11/11/2019

THE LIFESTYLE EDITION: WHY I DECIDED TO GO SELF-EMPLOYED

The part-timer, the slacker, just a few nicknames lightly thrown into the mix. Did I go self-employed because I wanted to be lazy for the foreseeable? No. Did I go self-employed to take a break from all the pressure? Absolutely.

I feel like this is going to be a long one, so maybe grab a cup of tea, or g&t – I’m not here to judge.

History

Let’s start with my employment history, shall we? My career, in my opinion, started when I got my first job working in London in marketing within the beauty industry. Looking back, I should have warned myself that I needed to grow a thick skin in a matter of seconds. I went from Social Media Executive, to Marketing Executive, to Junior Brand Manager, to Influencer and PR Manager in the space of four years. Four years of hard graft, a lot of learning on the job, long commutes, late nights, endless campaigns, fast-paced networking, a whole heap of passing new colleagues not quite cutting the mustard, event after event, a lot of criticism and not a lot of praise and honestly, a lot of pressure. My time working in the beauty industry has lead me exactly where I am today. Confident, armed with a whole wealth of knowledge and a little black book full of contacts. I enjoyed and endured every moment. After my roles there, it’s fair to say that I job hopped, two different companies, similar roles to the above, both not fulfilling my needs. I had burnt out. Looking back, I had probably got everything that I needed to squeeze out of my career at the time. Obviously, creative marketing roles are forever changing and growing, there is lots more for me to learn but I felt nothing more that I could confined to a high pressured office space. I know how to put a marketing campaign together, I know and can create the content single handily, I know how to present and execute this on social media, I know how translate this into website, blog and email content, I know which influencers to work with and best of all, I know exactly who to recruit for the parts that I can’t quite do myself. I am a hard worker, a smart worker, I am a fucking passionate worker. What I am not, is ‘just a number’ in a sea of employees and unfortunately, when you work for big companies, not matter how much blood, sweat, effort and tears you put in, you will always be just that.

The downfall

I always had this idea that working in marketing would come with it’s perks; flexible working, remote working, working on your terms (what was I thinking). Maybe, some do have this opportunity and they should really honor it, because I never experienced that. Obviously, working for someone else, your boss, a company, an organisation, means that you are working on their terms, to the beat of their drum, to their deadlines and all of the pressure is ultimately for them, for their gain. This is where the lines get blurred for me and rather than a person, you become a robot. I’m am talking in extreme cases here, my case. I know lots of people that enjoy their jobs, are treated well and generally thrive in good companies. I just feel that when you do it for yourself, it’s a pressure you can control because you are doing it for your own benefit.

I suppose what I should be telling you, so that you get a better understanding of my decisions to go self-employed, is that I was bullied out of a previous job. Office politics is a thing guys, it’s real. When you spend four years with a company, you go through and see a lot. You experience new colleagues, new management, different management styles. Some days we had a thriving team, we had our good days and other times, we had really bad ones. For me, the bad ones were getting worse and worse. They tipped the scale all too often. When you work in the beauty industry you tend to work with a lot of women, some just want to happily get the job done, others want to rise to the top, they have ulterior motives, they want that ‘career goals’ title, and sadly they don’t care who they trample on to get there. I was thrown under the bus more times than I could count the bruises I received from experiencing it. I was made to feel stupid and inexperienced. Without a HR department, going through all of that affected me in a way that I think I am still very much dealing with today and I am building up my confidence again piece by piece. Without naming any names, I saw it in a couple of the companies that I had worked for; the female manager who wanted to work you like a dog (and treat you like one) but take all the credit from you doing it. It’s a harsh reality and I have heard my own story back to me when talking to my friends or people I know now that have left companies to go self-employed. They have left for the same reasons; because they have recognised that crying in the toilets at work or drinking two bottles of dry white wine of an evening, even risking the state of their mental health for a respectable salary just wasn’t worth it anymore.

Mental Health

We all say it, my mum says it to me more than most, ‘work is like 70% of your life, you should find it enjoyable’. I just wanted something that was bearable. My days started at 6am when my alarm would go off and my day would end the minute I got off the train or out of the car, usually at around 8pm. That was an easy day. A lot of the time it was evening emails and weekend working too. Which, I very much understand comes with the territory a lot of the time but not every single day and not every night. You cannot and you shouldn’t commit 98% of your day to work, only unless you want to of course. I used to text my boyfriend with the same message, ‘no-one is leaving their desks, I have to stay, I have no choice’. In multiple companies this became an overbearing factor for me, it was like I was reliving the same scenarios over and over again, nobody wanted to be the first to leave, in fear of looking like the least hardworking member. Four words: what the actual fuck.

Honestly, I was shattered both physically and mentally. My social life took a dive, I was single for a very long time (before I luckily met my very understanding boyfriend), sometimes I couldn’t even be bothered to brush my hair before work, I let toxic friends walk all over me. I pretty much gave up. Yet, no matter how you were feeling at the time, you had to be this thriving, all singing and dancing, independent woman with a fancy pants career. I let my own life lead such a rocky path because I didn’t know what else to do about it. It was only when I found myself in a doctors office, I had gone because I had eczema around my eyes (due to stress) and I sat in front of a wonderful, caring and softly spoken nurse, who urged me to tell her why I was so stressed, I broke down in tears, she sat with me for what felt like hours and proceeded to tell me that life was too short to be bossed around. She was right.

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Being in charge of your own time, for your own benefit is something seriously satisfying. So here I am, I am self-employed with three regular clients, it’s a starting point and I’m grateful for these three and ready for more. I also take on photography projects such as weddings, style shoots and I create social media content for small businesses. I have a lot more free and flexible time to concentrate on my own blog and social channels. Generally, I feel a whole heap happier. Would I ever work for a company again? Sure, I don’t doubt that I wouldn’t but I know the red flags, god I know those red flags so well. Being self-employed is all very new to me, it’s exciting, challenging and unpredictable but it’s my own space to feel safe in.

{I just want to reiterate that this is just my individual experience and a subject like this is very complex. Lots of twists and turns but if any of this has given you a light bulb moment, if you feel like any of this is all too familiar then my door is always open. Being unhappy in your job is one of the most lonely places to find yourself in. Drop me a message, I want to help others too}.

Photos by Stacey White Photography

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It's Emma over email but Ems face-to-face. By title, I'm a writer, photographer, creative, freelance marketer and more importantly rosé drinker. I'm also a daughter, sister, auntie, girlfriend and friend. I overshare and I swear. I have been dedicating my time to this space for four years. Lifestyle topics are my specialty, with a dose of daily fashion thrown in for good measure.

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