It’s been two years since I turned to my boss and said “you can take your job and shove it, I ain’t working here no more!” (or words to that effect). Since then I’ve been working as a self employed freelance writer, working remotely and travelling the world. Well. Europe.
Coincidentally, Giff Gaff are running a campaign that celebrates people who are their own boss. I’ve had a bit of blogger’s block recently, so I decided to join in and tell you all about how my life got flipped turned upside down when I ditched a lifestyle that wasn’t working for me and went in search of one that does. You can read more about the campaign over on their blog, and you can read all about me being the bossy-boss right here!
Working for a big corporate company was very different from the media agency where I cut my teeth. They say your friends make your workplace bearable, and unfortunately there were only a handful of people that I was able to gel with. So when I read The Four Hour Work Week during a holiday in the Algarve, I made the decision: I was going to become my own boss!
James agreed that this was an excellent idea, and we decided to use the opportunity to travel. We started putting the plan into action in October 2011. We decided that we wanted to stay in Europe, but that can be pretty dear. Since we weren’t sure where our money was going to come from, we had to look at cheap living options. That’s when we discovered house sitting. In exchange for minding people’s homes and pets, you get to live in their house for free. All the comfort of home, without a staggering rent bill. Perfect! We signed up to a couple of house sitting websites, applied for a few assignments, and set a date for leaving Edinburgh: the 25th July 2012, two days after my best friend’s wedding.
Did I plan carefully? Did I heck! While James beavered away for months laying down the ground work for projects that would earn him money while we were travelling, I just kept putting it off. I was working all day, after all, and wanted to spend my down time doing fun things like eating chips with my flatmate or drinking wine with my pals. I had some vague notion that my blog would make me some money, and at one point I was going to set up a hen party planning website and do a bit of drop-shipping. In the meantime, I did a bit of freelance writing. Just to tide me over…
…and funnily enough, that’s what stuck.
I started out with two clients: the hip media agency I used to work for, and the awesome travel start-up that one of my friends worked at. I also did a bit of writing for Bite Magazine, although that was unpaid (unless you count the free food and drink, which was certainly a perk!). Once we made it to France, I started picking up more clients and before I knew it I was working eight hour days again. The difference was that I wasn’t having to drag myself out of bed at the ungodly hour of 8am to catch a horrible bus into an office that I hated. I could now wake up at a time that felt natural to me, and work until I was done: instead of until the clock said I could go home.
One year in, James and I were both making enough money to ditch house sitting and go back to renting. Don’t get me wrong, house sitting is great, but it’s hard to concentrate 100% on your own projects when you have dogs to walk, cats to entertain, and gigantic lawns to mow. It’s also nice to have your own place, however temporary. Although I do miss those alpacas…
The thing about being your own boss is that you have to be strict with yourself. At first I was a terrible boss and didn’t crack the whip. I’d find myself lazing on the bed reading A Song of Ice and Fire when I should have been building that bloody hen party website. I’d find myself taking afternoon naps in the sunshine with Stephen King instead of trying to monetise my blog (which, by the way, I still haven’t done). Instead of being like “what are you doing?! Get back to work!” I just shrugged my shoulders.
Once I started gaining more clients, roughly two months after going freelance, my boss skills started to kick in. The problem was, I was a bit idealistic. There was no routine: “Let’s start work at 5pm and spend the day reading!” “Let’s work on Sundays and take a day off mid-week!” No. That’s silly. It’s 9-5, Monday to Friday, for a reason.
It took me a good six months to realise this, but once I injected some routine into my life I wondered why I hadn’t done it earlier. My clients all work standard hours, and if I do too it means that I can respond to their requests right away. Nothing beats that Friday feeling, and by making the decision to work Monday to Friday I got my weekend back.
The difference that being my own boss has made to my work ethic is amazing. I always thought I wasn’t a very motivated or proactive person, but these days I’m totally committed to sitting down and getting on with it. I take pride in what I do, even if most people I know don’t fully understand what being a freelancer means. I think most of my friends think I’m just gallivanting around Europe having a whale of a time, when most days are spent typing away and working my butt off just like they are. The difference is they’re doing it in an office, I’m doing it at the kitchen table in Tarbes, Lisbon, Berlin, or wherever I happen to be.
Basically, I feel really lucky to be doing what I’m doing. I took a leap into the unknown and landed on my feet. My only regret is that I didn’t take control of my life sooner.