I Never Thought Freelancing Would Last This Long For Me

A little over five years ago with a divorce on the brink of finalising, I walked out of a job and moved some 70 miles back across the country to my family home. Then, as a man in his late 30s and still with debt accrued paying for a Master’s Degree he’d finished nearly four years prior to that may not have seemed the most sensible option. After all, I was quitting a regular income to set up a business with no guarantee of return. There is also the taboo, after all, of living with parents staring your 40th in the face.

Most people who know me personally knew I was at my wit’s end after spending several years applying all over the country for jobs I was qualified to do. There came a point when I thought this cycle would never end and I’d be forever stuck in an area in which I no longer wanted to live. Quitting was a bold step that I took so I could move on with life at that time in my life. Now I look back five years later and I can see despite the difficulties, it was the best thing I ever did. I have sometimes alluded to having a life-long belief that at some point, and maybe for a long part of my working life, I would end up self-employed. I’ve never really explained why, but in a bout of self-reflection, I’m going to try to explain for people who don’t know me personally.

I’m flying hiiiiigh, I’m a freee biiird yeah-eah-eah
Copyright MG Mason 2018

I Have a Low Tolerance for Bullsh*t

I have a rebellious streak based primarily on fairness and doing what is right. I rarely take things as they are or at face value, refusing to accept, as many do “that’s just the way the world works, get over it” mentality. Justice is a powerful motivator for me which is a stark contrast to the attitude of accepting your lot which is so prevalent in business today. No doubt it has hindered me in the past. When I have felt treated like crap by a line manager, I have had no qualms about saying so while other people just accepted it for an easy life. I have also had no qualms about challenging policies that I perceived as counterproductive to what we were trying to achieve, and policies from on high that I perceived as downright stupid.

I walked out of a job in the late 1990s with a well-known retailer who’d promised the world and failed to deliver any of it. Even in jobs that I’ve loved doing (the job I took after the one I walked out), I’ve been prepared to stand up to senior managers. It has landed me in hot water – never even received so much as a verbal warning and certainly never sacked – but I’ve constantly come up against this attitude of “there are ways of doing things” and maybe I’ve not been offered promotions for which I would have been the best candidate. It was then I told myself “one day, I’ll be my own boss.”

So Why Didn’t I Do It Before Now?

People who know me also know I spent most of my life with critical low self esteem. It may seem a contradiction to have the confidence to stand up to a boss or a company’s policies and having critical low self-worth. The truth is, I was sure of myself in how the job functioned but lacked it to consider making my belief a reality. Plus, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. One thing I do know about myself is that when I have been given a project to really get my teeth into, a problem to solve or an issue to make more efficient and easier, something complex that others have struggled to get their head around, those are the moments where I’ve been able to shine. I do consider myself a great problem solver. I would even say that I get a kick and even personal value in coming up with practical solutions. Some managers have recognised that in me in the past and given me the freedom to change tasks that have given them and my predecessors a headache and I am extremely grateful to those who did recognise that.

Despite Everything Else, Freelancing and Entrepreneurship Require Focus

While my rebellious streak has held me back, so, I feel, has the lack of willingness to push for recognition for my achievements. That is nobody else’s fault except mine. Five years ago, it would have been hard for me to list any attributes that I could point to as being beneficial to entrepreneurship. I am an introvert and happy in my own company most of the time. I don’t crave as much human contact as other people appear to crave and social gatherings with too many people or for too long I tend to find mentally and emotionally exhausting. Being popular would be a burden, not an aspiration! The ability to focus and not needing to be around people all of the time has certainly been a big help over the last five years and long may it continue. I know I have the ability to knuckle down and focus and it is that, I believe, that has led to five years of greater success than I ever thought I would achieve.

What Next?

I’ve now been a freelance content writer and proofreader for over five years. That is not going to change any time soon. The stream of new clients and existing contracts bringing new challenges drives me. Some clients have given me the types of project to get my teeth into that have always craved in my work. The constant need for self-improvement and change has also driven me to explore photography as a side business. I already have a stock photo page at Alamy (by the way the photo above is available download at the site). In the new year I’m taking a photography course at a local college to get to grips with the camera and theory. Also next year, I expect to offer photographic prints through this website, migrating to another platform, or having separate sites. Longer term, I may offer product photography but we’re talking at least a year away as I do not have the right equipment presently, nor the technical skills in photo editing.

It’s been a great five years; I wouldn’t change any of it. Here’s to what the next five years will bring.

9 responses to “I Never Thought Freelancing Would Last This Long For Me”

  1. Not fitting the package the world has designed for you is a hard thing to acknowledge. Making the choice to break out from the ill-formed mold has to be very uncomfortable.

    I’m in a place where I have to find a new kind of employment that doesn’t depress me and yet fits the narrow confines of what space and skills I
    Have to build from. I do not feel brave so much as desperate at the prospects.

    1. I get that. I was desperate in 2013 when I did this. Trapped, no reason to stay but no door to leave through besides the one with the biggest risk. In the end the choice was no choice at all – another year of this walk away.

      I hope you find your own path soon too.

    2. Desperation fuels innovation? Good luck with your search. I sincerely hope you find something that fits.

      1. Thank you. If not, there’s always being a sex phone operator.

      2. Oh my! (Ok, so I’m *not* the only one who’s thought of that…) 😉

  2. Best of luck! You’ll make it a success. As you said, self-improvement will get you there. And already some of your photos are pretty impressive. You’re more than half-way there. 🙂

  3. Your post resonated a big “not just me then” with me! So many times have I worked my arse off to be denied any credit for my massive contribution. One time, someone even put my achievement into their Linkdin profile as something they’d done!
    Enough was enough. My ‘content’ aka writing is on my blog and twitter For free. For now. I’m slowly developing contacts and submitting work to competitions. I’ll get there, eventually. One day I’ll post a picture of me holding my novel in Waterstones. No doubt some blogger will claim that a certain character is based on them, but they’ll have to actually read it to find out!
    Good luck!

    1. No, it’s not just you. There is so much about the modern typical workplace that has become toxic since the 2008 crash. People are treated badly and paid badly; hostility towards unions, towards work-life balance and towards employee mental health has brought us here.

      Although that’s arguably another debate entire, to me it’s no wonder it’s losing talent to startups – both in terms of people setting up businesses and people choosing to work with start-ups rather than bigger, established organisations.

      Thanks for your comment, very insightful!

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