Follow your dreams
One of the great things about the web is it enables us to put our ideas out into the wider world. This has provided an opportunity for many to build businesses online. It also means people can work from almost anywhere.
My Candy Pop journey began in June 2008 when I began sharing photographs of my life and home on Flickr. I never thought that nine years on I would be working freelance. My motivation wasn’t to build a business but to simply share my thoughts and creativity.
One question I’m often asked is at what point did I decide to leave my day job. It’s certainly not a decision I took lightly and it involved many conversions with family and friends. At the time, I was working as an Alumni Relations Manager at Oxford University and after an impromptu meeting with a coach, I knew it was time to go.
Following my decision, I implemented a few things to ease the transition. I wanted to make sure everything was in place before I left my job. I therefore stayed for a further six months to plan and save. This was probably far longer than necessary but I enjoyed the role and I wasn’t in a rush to leave. So today I’m sharing the five things I did before I quit my day job.
1. Research and planning
I didn’t have many free weekends once I’d decided to leave. My Saturdays and Sundays were spent researching, brainstorming and organising. I read every snippet of information I could find. I also signed up to marketing agencies and went through old emails to create a spreadsheet of useful contacts.
I’ll admit I haven’t done any work through the agencies or looked at the spreadsheet! But at the time it was reassuring to know I wasn’t leaving a stone unturned. I spent time considering ways I could make passive income. And I created a business plan, strategy, brand guidelines and even a job description. Old habits die hard!
In addition to this, I started listening to creative business podcasts. During my seven years of employment at Oxford University, I attended meetings and conferences to keep up to speed with best practice. I knew I didn’t want to spend too much time reading information online. So I thought podcasts would help me to stay connected while learning about current trends. They are my lifeline! (More: 5 inspiring podcasts for creatives.)
2. Found a creative coach and an accountant
My accountant could answer all my tax queries and advise me on general business practice. For example, how to run business accounts and what insurance I should invest in. When I left my first meeting I had a lengthy to-do list but once everything was in place I could relax.
I also booked some sessions with a creative coach to help with the transition. I knew there would be a lot to learn and discuss and I find chewing over ideas helps me to move forward. And last month I met with a business coach I worked with while at Oxford University – never underestimate the value of the contacts you make in your previous jobs!
3. Built a network
Before leaving my job, I built a network of people I could discuss my work with. They included existing friends who are self-employed and people I had previously met at press days, blog events, Blogtacular, Independent Oxford networking evenings, local meet ups and Instameets. There are always people willing to help and share experiences and I now have a small community of local freelancers and online groups to connect with. This year I’m aiming to build my local network so I have a few more people to meet up with during the week. (More: the inspiration and joy of creative friendships.)
4. Created an office space
My desk was previously in the living room and I was certain I wouldn’t want to see it on my days off! After trying out several possibilities I created an office space in my spare room. Somewhere bright, inspiring and clutter-free. I’m thrilled with how it turned out and I only had to buy a new desk and drawers to create the space. Having an office enables me to shut the door on my work at the end of the day. Which is very good for the soul! (More: how to create a productive workspace.)
5. Saved my pennies
And finally, after deciding to leave I saved every penny. No treats, holidays or lunches and dinners out. I was worried about no longer receiving a regular income and a few freelance friends advised me to save roughly three months of outgoings. Having savings gives me flexibility if invoice payments are delayed plus a little extra peace of mind.
Find what works for you
Every business is different and I’m sure there are things I could have considered or done differently. Looking back, I didn’t need to do as much research. I maybe should have used the time to create blog content. Working on commissions means it’s sometimes tricky to keep up with the blog.
If you’re planning to make the transition I wish you the very best of luck. It’s exciting and rewarding and I haven’t looked back. I decided early on that if things didn’t work out or the freelance life wasn’t for me, I’d simply find another job. After all, it’s better to have tried than to live a life of what-ifs. (More: 10 valuable life lessons from working freelance.)