Freelance and living the dream: the transition and your questions answered
When Han Meets World began just under three years ago, I knew that this feeling was where I wanted to get to. The feeling of freedom to choose exactly the next step I wanted next. No more paying dues or conforming because of ‘my age’ or ‘experience’.
Being ‘realistic’ about your dreams
The fancy dream result does not always happen overnight. Nine times out of ten we have to just pick a place to start and work for it with an unshakeable belief that we can do it. A couple of years ago, I made the decision to pick a job that was vaguely in the industry I wanted to be in and learn from it, no matter what the pay was or the attitude of the people around me. I progressed quicker than I expected and learned a lot, but I wasn’t happy. I was working any time from 7am to 11pm for minimal money and felt like I had no time to work on my own projects. When that contract ended, someone suggested I try working in a corporate environment because ‘I’d be good at it.’ I wasn’t. I don’t think I’ve ever hidden myself in plain sight more. I tried ‘settling down’ and living like a lot of people around me. Going to the office and coming home to just cook dinner and watch TV with my housemates. But I was not following my joy. It may be joy for others. But not for me.
‘The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.”
But I tried! And I regret nothing. Because in stamping out the ‘what if’s’ and being realistic, it got me to where I needed to be. You may want Z, but sometimes you have to follow steps A and B and get through steps M and N to prove to yourself that it’s what you wanted.
Plus they don’t always happen at once. Sometimes you have to focus on one at a time. Whether it be moving into a nicer flat or trying to start an online shop. It doesn’t happen all at once.
When to write the rules for your life
In September, I was listening to an audio book with Mumma T. The book asked you to write down everything you wanted in your life. The big dreams and desires and ‘wouldn’t it be great if I had’s. Personally I had a glittering list.
Then it asked you to be honest with yourself and cross out anything that you wanted for the ego. Bye bye town car and fancy flat in Milan.
*Sidenote: the ego is not a negative thing! But you can typically tell when you are doing something because it makes your heart sing or simply makes you look good. I may go for those two examples in the future… However, we know that the ego doesn’t sustain a dream for long.
It will probably come as no shock to the readers of a couple of years that travel stayed untouched as the top motivator for me. When it really comes down to it, all I want to in life is travel and work. (I don’t know about you, but I would be seriously bored if I didn’t have something to work on).
Once I discovered this, it was like something clicked. I got to planning further trips away on weekends and clearing out anything that felt like an ego purchase or keep. I scrapped ideas that made no sense and put myself in experiences that felt like joy to me. Whether that was an event, a dinner or piece of clothing.
Unknowingly, I was beginning to write the rules for my life. If something or someone felt right to be around, I explored further. If I felt ick or like something no longer fitted, I didn’t pick it up again or let it be.
At Christmas I could no longer hide that my life no longer felt like mine. Like a skin that I was quickly outgrowing. (Not that I’m better than it, it just didn’t work for me). The only way I was going to feel the freedom I truly desired was to make some seriously big leaps.
For me, I knew that freelancing was the only way I was going to be able to live the life of work and travel that I wanted. To feel free every day and make the choices I wanted, whenever I wanted. Plus, this was essentially the whole reason I began Han Meets World in the first place! To live the dream.
Giving my notice for my job and my flat made me feel the sickest and dizziest I have ever felt. Giving up those safety nets? Why would anyone do that!? (Lol). I had to get Mumma T to sit across from me while I pressed send on the first - did I mention I’m closer to 30 than 20 now…
I had been half-heartedly applying for other jobs in the couple of months that led to me finally giving my notice, but just like Rachel in Friends, I needed ‘The Fear’ to finally get my butt in gear and take some serious steps.
I agreed with Mumma T that I would give my notice once I got my first freelance client. Which happened way quicker than I thought it would. So I gave my notice in.
The funny thing is, my first client was a scammer. They used fake emails and asked me to wire them money so I could ‘begin’. I freaked out.
Know your worth
The first couple of days back in work, before the rest of the team was given the news, I wondered if I had made a mistake. I went to the office, came home and wallowed. What the hell was I doing? Who did I think I was trying to break out on my own?!
Then as business as usual kicked in and the news finally spread, I knew I had made the right decision. I knew I was capable of more. For myself. I might be going into complete unknown, but I felt the most alive I had felt in about a year. Now that I could be myself without being worried it could get me in trouble or isolated. Provide the worth I know I am capable of giving in the way I know I can.
One of the biggest takeaways from this year has been to understand that we provide value in different ways. What one person’s view of value is not necessarily the same as the next. No one is wrong or right, it’s just different perspectives.
The notice period
For bloggers and entrepreneurs, this is not news. In the month that I served my notice, people around me of course asked questions about where I was going on to next. To which I would mention that I had projects and interested parties in my work lined up. Which was true and nothing different from what I had been doing for the last couple of years. Working my day job and then working on projects in the evening. Sometimes paid, sometimes not. The only new thing I was going to have to do was make a little more effort to create the paid work. If people were interested, I’d talk a little more about the projects in question like designing websites, press trips and resources I wanted to create.
Overall though, the hilarious thing about this was that you would have thought I was jumping off a cliff. Like, if I wasn't going into another office job, I was walking into a lion’s den voluntarily.
“I couldn’t do it.”
“You’re so brave!”
“She’s exploring other career avenues.”
Cool, thanks guys! I’m smiling while typing this because I guess, in a way, it is brave. Not many would choose to live life on their own terms. It’s much safer to play by the rules we’ve been raised to follow, right?
But with the tumultuous political storms spreading across the UK and the general economical climate looking like it is at the moment, is this really security anymore? What does security even mean anymore?
A new chapter
While I left what will (fingers crossed) be my last ‘nine to five’ job with no strong leads, leaving the office that last day was like a weight off of my shoulders. Taking the busy tube home with other commuters, I grabbed some Friday food and took that night off. (Hey! I’d been out every night that week - including up all night for Budapest).
Then, the next day (Saturday) I made a list of everything that I needed to sort and take action on. This included ways that I was going to create money and sorting out my environment.
It’s tougher to move forward when your surroundings still fit with your old ways of thinking. I did away with a pinboard I used as a vision board and an old frame that used to hold a picture from an old job. I still have the image and I’ll still use visuals to create my goals. But in order to go location independent, I was going to need to adapt these things to fit with that lifestyle. Plus, I keep all books and magazines on my phone now anyway.
That first weekend was spent writing lists, then allocating them to days to complete those tasks and then doing them. Clearing my mind and organising myself early was one of the best choices I made.
It wasn’t until the first Monday after that I got to applying for jobs.
The general advice that freelancers give you is to find balance. So of course I ignored that and worked 14 hour days the first week. Picking my phone up as soon as I woke up and not stopping until 11pm/midnight.
All which meant I got a cold the second week - and it’s still not gone.
While I recommend finding a balance between work and play, there is a reason that people say that freelancing and entrepreneurialism isn’t for everyone. It DOES require more work, effort and willpower. Because you have no one but yourself in the tough times to get you through. I am fortunate enough to have some very supportive people around me, but it’s just me who can take the steps to get the work. To get the work done. To find more of it.
So while a balance is healthy, what that balance looks like is individual to everyone. For example, while I might have had a cold all week, applying for work like crazy in the first week meant that I was more relaxed in the second week when I had interviews and offers coming in. I finally relaxed this Friday just gone because I was starting to see progress and my ‘big’ to do list was diminishing again to a point where this morning I was sat with a gaping hole of nothing and some time to reflect.
I don’t know about yours, but my internal dialogue is a literal head case at times. I don’t recommend this necessarily, but I find that the only way I can get that voice to shush is to go crazy on taking action.
The internal dialogue
That little voice is going to kick and scream when you take big scary leaps. Mine was so loud with fear and stress the first few days that I got nosebleeds. Yup.
But what I don’t recommend, is shutting it out or trying to ignore it. When I listened to it, all it tried to actually feebly say was “I’m scared.” To which my response “oh, really!? That’s all.” All that nervousness and nosebleeds for that?! And back to the action taking.
“Do not judge your beginning by someone else’ middle or end.”
The first few days were the toughest. Taking one task at a time and working until it began rolling, rather than trying everything at the same time and nothing happening at all or at least very slowly. Investing the money I used to spend on nights out on a new website and the money I used to spend on Pret lunches on business cards.
Being kind to myself. That was a tough one! It was hard at first not to beat myself up about not having the following, the clients or the money. It took some kind and proactive self-talk and finding solutions that worked for me personally.
Would I sleep better if I worked for a couple of extra hours this evening? Yes.
Would I feel better if I went and worked in a coffee shop instead of the living room? Yes.
Do I need five minutes of YouTube to refocus? Yes, I’ll set the timer now.
These methods will not work for everyone, but it’s how I got myself through the torture of the first couple of weeks. This and talking to people I trust.
Honestly, there’s nothing more reassuring than the encouraging words of a friend
Another learning curve. Finding those people you can confide in when you are feeling shaky is rudimental to getting through those early weeks. I will be the first person to admit that I find it hard to be vulnerable. Verbalising that I am scared and whether I’ll make it.
But the people you want around you are those are those who will then say to you: “I get it and it will happen though. I believe in you and I am excited for you.” (Thank you to those people if you are reading!).
Some will tell you that it took them weeks or months before they saw returns - which scared the s*** out of me. I didn’t have months! I had five weeks to seriously make miracles happen.
By the end of week two though, I had results. I was turning down interviews that were office-based and ignoring any work that wanted less pay. Saying yes to things that took me that next step towards the life I wanted and no to anything that I didn’t want to associate with me anymore.
I’ve made a little bit of money already and I’m also fortunate enough to have saved a little to help me out in the next couple of months if necessary. We also quickly found someone to replace me in my flat and now all that is left is to give my all in making this life work.
Free and living the dream
Who would I be if I put all of my eggs in one basket? Not me, that’s for sure.
No, while I feel free, week three will be spent giving my all to the yes’ and still pitching for more work. As well as reflecting on the bigger picture and moving the house bills out of my name.
I’m no longer the early twenty-something with wide eyes and big dreams of ‘living the London life. So what does life look like next?
That’s rhetorical because I am still not fully sure. What I am sure of is that I once again would not rather be anywhere else. Maybe I reached this space a little later than expected - apparently a lot of people thought I was freelance already!?
What I do know is that this time, as opposed to a year ago, is that there is no other route that I would rather be taking. No ‘what ifs’ or ‘buts’. If it happens that I find myself a nice little base somewhere else then fine, but at least I will no longer be dreaming and have lived it.
Which is where I will leave the story for the moment.
Got any other questions? Let me know!