Stick to the Grand Plan
I first met Liz across an interview desk in 2013. I was going for my first ever marketing job and the pressure was on because I REALLY wanted the job. Despite being one of the smiliest people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, Liz gave me an absolute grilling in the interview. Like .... Grilled. She pushed me to think on my feet, challenged me over some of my previous job decisions and immediately found an error in the work I'd produced in preparation for the interview.
It's safe to say that I left the room thinking I had absolutely, 100% definitely NOT got the job.
I was wrong.
And after that initial toasting Liz has turned out to be one of my most valued mentors ... And a great friend. She sculpted my skills in marketing, was always encouraging about my work even when I didn't believe it and gave me the opportunity to learn, develop my craft, and make a few mistakes along the way. She's also taught me a lot about how to handle the creative process. Often with a lot of stakeholders it's near impossible to keep everyone happy all of the time and it's so important to maintain a balance between managing feedback and sticking to the deadline.
I absolutely would not be where I am now without Liz's guidance, support and occasional slices of melon from a tupperware. For that reason I am over the moon to publish her Q&A.
Plus, without Liz, Mac and I would never have met (what a petrifying thought)! The three of us were lucky enough to work together for several months and I know Jess completely echoes what I've written.
... Oh and she also taught me that I use exclamation marks too much!!!!!!!!!!
How long have you been freelance/working for yourself #goingsolo?
Since March 2013, so just over three years. I also had a stint working for myself for twelve months way back in 2009.
Describe you in five words... GO!
Tenacious, determined, imaginative, thoughtful and fun (I hope!)
What made you decide to take the plunge?
In 2012 I had a major operation on my back to fix a slipped disc that had been ongoing since 2007. It had, by the date of my operation, reached a point of unspeakable awfulness and (despite some truly excellent painkillers) had a significant negative impact on every aspect of my life.
The surgery was absolutely petrifying and a complete success.
To say that it put pretty much everything in perspective would be an understatement. I woke up from the operation without pain and with the realisation that this was my a second chance. I wanted to do things my own way, fight for a better balance between work and the other things that make up life. In terms of employment, this meant giving myself the freedom to work how, and with whom, I chose.
What's the best bit about being your own boss?
My brilliant clients - and I'm not just saying that in the hope that they'll keep working with me... By working for a number of different businesses I get variety, challenge, deep insight into business practices and the opportunity to see the work I do having a direct, measurable impact. It is incredibly satisfying and invigorating, and simply makes me want to do it more.
What's the biggest pain in the arse?
The admin. As a stickler for detail with a tendency to paranoia and a fear of The Establishment (whatever that is), I find submitting tax returns terrifying, despite the fact that I have an excellent and very reassuring accountant.
What's the grand plan/big idea?
It's two-fold. As far as the actual work's concerned, I want to continue to be true to my original business aim by taking contracts that excite and challenge me, even though they may not be the easy option.
The 'life balance' one is to continue to run my consultancy until my children are old enough not to be pleased to see me when they come home from school and childcare and find me there. So I'm hoping that I may be carrying on for a while as a result!
What's the best bit of advice you could give someone about to #gosolo?
Realise that the first few months, even the first year or so, will be very hard work, shaky and at times quite frightening. But it's crucial to stay true to the grand plan, regardless of that, because if you are passionate about what you do people will be drawn to it and they will want to work with you for that passion. They won't see the passion if you compromise; you won't stand out.
Where do you get your inspiration from? (person, place, action)
I try and read news and current affairs widely. From the stories and commentary I read, I take inspiration from people who have worked hard to make a difference and stay true to their original plan, whether they are freelance, employed, volunteering, or simply following a plan through.
As an example of this, I very much admire Justine Roberts, the founder of Mumsnet. Although her original idea has hugely diversified - to the older generation, a flexible working jobs site, and charity support, to name but three areas - she has stayed true to the original concept of creating a support forum for people at a particular, potentially disorientating, time. It's just that now that support forum has broadened out. Brilliant.
If we could give you one thing right now (not a wad of cash) that would help your business out the most, what would it be?
More time. More time to plan, to think about the next stage of my business properly, and to fit more work in, without compromising on 'other stuff' time.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing - discuss.
I do believe that things happen for a reason, whether hindsight makes them look like a good or a bad call from the future perspective which is actually your current present (there's a tautology). Where I have got to is the sum total of the decisions I've made in the past, be they good or bad. So I make a great effort to look at it like that and not to think 'oh I wish I hadn't done that', because if I'd made a different call on whatever 'that' may be, I probably wouldn't be doing this today.
What's your favourite quote to live/work by?
I have two. When I use them, it is with a wry underpinning of humour, but I firmly believe in the sentiments beneath them.
"This too shall pass" is a great reminder that not only do difficult times move away, but successes fade also. A timely reminder to live in the moment when it can be all too easy to focus entirely on where you think you should go, or to dwell on times when things didn't quite work out.
"Without hope what do we have" - never give up. From hope follows intent follows action.