO, I think, as I go through this whole career journey.
Jeremy Cline 28:01
It is a very interesting approach. I think it's something that Robert Kiyosaki said that he did in Rich Dad, Poor Dad. He describes how he wanted to learn to fly a plane, so he became a, I can't remember if he became a civilian or a military pilot. And then, like you, he wanted to go into sales. So, he wanted to learn sales, so he went into sales, got a sales job as a means of learning the skills. And I think that's, again, something which people don't necessarily think of, that you can use these different careers as staging posts to learn skills. And you know, maybe you need to have an idea as to where those skills are going to take you. And I think it's quite an interesting idea of deliberately going into something because you think you're going to learn something that's going to be useful later in life.
Liana Ling 28:49
And that's something they talked to us about as well, I think, going into law, they brought in a whole bunch of different people from different careers. And that's one thing that stuck in my brain, was that this will teach you how to figure stuff out. And just as I looked around, and noticed how different people behave, it's just fascinating to me how even people who you might think are super smart, but they didn't learn the skills to figure stuff out, so that... It was just fascinating to me, and a skill that I thought would really service me. The only regret I have is that I didn't take a psychology course. That's the one thing that I regret learning more about, because now, psychology is so huge with sales and marketing and entrepreneurship. It's really interwoven into everything. So, that's the only thing I regret not studying more in school.
Jeremy Cline 29:35
So, was the franchise another staging post with a view to learning the ropes, so that you could then start your own business in the same area?
Liana Ling 29:44
Yeah, it absolutely was. I was in there and then, a lot of it too is I think figuring out how you best work and who you best work with. And after a while, I started to learn more and more how I best work, and I realised that I didn't do my best work and that I didn't feel as happy within the structure that they were providing, because after a while, I felt it was too rigid. Then, I started to learn more about what's outside of the franchise and started growing more that way, and realised that I did have more of a gift and I could go out on my own and I didn't need this. Because I was just going in a very, very different direction. Maybe I outgrew what they were providing, I don't know, but I just realised that I wasn't doing my best. And I was starting to notice the same symptoms that I had when I was not as happy at my job. But I couldn't figure out why. So, it was almost like deja vu. I said, 'Why am I having these feelings again?' And just really trying to figure out what was triggering it. And then again, this evolved a little bit more naturally, but that was mainly why I started to go more out on my own.
Jeremy Cline 30:55
How did you figure out that was what you needed, that it was the structures that you had in place that weren't working for you and that you needed, essentially, to do something where you put your own structures in place?
Liana Ling 31:05
I used to buy a lot, a lot of books. You know, I have those books like What Color Is Your Parachute?, and all those types of books, right, that try and help you figure out what it is that you do best. I kind of went back to all those books that I had. And I just made a list of what is it that I'm not happy with. And then, I realised that, again, it took me a long time, to realise that I'm just not meant to be an employee. And that was a big thing, because also throughout this, whenever – I would still keep my eye on jobs, believe it or not. I still would. And sometimes I would apply for them and start to go through the whole process. And then, that was just so painful, I realised I really, really hated it. And then I realised that I'm a really, really bad employee. So, the structure that they were putting on me was making me feel more like an employee, and it made me want to do the opposite. Just break free. And that was a big breaking point for me when I had to actually admit that I was a bad employee. And funnily enough, when I would go on sales calls, I would get people who would try and hire me and say like, 'I could really use somebody like you.' And it took me a while before I finally said to them, 'I don't make a good employee.' And a lot of people are kind of shocked when I say that to them. And bluntly, I said, 'I just make a really bad employee, I'm sorry.' And then sometimes it would make them try harder to hire me. But I just told them, I just can't. I can't have a client that makes me feel like an employee and I don't think I could ever have a job because I just, mentally, something just doesn't fit well with me and in the environment with how I work.
Jeremy Cline 32:27
Going back to what we were talking about, identity, that's a really interesting realisation to come to, that some people want to start their own business for greater autonomy, greater flexibility, possibly greater wealth and income. But identifying that it's because you're not the personality that makes a good employee, that's got to be quite a tough realisation to come to actually.
Liana Ling 32:49
It really is, yeah. And it's because I met a handful of people who embody that, and one person did say to me, 'I could never keep a job'. And then they challenged me and said, 'Did you just buy yourself a job? Because some of us, we're business owners, we don't want to admit it, but we did just buy ourselves a job, as opposed to being a business owner.' And then, because I really did start on a multi-year journey of learning and mastering what is entrepreneurship, and I'm still learning that, but that was one of the big things, also, was a realisation. Again, I think it goes to identity. You think you have a business, but when you really put it on paper and look at it in black and white, did you actually just buy yourself a job? And that's also when I realised too, no, I need to break free. I didn't want to buy myself a job, I want to own a business, I want to be able to hire people, I want to be able to make a difference, a bigger impact in the world.
Jeremy Cline 33:13
What in your mind then was the difference between buying yourself a job and starting a business?
Liana Ling 33:46
To me, that was when I went out more on my own after the franchise. I actually became a sales coach. And for a while, part of that was because some of my clients, when I talked to them, I noticed that we're sending them a lot of leads, but they're not closing them because they have really bad sales skills. So, I was like, how can I help them? How can I help them? And so, for a couple years, too, then I tried having my own business and I did a sales coaching business, and then I came back into digital marketing after that, because I found out I was really good at it. I found I was really good at paid ads. And I was really good at doing social media for business-to-business. And I really enjoyed it, I had a passion for it. And the word started to spread, so I got more and more referrals. And I just started getting into different communities where I think I was able to get more and better-quality clients. Part of it was intentional, I would look out for different masterminds, communities that I would pay to be a part of. Not just because I wanted to learn, but because I wanted to be inside of that community. And that's something I just learned over time, that's what you need to do. And a couple of them, I made some amazing connections in there and it just helped me take everything to the next level. So, one of those communities is AdSkills, which is run by Justin Brooke. And he really takes it very seriously to help everybody in his mastermind and introduce people. So, he's introduced me to people that I would probably never be able to get in front of, ever. I'm not even sure how, but he's just able to do that. And it's really changed my life in terms of just helping me get into a different level of community, which helps you take your business to the next level. You're not just having a job anymore, you have a community, and it just opens up a lot of different possibilities. But it was because of how I positioned myself on purpose. I was very intentional about who I was networking with. Carissa Reiniger was another person, I became friends with her and I just wanted to work with her some more. And I was able to do that. And then she introduced me to other people too, again, who I would never have met, again, took me to another level. And that's more of how things developed for me.
Jeremy Cline 35:53
What does your business look like now in terms of you, your team, and how much you're involved in the day-to-day and how much you're more on the running the business, the strategy side?
Liana Ling 36:05
I didn't want to have a 50-person team. That's, again, when you're a young entrepreneur, you think about and dream about certain things, and have a vision and I figured out what it is that I want. So, I do have a team, but I have a virtual team, I have a small virtual team, lean and mean small team that we run with. And I really have worked hard. Again, I figured out one of my gifts was also outsourcing and creating processes, so that it's easier to onboard people and just to create all processes and automations, it just works better for everybody. And it took me a couple of years, I'm definitely at a place where, you know, unless it's a really busy time of year like it is during at the end of the year or something like that, I'm not having to stay up all night every single day and I'm not doing everything myself, I'm not in the business. Of course, I am in the business, but I'm able to extricate myself from a lot of it too and also focus on some other passions I have of mine, which is to do some more speaking, to build up my own kind of online business as well, so that I can pursue that as well. But what's nice is I can control it, I can control how many clients I bring on, I can control the type of clients, and I have much more confidence to say to people, 'Hey, we're not a great fit, but I know somebody else who might be, let me introduce you to them', or being able to say, 'Hey, you know what, I think we are a great fit. And I would love to work with you on this project that excites me as well.' That has really made a huge difference just in terms of the quality of life that I have, and just being so excited to work with people every single day.
Jeremy Cline 37:40
So, what's the vision for the business? What's the long-term plan? If you have one, I know some people don't.
Liana Ling 37:45
I think, again, it comes back to identity, I definitely have a lifestyle business, I don't know if I ever want to grow it into a business that might be something that somebody wants to buy. I don't think so. To me, it's more of a lifestyle business. And my vision is to keep that side of the business going and then to also cross off my bucket list. I help so many people launch their own products and their own systems and their own things, and I never got a chance to do mine. And I have mine sitting there. And that's something that I want to do. I said, 'This is it, I gotta do it. Even if it fails spectacularly, it doesn't matter, I want to be able to do that.' So, that's something that I'm doing right now, and will probably make sure that I get it done by next year. Just again to say that I've experienced it, because the whole reason for me to do this, as I mentioned, it was to support my own passions as well. And to support what I felt was my own calling. I have never exercised that, because I've always been taking care of everybody else, which is very common, but that's really what I want to do. And I've put structures in place to make sure that'll happen, making sure my mastermind members know, so we hold each other accountable, and making sure I've got a good coach to keep me on track. So, that type of thing.
Jeremy Cline 38:57
What is it that you're hoping to launch next year? Are you able to tell us any more about that? Or is that under wraps?
Liana Ling 39:02
Yeah, so it's not quite fully launched yet. But it's going to be an online membership, where it's almost like an incubator for other small businesses to come in as well, to grow. We're calling it The Smarter Society because we're helping you get smarter about how you run your business and how you can build your funnels and where to make adjustments and things like that. It's really something where myself and a couple of my friends who are also experts are going to be in there because we find that we love to help our clients. There's a lot of people who just want to be like, 'Hey, can you be my phone-a-friend? I'm in trouble.' Or they want our resources or something like that. So, we're just building a space where people can come in and be supported that way. But it hasn't launched yet. And that's the idea about it and it's definitely something that people have asked me to create as well, which is also good sign, as well. But I really have a passion to help others and I just try to find different ways to help them and I think that, especially in today's world, with podcasts and just the whole internet and social media platform, there's such an opportunity for us just to build that platform, so that we can get our message out there and just really share our gifts with others. And to really help as many people as possible. It always really stuck with me. I don't know if you've ever heard of him, but John Benson is one of the pre-eminent direct response copywriters in the world. And one thing that he told me and he gets passionate about is he said, 'If you have something that can help people, it's your moral responsibility to do everything you can to get that out to the world, to sell it to people to make sure that people have it.' It's almost like you have the cure for whatever, you won't keep it to yourself. You want to share it with everybody, right? You want as many people to get it, he says you should feel that way about what you provide, if you truly believe that what you have really helps people and makes a difference in their lives. And I know it does. So, I take that very seriously. And I think that's something that I've been remiss in doing. I think that's part of the next iteration of what I'm doing. And that's the thing with entrepreneurs, we have all these ideas, and it's about how you implement them. And I think, just have everything fit together, if that makes sense.
Jeremy Cline 41:06
I can't wait to see where it takes you next. You've mentioned a couple of resources already, particularly What Color Is Your Parachute?, which has come up before and I really should read it at some stage. Are there any other books, tools, resources, quotes that you've found particularly useful?
Liana Ling 41:21
Definitely. So, the one thing that really stuck with me all along is a book called Business Brilliant by Lewis Schiff. And in it is an exercise about how you figure out what you're really good at. And I highly recommend that to everybody. What you do is you reach out to 10 people who have known you in a work capacity and you ask them, what is it that I'm good at, better than anyone else around me? So, don't let them just give you vague answers. And you also should ponder that question as well. What is it that you're good at, better than everyone around you? And come up with that one thing. And that will help you figure out what's at your core, what is it you're really, really good at? Because this whole book is based on a survey of middle-class and highly successful people. And the successful people all had one thing they were good at, and the middle-class people all had 10 things they were good at. And just pursuing that question has been one of the biggest game changers in my life. And I wish I had known that, I think, when I graduated, and that would have really helped me, I think, figure out better what career path I should take or even what networks or where my place is in the world.
Jeremy Cline 42:28
I love the way that question's framed, actually, because I've done this sort of similar exercise where I went out to friends and said, what's my superpower? But framing it as, what am I better than anyone else, that's a really good way of framing that. So, I might have to do that. Liana, if people want to find you, get a hold of you, how can they do that?
Liana Ling 42:48
Sure. You can just go to my website, which is powerupstrategy.com.
Jeremy Cline 42:52
Brilliant, I will link it in my show notes. Liana, thank you so much for joining me. I can't wait to see what happens next.
Liana Ling 42:58
Okay. Thank you. It's a pleasure.
Jeremy Cline 43:00
Okay, hope you enjoyed that episode with Liana Ling. It was so interesting how the question of identity popped up time and time again during our conversation. Even though Liana had gone into law, perhaps with the thought that it wouldn't be her forever career, it didn't stop her forming a very strong identity with that career. And so, when she was made redundant, it caused, not exactly a breakdown, but certainly a period of some anxiety – shock, I think, was how she described it. But she did highlight a point which has come up before about there being transferable skills. Pretty much whatever you do, it will give you skills which you can transfer to something else, even if that something else seems to be completely different. In Liana's case, the skills she acquired as a lawyer included problem solving, trying to figure things out, and that's something which she's been able to transfer across into her new career in digital marketing.
Jeremy Cline 43:50
She also spoke about this exercise of asking your friends and colleagues, what are you good at that you're better than anyone else around you? If you've signed up for the two career happiness exercises on my website, you'll know that there's a third bonus exercise which has a very similar theme, where you go out and ask people what your superpower is. If you want to find those exercises, go onto the website, changeworklife.com and click on the tab Find Career Happiness!, and you will be able to sign up for the exercises there. But I really liked the way that it was framed in Liana's case – rather than what is your superpower, what is it that you do better than anyone else? It can sometimes be quite hard to find our strengths. And that's where it can be really worthwhile asking other people to help you find them.
Jeremy Cline 44:34
There are show notes for this episode on the website, changeworklife.com/76 for Episode 76. And there you'll find a summary of everything we've talked about, a full transcript of the interview and links to all the resources which Liana mentioned, as well as where you can find her. Also, whilst you're there, if you go to changeworklife.com/subscribe, then you'll find links to pretty much everywhere where you'll be able to find this podcast. So, you can find it on Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, I Heart Radio, Spotify, Stitcher, you name it, it should be on pretty much every platform out there. So, if you haven't already, do make sure you subscribe to the podcast. It's especially worth it because next week, we've got an episode where we are basically trying to work out, what is happiness? What is happiness for you? What does success look like for you? How do you define what is going to make you happy? It's one of those really important episodes, one of these foundational episodes, where you really got to step back and think, well, what do you want life to look like? So, do stick around, subscribe to the show, it's going to be a great interview and I can't wait to see you then. Cheers. Bye.
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