Theme: A few of my favourite things
So it’s the beginning of September. The kids are back at school, Facebook is awash with photos of kiddies in their new uniforms, the teachers are mourning their holidays and I am…celebrating.
This week officially marks one year since I started working for myself full time as a contractor.
One year of my own business.
One year of sanity (ish).
I kind of fell into a contracting role after handing in my notice for my previous full-time permanent role and this opportunity falling into my inbox on the same day. And what a rollercoaster year it has been.
To be honest, it feels like it’s been 6 months, maximum. I cannot fathom how I have been self-employed for a year, or that I am still going, I am fabulously content and things are cotinually on the up. I have a great range of projects to work on, I am continuing to develop my skills and I have been able to rebuild a lot of self-confidence.
Sure, there have been bumps and frustrations along the way. But as cliche as it is, I honestly think those bumps have made me stronger. Truth be told, so far setting out on my own has been remarkably easier than I thought. So being ever the anxious rabbit, I am still waiting for the catch… let’s hope it doesn’t make itself known.
The uncertainty of a regular wage (I am terrible with money) plus the inevitable cabin fever that come with working from home were strong enough fear factors to keep me chained to a permanent desk, regardless of much I was struggling. It was a desk where I got increasingly stressed, anxious, depressed and emotional with every passing day. I was running myself into the ground - and for what? No chance of progression, lots of dashed dreams and ambition, no choice or control in what I did, and a daily lowering of confidence.
In reality being self-employed has so far been as far removed from both my expectations and my previous roles as it could be. I have so much work I am booked up until 2020, and if things go well with current contracts, beyond that. And have not once had to ‘pitch’. Just lovely informal interviews where I was made to feel at ease and could actually sell myself. Be me.
Who knew that wasn’t a bad thing?
After years of being made to feel like I should be someone else (I still have no idea who), I lost all sense of who I was, at least professionally.
So as I sit here with my ‘secco celebrating, I thought I would reflect back on this fantastic year and owning my own business, which has certainly become one of my favourite things.
So in a true TV style recap, here are my ‘best bits’ about working for myself.
1. I can be myself
As I mentioned, for years I feel like I have had to pretend to be someone else. But now working for myself I can be the real me, and if people don’t like it, then they don’t have to like/follow/hire me. In reality, since I have had this realisation I have been so much more relaxed, which has clearly come across in meetings and interviews and I am inundated with work. And I am getting such good response to my writing, with people feeling the genuine me coming through. Yay. Go me.
2. I have a fabulous network
I have found a great group of people that give me inspiration daily on LinkedIn, Twitter and a lovely network in our #write52 crew. When working from home in the back bedroom they are often your only sense of company and interaction in a day so it is good to get involved and enjoy the camaraderie. And they are there to offer advice and support whenever you need, and sometime before you even realise you needed it.
The best ones are those that realise not all conversations have to be about work. Gotta love a network where you discuss your favourite biscuits on a weekly basis.
3. Working from home
All sense of sanity will has gone out of the window since WFH.
Seriously, I have no concept of day/time/month or anything anymore. Days, evenings and weekends merge and I can manic with work one minute when all your clients send feedback at the same time, then potentially quiet the next day whilst waiting for more to come through.
When I am not working, I am thinking about it. I have to try to live off my chaps schedule, but then it throws me as his isn’t always standard 9-5. I just have to hope reminders pop up at the right time to remind me to go places. So far, so good.
Oh, and I often lose the ability to speak after spending whole days only talking to myself. In one conversation with a client I had to apologise for my drivel as I had barely spoken to anyone in days and could no longer form words and coherent sentences. Luckily, he totally got this and told me to go talk to my rabbits more. Shame they don’t offer much in the way of conversation.
But I love it. I have created my own little office space in the back bedroom, with a view of the bunnies and surrounded by my books. I am sneaking little bits of decor in weekly and making it feel really calm and warm.
4. The discovery and learning
So I could get all philosophical here and talk about how much I have learnt about myself. Which would be appropriate and could probably fill a War and Peace length post. However, I am talking here in terms of skills.
When you work for yourself you don’t have Bob on the next desk to ask how to do something. If you don’t know you have to find out for yourself or teach yourself. But this to me is empowering. I have always liked working things out for myself, and as a byproduct it does instil some self-confidence. I can be tiny things, such as a shortcut you never knew existed, or something much more significant. Either way, I am constantly learning.
I have also learnt so much about stuff that I never knew I’d need to know, such as accounting (mostly - get someone to do it for you), tax, where to network and source contracts, and much more.
Being an eternal student I will never stop learning. But I really have experimented this last year, throwing myself into any new skills I could develop, especially with new types of writing. And the response has been overwhelming and supportive, particularly in regards to my blog posts.
So I signed up to #write52.
I have been on courses.
I have learnt new skills that I never thought I would attempt (hello HTML and learning Finnish!).
I do love any excuse to learn, and I am finding many more now than I ever did.
And I am learning for me, not for anyone else. How empowering!
5. I did that!
Reflecting on my achievements really has been key for me in building some confidence.
It is so important to look at how far you have come, what you have learnt, the connections you have made and how you have grown as a person. YOU have done this, no-one else. Stop giving others the credit or putting yourself down. (Yes I am talking to myself again here).
Take a compliment woman!
Celebrate the good feedback (which I get so much more of now it comes direct to me and not the managers).
Recognise the wins.
You did all of this.
6. My career is dictated by me
What a revelation this is. I am no longer at the behest of anyone deciding what is ‘best’ for me (i.e. what suits them).
I have the skills now to determine my own direction and go with it.
Though this can be daunting at times and sometime you just want someone to make a decision for you, I have mostly relished the power to make decisions and develop myself as I want, not what will suit others needs or how they can get the most out of me, (usually for no, or little, benefit to me).
7. Variety is the spice of life
The variety of working on different topics, for different agencies and interacting with a variety of people has proven key to my enjoyment. Because I also have the unique position of working in more than one field, to switch between elearning, content and graphics really piques my interest and keeps me going. And occasionally I get projects where I can merge all three. Being able to offer that combination has really helped my customers too.
Working, for me.
Ultimately, this way of working works for me. The flexibility in hours, the variety of content and projects, the ability to walk away if unhappy. It all adds up to a much happier me. And to think I am doing all this for a wage more than double what I was on in full-time permanent work. Money has never been the key motivator for me, it was more about development and progression, though money does generally go hand in hand with that. (I could be earning more if I wasn’t such a wimp when it comes to conversations about rates).
Funnily enough since I have been working for myself I have only had 2 days off sick, my anxiety has dropped massively, my sleep has improved, my muscles have relaxed and my daily pain has reduced. Is this a coincidence? I think not.
Here’s to year 2, which is already shaping up to be a good one.
Long live UnlikelyGenius.