On 3 July, when I moved to my new house in Northamptonshire I also became fully self-employed. I’ve been blogging and doing freelance writing on the side for years, but I was employed too – I was always worried about making the big leap.
I left my job as a writer at a national animal welfare charity. It was a job I loved with an amazing supportive (and hilarious) team, who I still miss but I’m pleased to say am also in regular contact with.
So the jump was a scary leap, made even scarier by the fact that we’re expecting our first child in November, so the need for financial security is even greater… but it was now or never.
So why now?
Since moving to the Midlands, we’re incredibly lucky that we no longer have the same financial pressures as we did when we were living in Brighton. We don’t have a mortgage or rent to pay anymore. And I know that puts me in a unique and incredibly lucky position. We still have all our bills to pay – which are actually more as we’re in a bigger house – and being homeowners of course, if anything goes wrong to the house it’s up to us to pay up rather than having a landlord or letting agent to cover it for us. And ironically we’ve already had to fork out £2,000 for a new boiler. Add to that the fact that we’re haemorrhaging money in the lead up to the newest addition to the family, but it’s partly the new addition that prompted the leap of faith into the world of self-employment.
It’s now been about six weeks since I’ve been self-employed and I can honestly say it’s the best thing I could have done for my health. Regular readers may know that I suffer with chronic migraine, which means I have a mini migraine (worse that just a regular headache) every day. Yep, I have pain of some degree every day.
My migraines aren’t always bad enough to warrant a full day spent in bed in the pitch black and silence, thankfully, those kind of migraines probably appear every two months on average. But they’ve been more frequent since being pregnant (thanks, hormones) and I’m about to be weaned off medication that I take to manage them, ready for the birth. Of course the stress of buying our first home, relocating across the country, quitting my job and having a baby have all had an impact on my migraines too.
But the idea is that once I’ve settled into self-employment, ideally my health will be a bit better because I’ll be solely in control of my working day. And I’m seeing the benefits already. Although I still have to take regular time out – even losing half a day or a full day every week – I now have the freedom and flexibility to decide to stop working to have a lie down and rest if I need to. I can try to stop my head from getting any worse.
And working from home also means that I no longer have two hours plus of driving to do every day, which I did when I was employed. Cutting that out has made such a difference to my head.
I also have the flexibility to take time out in the middle of the day if I want to – even on days when I do feel well – and I’m making the most of that. I go to an antenatal swimming class at lunchtime on a Wednesday which, combined with travel, takes longer than the hour lunch break I’d get if I was working for someone else. And if I want to and need to, I can work later that day to make the time up. I also have lots of family and friends living in the area so I’m making plans with them here and there during the week too. If anything, I have to remind myself that I actually have work to do too and can’t spend every day catching up with people!
Don’t get me wrong, being self-employed is no bed of roses. I feel the pressure to earn as much as I can now – partly due to the typical freelancer’s usual woes about where the next pay cheque is coming from, but also because I know I can only work for a few more months before I’ll have to take time off to get myself ready for the baby. I’m constantly fighting the urge to cram my diary full of work and take on everything I possibly can, with balancing some rest time for the sake of my health. Not just my in terms of my migraines, but because I’m growing a little human and that’s hella tiring. And being self-employed, I don’t get statutory maternity pay either (although I’m applying for a maternity allowance offered by the government).
When the baby’s here, I might do some work here and there if I have the energy to. I have no doubt that the first few months at least will be solely dedicated to looking after the baby and struggling to finding time to shower, let alone work – I’m under no illusions it’ll be a walk in the park. But because my boyfriend is also self-employed, and he works from home too, we’ll be able to share childcare a bit more and hopefully as the baby gets older, each juggle a little bit of working with looking after the baby.
Being my own boss is really exciting – I’ve always been one to manage my own workload to ensure I meet my deadlines, so that’s not a problem. I can rely on myself to get the work done. But it is scary putting myself out there to pitch work to companies and the securing of the work being solely down to me.
But so far so good.
I probably won’t have enough time to settle into freelancing properly before having to take a break to welcome to baby, but at least it’s giving me a taster of the self-employed life and what’s involved. So when I and the baby are ready, I can come back fighting!