I would liken leaving my permanent job to go freelance with no savings and much debt behind me to transforming into a man, getting my knob out and lowering it slowly but certainly into a tank of ravenous pirañas. That is to say, scary as hell and never being quite sure how I got myself into this position.
For various reasons, I could not do my job any more. I’d turned into a shell of a person, a far cry from the woman who got up and ate doubt for breakfast every day. Who wasn’t afraid to stand out in a crowd because she was sure of herself and felt unstoppable. Suddenly my confidence had been totally swiped. Hollowed out like an empty pomegranate, robbed of all its beautiful jewelled and juicy fruit. I felt like for the last few years my work was a tightrope I’d been balancing on over the aforementioned piraña tank – safe for now, but anything could tip me. I felt like I was lucky – even unworthy – of having kept my balance for all that time. I should’ve been eaten up ages ago.
Those feelings are a real struggle when – rightly or wrongly – you equate much of what makes up you as a person to the kind of work you do, and how well you do it. I’m officially in my late twenties and still firmly in the frame of mind that I’d rather pursue a career than a family. So when my career very clearly went tits up, I barely recognised myself. Everything I thought I was, I suddenly wasn’t. Pride departed me and my confidence went up in smoke overnight, leaving me with an identity crisis, debt worries and some bloody risky decisions to make. I was looking for a cure to losing my identity and I didn’t know where to turn.
I left my job because if I didn’t, the feelings of being deskilled and worthless were going to cause more and more damage. So I did it. In four days, I’d made my plans, contacted everyone I knew, found myself enough clients to cover my rent and boom. I was gone.
At the time I thought that was going to be the hardest part; saying farewell to what caused all of the above. Mate. It was not. Running a business is hard and I needed a lot of help. A LOT of help. Because what hadn’t occurred to me was what would happen when I was finally left alone with my business, facing up to a life that literally was going to be what I made of it, and having no idea where to even start because I didn’t know myself any more. Stressful.
An utterly enormous amount of people helped me. Too many to list here. But there are some who, without being able to lean on them for support, I’d still be very, very lost.
My best friends
One of them I texted in a frenzy, another I cornered in the work stationary cupboard and the other I emailed from three desks away in the office to tell them I had decided to fly solo. Like an amazing four-way yin-yang, they separately managed to completely unite their efforts in getting me prepared and positive about the whole thing.
So Dee: Thanks for just saying “well yeah. You should’ve done this ages ago“. That really helped curb the anxiety.
Sam: Cheers for getting people sending me work literally within seconds of telling you this information, and also for helping me make a money contingency plan.
John: I still need to give you back the books and everything else you lent me (soz). But thank you so much for encouraging me and inspiring me with wise words from shit-hot women. They’ve stuck with me.
Michelle: For taking me in on a Saturday night while you were trying to plan your wedding, designing me a logo for nothing and letting me loose on my own lovely website theme. You made this really real in a few hours. You’re a genius.
Emma Ward, freelancer coach extraordinaire, thanks for letting me fling a load of confused shit into an email and send it to you. And then thanks for making sense of it and convincing me to make the scariest leap of my life. Had you not told me to, I wouldn’t have, and I don’t think I’d have half as much to be grateful for right now if you hadn’t given me that nudge.
My first clients
It’s not often a dream like getting to work with an organisation you’ve loved, admired and received help from comes true. Even less often do you find that the person behind that organisation is literally one of the most inspiring humans in the world, with a good heart, endless patience and dedication to giving others a chance. Jayne Hardy, you put this business idea into my head, you were my first client, and you inspire me every day. Thank you for believing in me. Between you and the equally golden-hearted Eleni Cashell, I paid the rent and kept food in the cupboards. I am so grateful.
Jennifer Begg, you took my self-depreciation, mopped the floor with it then showed me how to level up. Your unwavering support and generosity has kept me going every day for the last three months. You’ve not only coached me through business but also through life (mostly inadvertently, I imagine), and to top it off you gave me a place to work that I literally couldn’t even have dreamt of. Hoping that I’ll be making you proud very soon, lady. I can’t thank you enough for all you’ve helped me with.
My list of people who helped me through something tough may well look very different to yours. You might not be about to start working for yourself and you may not have reached the same make-or-break point as me, but I’ll tell you this for nothing:
When I didn’t know who I was for a minute there, the kindness of other people made the building blocks so I could piece myself back together. I am going to carry that foundation of kindness around with me for the rest of my life. There is nothing more precious than that.
Let us know in the comments if you’ve been through a situation like this – and who helped you.
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