2 weeks ago (12th July to be precise) I worked my last day as a full-time employee at a music tech company.
This is how I finally went freelance.
If you follow me on social media, know me personally or have read this blog in the past, you will know that this is a pretty big deal for me. I have found it hard to juggle a full-time job and my art alter-ego in the last 4 years. The cycles I repeatedly went through revolved around not being happy with the work I was doing, be it at my 9-5 or when I was trying to find time to draw and be creative. I found myself lower on energy everyday and with an ever expanding list of things I wanted to learn, achieve and create. This meant that my art was suffering and the quality of the work I was doing for my employers too.
Back in May, just after a brilliant FroFest (the festival my friends throw every couple of years) I took a week off. Rather than go abroad I decided to make it a staycation and do all of the things I wanted to do in London, visit galleries, sit in museums with my sketchbook, visit parks and clear my head. It was a week that made me happier than I had been all year.
I was able to take stock and look back on the first half of 2019 as I had been writing down my thoughts and keeping track of my life.I have been keeping a journal. It is not something I have ever done before. I discovered bullet journaling in 2018 as a way of better managing my mental health and easing the pressure I felt from the sheer amount of things I always feel like I want to do. I was never a particularly organised person, I wrote lists but I always seemed to be able to remember things and know where I needed to be and who I was meant to see on any given day. When I started working a new job 14 months ago, the intensity levels went through the roof and I simply couldn’t manage things without a new system. In came the bullet journal!
The list making, future planning and creative elements of bullet journaling really helped me, although the traditional journaling aspect of the system is what I benefit from the most. I spent December 2018 testing it out and adding elements I felt that I would use, like vice tracking, habit tracking and ‘My year in pixels’ which helps track your mood. It’s this element of the journal that has really helped me understand my cycles of negativity and I have been able to manage my mental health better because of it.
I discovered, more often than not, that I was tired, stressed and unhappy because of my job. My journal repeatedly pointed out my struggle with long commutes and a high-pressure working environment. It was very rare that I would write a positive note about my work/life balance. I would constantly write how grateful I was for the opportunity to work with a brilliant team and an amazing company, but it was clear, literally on page in front of me, how hard I was finding it.
My fear has always been that I’d live a lie for my entire life. I always knew I wasn’t cut out for traditional office work. The corporate environment, even when diluted and flexible, goes against everything I have always believed in. I kept making promises to myself, to my followers, that I would do all these things and then when I didn’t deliver because I was too tired at the end of a long day, I suffered.
After my week long staycation, looking at the year gone by in my journal and thinking about what I truly wanted I decided that it was time to take the plunge. A friend reached out with an offer of freelance digital marketing work and I thought, this is the opportunity I have been waiting for. I’m not in a position to become a full-time artist just yet, but through freelancing, I can at least be more flexible.
I am in a fortunate position that I have saved some money and don’t pay crazy amounts of rent and I absolutely understand that there are people who aren’t as fortunate, however, I have worked hard to get to this stage. As soon as I quit it almost felt like this had been inevitable, my whole life leading up to this ‘new’ life.
You see, while you could read this and be under the impression that this all happened quite quickly, the truth is I have always known what I wanted to do. I have always had that drive and direction in my life to work towards something. I think that is an important factor in achieving the goal of successfully going freelance. Getting it all in writing really helped me.
Before you make your decision, I suggest doing the following:
Start a journal. It really has changed my life for the better. The positive effect on my mental health has been incredible.
Understand what you want to do and if you can live off it. I don’t feel like I can live of art and illustrating 100% yet so I decided that I could start off taking on clients with digital marketing needs to bring in a decent enough, regular wage.
Ask yourself why you want to do it, is it for flexibility or is it to pursue a passion? Is it to make money?
Talk to friends and family.
Plan Plan Plan. It’s all about being ready before you need to be.
Talk to your boss - They might offer you flexibility. This might feel quite risky and you’ll have to feel out the situation before you approach your employer, however people are generally pretty understanding with these things.
This is pretty much what I did and then it just really all fell into place and felt completely the right time to jump.
2 weeks in and I am loving it, freedom is wonderful. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy and there is a big pressure to succeed but the positives far outweigh the negatives and it is much easier to cope with stress.
I am still journaling and I am busy planning content for my website. I have set up a company, designed my brand (JL Creative), worked on a new client and am busy generating new business.
Maybe you have come across this blog by chance and you are in the position I was, maybe you’ve been chasing a dream for years but you’re still trying to make ends meet. Do what I did, take the time to really look at your life and understand what you truly want from it. If, as it turns out, you’re happy with things and you have a good balance, don’t force it but if you have that burning desire to break free, make it happen. Dedicate your life to the pursuit of your passion, it is well worth it.
See my latest work here