Everybody is different and will have a different perspective on their lives and the choices they have made. But what I have learned (often the hard way) is that a lot of what we do is down to expectations. The system we grow up in is geared towards a certain lifestyle and everyone is brought up with the same expectation of how is should be done.
When we are at school we are expected to choose a career path. That question – what do you want to do when you grow up? We get asked that from a very early age. And people expect an answer, be it accountant, doctor, lawyer or whatever. You’re supposed to pick something, learn all about it, get a job in that field, work on it for your whole adult life and finally retire to become an ex- banker, ex engineer or ex- architect.
I found this prospect tremendously depressing even when I was in high school and I was getting ready to go to university – I decided to take a year out to travel (which was quite unusual at the time) – people tried to talk me out of going because they said I need to get on with my life, get a degree and start earning money. I said that I had the travel bug and wanted to see the world and I was told (by my sober 17 and 18 year old class mates) that there was plenty of time to travel once I retired.
Well! I couldn’t believe that advice. What if I died before I hit 65? What if I was ill or cranky and didn’t want to travel anymore. I would have missed a golden opportunity. So I ignored all the well intentioned advice and went away to Thailand for a year. It was great, but at the end of it I went to university, got the obligatory degree and got a job.
I have never been keen on a 9 to 5, office job, doing something you find boring just to pay the bills, feed the family and pay for all too infrequent holidays so I decided at the start of my career to work for a charity (specifically and environmental charity as I had got a Zoology degree and care about what is happening to the planet) my reason was that even if I didn’t enjoy the 9 to 5 at least I would be doing something to help the planet, hopefully in a place that wasn’t as hierarchical and inflexible as the business world where I could do some good. The pay off was that I wouldn’t get a massive salary, but that was ok.
And that’s mostly what I’ve done for the last 23 years working my way up the charity sector greasy pole all the way to CEO. And along the way I realised that no matter how high you rise, you still have to answer to a boss, and you still have to conform and do things the way other people want them done and part of that is you will have to be office based and work 9 to 5.
This just doesn’t work for me. Now just a year ago the idea of going freelance would have terrified me. I’m single and the though of having a variable to non existent salary was far too intimidating to even consider. But then things at work came to a head, so I made myself redundant and set off on a freelancing career and the funny thing is I’ve been more calm and relaxed about this than I could have believed. Partly because I’d planned my exit and mainly because I have discovered a whole different world has developed over the last 10 to 15 years.
15 Years ago it was far harder to pack it all in and go it alone, but with the internet and social media it is becoming far more possible and these workshops will show you how to do it. And how you can live your life the way you want to and not the way everyone else tells you you have to.
What I do now
I have been a freelancer/ portfolio careerist for the last 5 months and it has given me a lot more flexibility than I ever had before. In the time I have been working for myself I’ve started setting up a freelancing website, am working on a book about being a small charity CEO with a fellow CEO, am doing paid work for two charities and doing workshops on going freelance with a couple of local groups.
Before I went freelance I was far too busy and too frazzled to be able to consider doing any of those things. Now if someone calls me up with something interesting I can say yes or no depending on how I feel. The CEO book is a project I like the sound of so I’m doing it, before I wouldn’t even have considered it.
This is what most people say about setting up for themselves, it gives them more flexibility in how they work. It isn’t less work – often it’s more, but they enjoy it and therefore it doesn’t feel hard. And with on-line businesses you can do a lot just with your laptop so many freelancers travel more because they can work from wherever they want to. I haven’t reached that stage yet, but I am working on it! – I am a work in progress and I am recording what I do and how well it goes so that I can pass on that knowledge.