How becoming my own boss has changed my life
Six months ago to the day, I was wracked with a mess of emotions. My savings account was empty, my current account was completely avoided, the temperature was stubbornly plummeting below zero and having the heating on became an increasingly stressful luxury.
This is a pretty normal description of a January for most adults. Hidden beneath the 'New Year's Resolutions' is the harsh reality that we spent far more than we should have in December and should probably detox before we do our bodies anymore damage.
But last January was different. Along with the financial and physical worries, I was working a notice period - and at the time, I didn't have enough work guaranteed to cover my bills when I walked out of the office for the last time.
Every day in January was spent trying to balance the worries of becoming self-employed with the excitement of what that meant.
I scoured the internet for blog posts on self-employment and starting a business that would make me feel better, ignoring the countless evidence there is over how many startups fail. Really, all I wanted was a crystal ball that flashed up with a banner saying "IT'S ALL GOING TO BE OK" when I asked it for my future.
Over the last six months, I've seen lots of my friends go through the same thing - albeit in slightly warmer temperatures.
"I really like where I work, but it's not for me... What if it turns out that was for me, though? And what if I starve? Or lose my house?" they'd ask, usually clutching to a glass of wine.
They wanted a crystal ball, too.
One worry that my newly self-employed friends have that I didn't consider (admittedly, rather naively) is whether or not self-employment is really what they want.
Since making the plunge myself, I've come across several people who've found that, actually, it wasn't.
I can't offer anyone a crystal ball that suggests whether or not being your own boss is a good idea. But I can tell you how it's changed my life, to give you a better idea on how it could change yours.
Let's get straight to the bit we all want to know, shall we? Yep, I've been one hell of a broke girl at points over the last 6 months. Some people didn't pay me on time and sometimes the extra work I was promised didn't come to fruition.
I really took having a set pay day for granted.
But through the sleepless nights worrying about whether or not I'll be able to get my bills paid on time, I've established loyal relationships with clients who ensure that I do. I've created a budget plan that has enabled me to keep swimming when I feel like I might drown and, finally, my savings account is starting to creep above zero.
Most importantly, I celebrate every invoice that gets paid because I earned it.
And I've never, ever missed rent.
My immune system has been up and down for years. I've always suffered from colds and my stomach's always been very precious. However, over the last 6 months - with the exception of getting hit by a cyclist and dislocating my knee - I've been healthier than ever.
There's a very clear reason for this: the moment I start sniffling more than I should or a temperature creeps in, I take a few hours off. I also give my body time to recover from a hangover or a sleepless night. The thing about being self-employed is that the time - most of the time - really is my own.
By respecting what my body needs, I've stopped ignoring it when it asks me for something and started giving it the nutrients and rest that every body deserves.
I've never really been able to master work-life balance and I'd be lying if I said that I've got it completely right. However, through becoming self-employed, I've learnt a lot more about who I am, which has brought a very suppressed part of me to light: I am a traveller.
Over the last few months alone, I've been to Berlin twice, Spain, Edinburgh and Bristol - and already have flights booked for a few more Berlin trips and multiple trips across UK cities that the City Girl Network will be expanding into over the rest of the year. I've barely spent a full month in Brighton and it's unlikely that I will for a while.
With all of this travelling, I'm finding a new burst for life, which is spilling into my life in Brighton. I'm taking more evenings off to drink wine with my very empowering circle of friends, I'm enjoying a leisurely breakfast a few times a week and wandering around the cities I'm in with my camera for a few hours each week, too.
Not being confined to an office schedule has enabled me to develop a schedule that works for me. The work I'm producing in both the City Girl Network and my client's marketing campaigns are more creative and effective than ever, and my life feels far more fulfilled than before.
Don't get me wrong, I'm still a workaholic - and I love to work, so I always will be. But I've become a lifeaholic, too.
If you read my last post on my battle with Imposter Syndrome, you'll be aware that self-confidence is an ongoing struggle. And it's here that I'd really like to whole-heartedly thank every single person who reached out after I published that post last week.
The thing about being self-employed is that there is no HR department to go to for advice when you're struggling with a client. There aren't any work colleagues that you can slack silly gifs to when you need to shed some humour on a tough situation at work. And there isn't a financial department sat in an office with you that you can ask about pensions, tax and overtime pay.
You are all of those things.
Becoming my own boss has catapulted me onto a fast-track course in how to respect, love and look after myself. To some degree, I do have the support from Entrepreneurial Spark with this, but they can only point me in the right direction of mentors and mindfulness classes I should go to. The rest is up to me.
Like I said last week, I do feel like an imposter most of the time. But what's changed in the last six months is that I've had to implement strategies to handle those self-limiting beliefs, get rid of any toxic influences and be accountable to myself.
I'm the boss, after all.
Have you become your own boss recently? What's changed for you? I'd love to hear your story.
Photos were taken by Dan Wheale this afternoon, when I decided to take some time off to venture around Brighton - just because I can.