It’s been two whole years to the day since I packed up my desk at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and turned my back on the traditional 9-5 working week.
My past life of booking meetings, writing reports, packing event boxes & counting down the clock until 5pm seem like a lifetime ago. And as the TimeHop came up on my Facebook this week to alert me of this great, momentus anniversary(!), I’ve found myself reflecting on the past two years & the things I’ve learnt about myself and the world of self-employment.
Before I jump into that, for those of you that don’t know the drill; I quit Battersea in a flurry and decided (with much persuasion from my amazing husband) to start a dog care service. Yes I know, wild. The Paws Club Rayleigh was born and it quite quickly snowballed into a lovely success story. On the side, I took on some freelance work as and when it came along. Mostly Social Media Management with a bit of Graphic Design thrown in.
I’ve been incredibly lucky that it really did all just work out tickety boo. It’s been the most excellent two years. Here’s some things I’ve learnt along the way:
Self Employment can be a lonely place
Possibly one of the only things I miss about a traditional 9-5 job is the sense of working in a team.
In my first events job, I absolutely thrived on being part of this awesome, well oiled marketing team. We were a gang. We had each others backs. We had ‘in’ jokes. We could finish each others sentences.
I loved that.
Plus the fact you had pals to natter all day long to about all the intricacies of life – your woes, your highs, your funny stories that probably weren’t even that funny.
And now I can go pretty much all day without uttering a word to a single human being. Sure, I talk to the dogs (more often that I’d like to admit). But Max can always tell when I’ve been starved of human interaction when he returns home and I talk solidly without breathing for 10 minutes straight.
But in all honesty, I can say hand on heart, I really don’t mind. I’ve surprised myself that I can cope pretty well working on my own. And most of all, it’s made me appreciate time with my friends more. I value the simple art of conversation with pals a hell of a lot more than I used to.
Nobody really understands what I do. But that’s okay.
Probably one of the most frustrating and toe curling things about being self-employed is the dreaded question; ‘So what do you do?’
The moment the words ‘Pet care service’ or ‘I look after dogs’ tumbles out of my mouth, I’m usually met with a look of confusion. Followed by some version of ‘And you do that full time, do you?’ or ‘You do okay from that, do you?‘ which really means ‘And you make money from that, do you?’
***insert confused emoji here***
And what I feel like screaming from the rooftops is:
‘YES DORIS I DO. I DO BLOODY WELL FROM IT. IT’S A THRIVING BUSINESS WHICH EARNS BETTER DOLLAR THAN I EVER MADE IN LONDON.’
But apparently talking directly about earnings is rude so I nod really, really enthusiastically and show them photos of the many dogs on my Instagram to try to reiterate that I don’t just ‘walk a few dogs’ for a living.
I work 7 days a week. I look after up to 7 dogs at a time. I’m responsible for the health & wellbeing of each and every one of the 100+ dogs that come in and out of our house every year. I lose countless hours of sleep settling puppies through the night and clear up sick and poop and wee on a weekly basis. I undertake basic training with all the hounds so they’ll sit on command and pose for endless photos for me in varying adorable scenes. I walk for a minimum of two hours a day and commit to memory the many different meal plans and needs that each of our dogs has.
But that’s just too much to explain to Doris in one sitting so I let people blissfully think I’m some kinda stay at home mum without the baby.
Bottom line is; it really doesn’t matter what I do for a living. All you need to know is that I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.
Self Employment / Freelancing is a lifestyle choice
The gift of self employment is the flexibility it gives you. The opportunity to go ‘fuck it I’m gonna take that holiday’ or ‘you know what, I really don’t feel like doing that work/taking that job/carrying on with this client’.
So yeah okay, financial restraints obviously exist, but once you find yourself in a good groove of work you are entirely your own boss and you’re left to decide the type of hours you’d like to work and the type of work you want to do. It’s a pretty beautiful and blissful place to be.
The flipside is this.
Yes, as a freelancer or a self employed person you’ve absolutely obliterated the 9-5. Kapow. It doesn’t exist. But if you’re really passionate about your business and what you do (which if you’re not, I’m sure it’s not going well for you anyway), then you find yourself working all the hours under the sun anyway. Evenings, weekends, during your favourite drama on TV. Because you want it to work. You want to chuck everything at it.
If you want a job that means switching off at 5pm on a Friday and not having a care until Monday, the self-employed/freelance life probably isn’t for you.
Every job, no matter what you do, will have good & bad days.
If I could have a pound for every message I’ve received on Instagram or the amount of times I’ve heard ‘Omg you have the best job ever’ then I could pack every bit of work in and be a millionaire. Be lush. (Slight exaggeration but you catch my drift).
I always, always reply with ‘it has it’s good & bad days, just like any other job’.
Not only does every job have good and bad days, but every job also has its pro’s & con’s.
So yes I get to cuddle adorable dogs every day and I don’t have to get out of my PJs until 10am if I really don’t want to. And yes I don’t have a boss to answer to and I spend every day of the week playing with puppies.
But the stuff you don’t see is the walking in the pouring rain, the 6 dogs running riot around my house covered head to toe in mud, the parties I miss out on because I’m working weekends. The 9pm vet visits because a pair of beagles have literally eaten an entire coat and it’s contents. The shitzu with a scabby vajayjay that needs to be bathed morning and night. The pack of four poodles that keep screaming like a pack of banshees every hour of the night.
The list is endless and yes I have some flipping ace stories to tell.
Doesn’t matter what you do; you’ll always have good & bad days. But I’ve learnt that the bad days always, always pass.
Believe in yourself or no one else will.
The biggest thing going self-employed has taught me is self belief is everything.
I never once considered that The Paws Club wouldn’t work. Mainly because I’d done my homework – I’d written a business plan and undertaken my market research. I knew what I was getting myself into. But also because I had such a belief in the idea that I think everyone else believed in it too. I was just so bloody passionate about it. I could visualise it completely.
The freelance side of things has always been more difficult for me, and Max still continuously tells me to stop selling myself short and recognise the different areas of expertise I have. I’m still working on this area of belief but I know I’ll get there eventually.
But the bottom line is; if you believe you can do something then you’re basically half way there.
So happy ‘working for myself’ anniversary to me. Not sure if this rambling list is of interest to anyone but quite honestly, I’ve missed writing. I have a few trips coming up so I’ll be putting together a travel series over the next few months. Travel blogging is 100% my favourite thing to write so keep your eyes peeled for that.