Freelancing gives me the life I want
Transitioning from full-time employment to running my digital communications consultancy was a long personal journey.
For years I had compromised on my values. I found myself running away from jobs and into new ones hoping they would fulfil my needs and give me a sense of purpose. And when they didn’t, I felt lost and disappointed. I tried to fit within the 9–5 one job office model, until I finally accepted it wasn’t for me.
I wasn’t searching for a job I wanted to go to everyday, but a lifestyle I wanted to live. I came to this conclusion late last year when I had reached a point in my life where something had to change.
At the time I was exhausted working full-time and not enjoying it. I would have found a new job. But I was already working for three different organisations, studying, consulting and writing. I was looking for something but not finding it!
So I spent a long few weeks trying to figure out answers to hard questions: What did I value? What would my perfect day be? What inspired me? And how could I meet my needs in a sustainable way?
I learnt I valued variety, uncertainty, creativity, collaboration and feeling appreciated. This was what I was missing in my work. This knowledge about myself gave me the foundations I needed to build my new life. I had always dreamt of working for myself and running my own business.
But I always dismissed this dream believing that I was too young, not experienced enough, and didn’t have networks to lean on. I decided these fears weren’t going to hold me back anymore and I set out to prove myself wrong.
I started networking. I used this time to find people who had the same passions as me. I learnt about different projects, explored new ideas, and refined what goals I was working towards. I also started to take on small writing and communication projects to grow my clientele base and build my portfolio.
This also gave me a chance to see if the balance of activities gave me the purpose and fulfilment I had been searching for. And they did. Within a few weeks I was receiving positive feedback, getting offers and people were coming to me for advice.
Now the only fear to overcome was that I wasn’t prepared for the freelance and consulting life. I didn’t want to be one of those people who were more stressed and exhausted than when they were working a 9–5 office job.
If I was going to work for myself I wanted it to support my new balanced lifestyle. I reduced my hours to part-time and used Fridays to trial my perfect day at work. I found out what I loved to do (mix-up my work space and mentor people) and what I avoided doing (sitting at my computer for long periods and writing emails).
This helped me design my daily schedule and work plan, which I used to make sure I was meeting my needs in a sustainable way.
I also spent time building myself a creative space, getting a temporary website ready, my finances in order, designing business cards, and a working with a lawyer to draw up a contract template. This gave me a chance to explore my business strengths and weakness and helped me define what services I was going to offer.
It was at this stage I realised I was committed to making the transition, so I resigned. From here I started telling everyone that I was a freelance writer and communications consultant. The final preparation I did was writing down my values and what I wouldn’t compromise on.
I made a promise to take care of myself above all else. So you won’t find me working 18 hour days, eating take away for dinner and undervaluing my work. That was the old me.
On my final day at work people asked if I was scared and for once I wasn’t. It wasn’t a massive relief like when I had left other jobs, either. I was completely calm. I felt happier than I ever had before. And this happiness is still here four months in.
Of course there are days when I wish I had more work and then I remind myself that the worst case scenario is I have to get a part-time job to pay the bills. And that’s ok with me.
For me, the transition process was never about leaving one job and starting another. It was about accepting myself and not compromising on my values. Until I did that, no job or career would be able to support me to live the life I want.
This piece was originally written for and is featured on Feeling Purpose.