Straight from Graphic Design college, I had the privilege to work in some great marketing agencies in London, with clients such as The Guardian , Maltesers, and Galaxy. As busy and exhausting as it was, I had a cool career underway and I absolutely loved it.
Then in January 2009, when my first child was about 15 months old, I was made redundant. It was one of the most shocking and unsettling experiences I have ever had. It took me months to get over it. I can’t really explain it but every fibre of my being resisted going for other, similar jobs.
Instead I was being drawn to go down the freelance and self-employed route, with the aim of building my own small business client base. At the time I was helping a friend with some design work and decided this was the way I wanted to go. And so, mainly because of my son, I took the opportunity to get out of London and the exhausting rat race and opted to go for it!
There have been ups and downs.
I’ve had times where I’m so busy I can’t sleep and times when I feel there is no work that is ever going to come my way.
I’m lucky to have had such a mix of clients and various types of work over the last 13 years, and it feels great to be able to offer small businesses good design without them having to pay a fortune to an agency. They are often extremely grateful for how you help them which is hugely gratifying. I have also been able to accept very different types of work as well. A printing company I freelanced for also did event management. That lead to them asking me to assist in the organisation of an annual 500 delegate Chinese New Year event. This opportunity would never have presented itself to me, had I not taken the leap of faith.
Being a self-employed designer can be lonely and isolating. When working from home you miss out on the (quality) office banter, lunches with colleagues and there is no chance of getting any kind of appraisal, encouragement or constructive feedback that you would get from an employer. The only feedback you get is either being asked to do more work or not. But, you do avoid office politics! And the benefits for myself and my family life is so profoundly worth it. I have been able to choose my own hours and make myself available as much as possible for school assemblies and sports days. Don’t get me wrong, I do work hard, and I often work evenings and weekends just so that I can make those precious pockets of time and keep on top of the work coming in- because saying no to work is super hard!
Randomly, one day I discovered Mandalas and Zentangle patterns on Instagram. I began to draw them myself as I craved a raw creative outlet aside from my digital design work. Because I am freelance, I found I had the time to start my own Etsy and Thortful shops which I don’t think I would have done if I was working full time. I have a long way to go but my aim here is to create a passive income from what is essentially a hobby.
As we approach the 13th anniversary of starting out on my own, now with 8-year-old twins as well as a 16-year-old, I feel my work-life balance is working super well. As they get older, I’m looking forward to growing more in my design work, being braver, reaching out for bigger projects.
I may not have chosen the path that would have kept me in London to become a Creative Director in an agency, but I have chosen a path has shown me that I am an advocate and an example of how flexible working can work and work so well . One of the agencies I worked in began to incorporate this flexible working culture and now ‘WFH’ is becoming more readily available and accepted, and I believe making life a whole lot easier for working families.
But back to the success thing, I wholeheartedly believe I am super successful at managing a great work-life balance and being around for our three amazing children. The mum-guilt has reduced significantly, and the other benefits have been amazing.
I am so lucky and grateful that I found a career I enjoy and have carved my own unique path. I just hope that our kids (and yours too!) can find a career they enjoy and forge their own perfect work/life balance that works for them.
You can see my work here…