A YEAR OF WORKING FOR MYSELF - THE HIGHS AND LOWS
This post has been a long time coming! I had to share the truth because I think that sometimes the public perception of success is so far from what's really going on. Working for yourself is seriously testing, but also has some exceptional highs.
Recently it was the one year anniversary of being 'let go' from my full time office job. I hadn't realised but seriously, a LOT has happened in a year. For starters I tuned 30 which was pretty cool. I feel like I've come of age a little bit. I feel like I've learnt loads.
Warning - this post is not visual. It's pretty long. But if you want to know the real ish about starting your own business and making an income from blogging, then read on...
One big thing I have realised (before we get into it properly) is that you're probably here for the journey. At first when I started blogging I thought I had to seem like the expert, to talk in an authoritative tone of voice so that I'd have credibility And be taken seriously in the design world. But now I've realised the key to all this, and almost to the whole universe (shit, did I just take it deep?) is the journey.
Here's what it has looked like since August last year.
Get fired (essentially). Get a freelance gig doing bits of online marketing and website building for a fabulous interiors client. Soon, without warning, they drop me too. Wowzers, am I really unemployable?! What the hell is going on?! Have quite a big freak out. I've gone from earning £40k to £100 a day to now having no income. Shit shit shit. Freak out. A LOT.
A friend of mine who is a video director gets me a job on a music video shoot as the set stylist. My first paid bit of styling work! Get my first styling assisting gig on a big job for DFS through an old friend who knows a stylist. Get a taste for styling and want to do more of it. Pick up some marketing work for a lovely life coach which means I have a little to live on, and she also needs some brand images of her shot which means I get to style her shoot too. Little bits of money coming in from here and there as I'm doing quite a bit of non-interiors related copywriting and online marketing, so the freaking out has subsided but only marginally.
Get asked to assist the stylist on a 2 week job for M&S! Woop! During that 2 week job I find out I've been shortlisted for the Best Newcomer Award at the Amara Interior Blog Awards. October starts really bloody well!
I also discovered a really cool interior app called Neybers and decide to email the CEO out of the blue and pitch myself to work for them as a copywriter. Somehow, that works out and I have another bit of paid income. I guess it pays to do your research and put yourself out there. I'm doing alright at this point, earning quite a decent wage as a freelancer but the non-interiors work is taking up a lot of my non-mummy work days (and I don't have many non-mummy work days). Interiors work is getting pushed back a bit in the hunt for an income.
November also kicks off pretty well as I go along to the Amara Interior Blog awards desperate to win.... AND I ONLY BLOODY WELL GO AND WIN! I'm so, so excited and absolutely over the moon.
The rest of the month plods on pretty un-interiors related. Lots of freelance copywriting work but I have noticed that the PR from interiors brands are starting to get in touch about working with me on my blog, either to offer sponsored posts or offering products for review. I guess winning an award gives massive credibility in the world of blogging.
I get invited to my first press show. And it's at Heals so it feels rather good! The month again plods through with not much interiors stuff happening apart from I get emailed by my first potential client who wants me to decorate their teen daughters bedroom. YES! Finally I get to try out some ideas with a real paying client. My first paid interior design job has kicked off, which feels pretty amazing.
I get my second design consultation with a client who wants to update their living space which is used for raw food and yoga day retreats. Starting to really get a feel for interior design as an actual designer and love it. The more styling I do, the more I love styling and the more design I do the more I love design. Can I do both? I guess we will find out.
I'm learning more on the job than I could have ever learnt from studying. On that note, the open learning interior design diploma that I started in April has entirely ground to a halt. The experience and learning I am getting from beings hands on seems to be a lot more useful (I know how bad that sounds to educational purists). I'm also seriously short of time to work on interiors projects as copywriting is taking up all of my time. Me and hubby bicker a lot about how we can afford more childcare so that I can stop blogging till midnight every night and have more time to be proactive and find clients.
I have to drop one of my main copywriting clients for reasons I don't need to go into on here, but it was a huge decision as not only did I consider the client a friend (and still do!) it was also a loss of over half of my monthly income. Back to money being very tight again but know that it's the right thing to do as I want to start slimming down all work to ONLY be interiors related. That seems a long way off. A contact of mine who runs an estate agents is pitching me to clients to stage their houses for sale, so I go on a couple of consultations and win one. My teen bedroom project is under way and going well, the client is really happy!
I've been watching and learning loads about creating an income online and have started creating my own online product to roll out. I start filming a few videos to lead up to the sale of that and realise it's a lot of work. I'm investing money in video editing that I don't really have but I am seeing it as an investment. I am starting to hate copywriting and see anything that's non interiors related as something that's pulling me further away from my objectives. Funnily enough, later that month I get a call from my one remaining copywriting client (and basically 80% of my income at this point) and they have decided they no longer need me.
SHIT SHIT SHIT AGAIN. I have no solid income. How am I back here?!
After freaking out for a bit I realise that the universe has been listening to the signals I am putting out and is giving me what I want. Even if I wasn't quite financially ready for it to be right now. ARRGH!
On the plus side I am invited to curate a selection of products for Joss and Main to run as a special event sale (awesome!) and made.com plus another blogger have asked if they can come and shoot my flat for their websites. A few bits of paid work and sponsored posts are coming in via the blog so at least I am starting to get an income outside of copywriting. I haven't had any styling work for ages though. Eek!
I meet a guy who's heading up the new Paint by Conran launch and they want me to be involved as a consultant and stylist. That all came about from him seeing one of my youtube videos! How random... I guess they were worth spending time on after all.
I launch the video series and make a little bit of money from my online product but not enough to really consider it a success. On reflection I don't think any of it felt very authentic to me, but it was well worth a try.
I get offered a week of assisting on the M&S lookbook shoot which is great, but things are starting to get incredibly financially tight. To top it all off the staging client I was working for has had an offer on his house without me completing staging. Lesson learnt - have a contract in place that means I don't need to give him back his money if he makes the sale before I'm finished. Dammit. Why is it when you're skint more stuff happens to make you even more skint?!
Generally this month is bloody quiet. I receive an inquiry from a lady who wants me to e-design her office. It's not a full project but it;s design work and I'm really pleased to have it. Plus she's a total babe! I'm also doing bits of consultation work for Paint By Conran and have been asked to be the main stylist on their new campaign! Incredible and I'm so excited. I'll have loads of pics for my portfolio and it'll be great experience.
The shoot goes really well and even though I'm absolutely rushed off my feet (9 full room sets a day including painting, eek!) I am pleased with the majority of the looks. Can't wait to get the edited versions back.
The metro paper (probably the most read paper in London) do a double page feature on me! WHAAAAAAAT! This is absolutely incredible and is seriously helping to raise my profile. I receive an enquiry to be a new stylist for a fabric brand based in Glasgow. I'm absolutely thrilled as they invite me up to Glasgow for a day to meet the team and have a meeting about potentially working with them. I also get asked to contribute to a feature in the i paper from The Independent which is my first ever printed work!
It's my 30th birthday this month and I want to celebrate in style but have about a tenner to my name. Joy!
The rest of the month literally moves past without much happening. At All. As in no paid work whatsoever. Getting through July is going to be interesting...
I'm......so.....broke! I didn't do any paid work in June so I have next to nothing clearing this month. I start to realise how important and also non important money is in life. I stop stressing about the lack of it actually. I've got to things being pretty dire and have just realised that there is no point in getting stressed or frantically trying to email people to get work. The universe is doing its own thing and I'm happy to go along for the ride, even if it is painful. Oh I forgot to mention the birthday money that I got went on bills. That was joyous!
I have little but have realised it doesn't matter. Start doing things for free for people. I realise the value of things is the exchange of services and helping someone to achieve their desired outcome. I'm starting to perceive money as a secondary value that is of course necessary but shouldn't be the focus.
Weirdly, as soon as I have this realisation, loads of assisting work starts coming in. Go figure.
I don't get the Glasgow job.
I've had a brilliant August. I've started working alongside the fabulous 2LG who are amazing designers and I am learning so much, as well as having such a fun time. I had my second feature published in print. I have assisting work coming in and new clients calling. I'm so happy! Things are great. But not just because there's work coming in. I feel lighter and more open. I'm valuing things more than financially.
This is of course just scratching the surface of the last 12 months.
In the last year all I've learnt is that everything can change. Things that can seem dead certain will fall through. Things that seem like nothing become the most amazing opportunities. Every month has huge highs and huge lows. Sometimes even at the same time!
I've learnt that public perception of how 'easy' it is to work for yourself is completely wrong, usually. I've had people congratulating me on amazing things happening and at the same time I've literally had £5 in my account and I've been wondering how I will get to work the next day.
But that's just it isn't it... the highs don't exist without the lows. The broke-ness teaches you things. It's also not connected to success at all. I think in the past 12 months I've come a huge way, in terms of what I know about design, what I know about working for yourself and what I feel like I now know about life.
I'm sure the next year is going to be even more interesting...