In 2016, I tried it.
This year has been a huge one for me, HUGE! Apart from becoming an Aunty for the very first time (which was by far the best and absolute highlight of 2016), most of you will know I left my secure, happy job in supply chain at the start of May to start my own business and work in what I love, food, full time (and social media which I never talk about much as it’s quite separate, but if you’re reading this you now know!).
I’ve just read my gorgeous friend Bel‘s post with her tips for aspiring illustrators and just before that, I had a chat with a friend of a friend, Sarah (who works with The Organic Place) about my journey this year and it’s left me inspired to write about it; what it’s been, what I’ve learned and what tips I’d give to anyone else looking to go out and work for themselves…
This was a job for Robert Welch
So, why did I leave a comfortable, well paying job to pursue something so unstable?
“You’re mad”, “What happens when you run out of ideas?”, “There’s like a million people doing that”… I had all these comments and more when I told people I was going to stop supply chain and start taking photos of food and ‘something to do with social media’. Thankfully I am an incredibly lucky human and they were drowned out by the overwhelming support from friends (a special mention to the beautiful Annie from Mo Creative), and family (a special mention to my incredible parents who left a bottle of French champagne on my table for me to find when I got home from my last day in supply chain and a gorgeous note).
Despite the obvious risks (not making any money blah blah), and the extra work (no one pays you to invoice, chase payment, file, keep accounting records, run your own BAS), the mix of finding my absolute passion in life and knowing from past experience that your health (or life) can be taken away any second, meant nothing could have stopped me giving this a go
And give it a go I’ve absolutely done. Since the 1st of May this year, I’ve been running my own business and I would not have it any other way.
What I’ve learned? So much, so fast.
I have to say the best thing I learned is that all those years working in offices, especially at my last work place, have served me SO well. I know how to keep accounting records, run a BAS, negotiate, put together proposals etc etc (it’s only my blog writing that’s all over the place!). I know how to keep organised, how to prioritise and how to communicate. The number one thing I tell anyone struggling with their full time job and wanting to leave to be creative but unable to is that they can learn SO much from that job they hate. Get involved in it, offer to do more, be open to understanding things outside of your role – it will serve you so well when you leave one day to do your own thing (and you will, if you work at it). In the meantime, see it as this fabulous education you get paid for and that is funding your future dreams…
The other thing is that working from home is flexible, but it’s not automatically ‘The Dream’. It can be lonely, you can struggle with guilt every time you relax (I should be working right now maybe I could get another job/make more money) and long days (into nights) will absolutely happen because every time you have too much opportunity, you take it ALL because who knows what next month will bring…
Starting your own business is not a mystical thought from another planet. I was SO overwhelmed by the idea of doing this (what’s a company? Why can’t I be a sole trader? How do I invoice? What even am I doing?!), but the truth is, it’s so easy. I keep saying to my hubby that now I’ve started one business and have experienced how easy it is to get started, I’ll probably start a whole heap more in the future (because I am by nature a nutcase and just like change and new things).
Like minded people and connections are everything, both for your success and your sanity. When your like minded friends speak, LISTEN! If it wasn’t for my like minded friends, I’d probably be rocking in a corner thinking I am the worst food photo taker (I still won’t call myself a photographer) and social media ‘person’ ever on the history of the planet. Oh, and I probably never would have tried this in the first place.
What am I still learning? Balance and that all the stress I think I have – I make it up in my own head. The absolute worst that can happen is that someone doesn’t like something I do and beyond that, I need to return to an office job. That’s kind of where I was at before I tried this anyway, right?
Oh and as much as I love social media, followers are not everything. Some of my favourite and most talented food stylists, photographers and designers have measly social media followings and HUGE international careers. If you’re talented, social is a great way for people to find you. You don’t need a million followers to prove you’re talented, just put your work out there.
Taken on an incredibly inspiring day at The School.
Finally, my top 10 tips for anyone looking to leave their 9-5 corporate gig and work for themselves.
1. Make it a side hustle first. It’s so tempting to go ‘stuff it I hate this I am going to go and start doing x for myself…’, but I truly believe you will regret this. Yes, it’s hard working full time and having a side hustle, but it gives you the opportunity to learn, refine what it is exactly you want to offer and, most importantly to me, only take on jobs you enjoy. Whatever it is you want to leave your job for, no matter how much you love it, when you do it for an income there will be jobs you take just because you feel you should (financially or otherwise), and won’t love as much.
2. Educate yourself. Do courses, find people who are experts in your field and talk to them or observe them, read e-books and watch YouTube videos that will teach you something (I’ve spent many an hour on the exercise bike at the gym on the end of a workout watching how different food photographers light their images).
3. Connect connect connect. TALK to people – people who have left their job to find out what it’s like on the other side, people who work in the industry for someone else, people that would be your customer. And I truly mean talk! No amount of pms/comments/likes can replace a face-to-face or even phone chat. Be open, ask questions and trust that people are generally good.
4. Ease into it. This goes against ALL the advice I received when I left my day job but the truth is, for me, I wish I’d eased into it. Some people are divers and I love those people and admire their guts, but having ‘dived’ myself and knowing how terrifying and stressful I found it, if I had my time again I would ease into it. If you do dive, make sure you have made friends with other people that have dived because no one else will understand! (Even the beautiful well meaning friends saying ‘Why are you stressed? You’re living the dream!’).
5. Share. Once you’re there, working for yourself, share the experience and share knowledge with others who can share in return (even in other industries). Those people become your colleagues and nothing bad comes from helping each other out.
6. Get out of the house every day. If you work from home, do not sit at home working all day. No matter how busy you are – have coffee with a friend, go to the gym, get out to dinner, get milk and bread, ANYTHING to get you out of the house. I actually love meeting with clients face to face as I feel it helps me do better work for them. Staying in the house all day every day? It can make you crazy.
7. If you have kids or you’re planning to work for yourself to adjust your lifestyle to have kids, do some trial days. I’ve had so many people say to me that my work is great because when I have kids I can just keep working. Now I know some kids I know how incredibly untrue that will be (at least not to the extent I work now). Working for yourself is FAR from an automatic pass to be able to work and be a Mum at the same time. I am getting a whole bunch of eye rolls and ‘Dah’ ‘s here, but there are people out there that say this to me..
8. Don’t keep your favourite food in the house. You will eat it all, every day!
9. Set aside a space in your home that is ‘work space’. Mine is my back room – it’s painted a different colour, has all my props in it and my large screen for editing. On the weekend, or when I’m having ‘time off’, I do not spend time in my work space because, it’s work. I also have a rule of no laptop or phone in my bedroom at all.
10. Just START! I’m reiterating what Bel said in her post here. I met a fabulous lady named Kerry in late 2015 who told me I could make what I do with food photos, a job. I was so embarrassed I was shaking – I was NOT a photographer and the idea that anyone would ever pay me to do anything I liked was 100% ludicrous. Kerry told me to think about what I wanted, my ideal life (even if ‘working for myself’ seemed like a ridiculous pipe dream at the time), and start working towards it. After Kerry’s chat settled into my brain (it took a month or two), I advertised that I’d worked with a couple of brands (unpaid), approached a couple of other brands and the rest is history!
I could write about this forever and ever (and I talk about it forever and ever to pretty much everyone that asks). It’s surreal because I never thought I’d be on this side. I read so, SO many stories of people taking the leap before I did and saw them as mystical, amazing creatures that must have some super personality trait that I didn’t. And guess what? I am far from mystical, only amazing at babbly blog posts and my personality? Naturally anxious and probably the opposite of what you’re meant to be when taking a giant risk.
But I love it anyway.
I love chatting to people and my inbox is always open. If you ever have a specific question for me or a blog topic you’d like to see me cover, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a beautiful Christmas & New Year, I am taking a break!