My Year ‘Off’ Work – Nine Months In

Self Reflection

How did that happen?!

I’m almost three-quarters into my year away from the traditional workplace – a liberating yet also slightly scary realisation.  Since Martha returned to school, I’ve been in review mode. What have I achieved? What do I still need to do? Has it all been worth it (so far)?

The answer to the last question is definitely YES! I started this journey with a very loose set of goals (you can read my three month review here) to allow for spontaneity – and the lack of structure has definitely opened up some amazing and unexpected paths.  Just after I’d written my first review post, I was featured by Instagram as part of their WHP Challenge which kickstarted a whole new creative chapter and led to mentions in online magazines, HiFiPublic and frolic.  Then surprisingly I was featured by Insta again four months afterwards for #WHPdailylife! I know the platform has had some bad press recently, but it’s been really a fulfilling experience for me.  Not only have I got to know many lovely like-minded people, I’ve also been able to meld my interest in photography and books in a fun way.  I’m not sure where I’ll go from here but I’m enjoying the journey.

Continuing the bookish theme, highlights of the year have also included attending the Bookstagrammer’s Breakfast at the Hay Festival and being part of the Slightly Foxed giveaway – two wonderful experiences I would never have dreamed of six months earlier.  Trips to Addyman Books and the Ironbridge Bookshop were the icing on the cake – go and visit them if you can!

The immersion in social media has clarified my career goals too.  Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been working as a social media evaluator and in spring, I started to successfully manage the digital marketing for a printing business.  I’ve always enjoyed being involved in online projects and now I’m taking this to the next level by launching as a freelance digital marketer at Cuppasocial.  It’s very exciting to be taking this step after dreaming about it for years.

All this has taken time to set up though, and invariably something has had to give. On this occasion sadly it’s been the writing. I have a very rough first draft of a children’s book, which I’m sitting on, and am planning an adult ghost novel with Al, but these are longer-term goals rather than the main focus now.

So what’s planned for the next three months? Well the business obviously! I’ve only just launched officially so I realise it may take time to build my portfolio.  I’m keen to keep on stretching my creativity via my Instagram and Pinterest accounts – perhaps by taking a small photography course. We’ve had to be frugal this year but it’s really made us appreciate the simpler things in life.  We’d like to develop this further by cutting down on waste, enjoying what we have and contributing towards our local community in some way.  I’ve just discovered that a new zero waste shop will be opening in town this month so hopefully these goals will happen sooner rather than later!!

On a final note, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has supported our family this year. We’re lucky to have so many friends, both near and far.  Your company has been the best part of all xxx

 

 

 

 

 

When You’re Not in the Gang – Dealing with Feelings of Online Exclusion

shadow woman reading a bookThere’s a lot of buzz about community in the online world, but what about when you’re not part of the set? Whether we admit it or not, virtual groups aren’t that different from those we find in real-life society  – the hierarchies and interactions are very similar which undoubtedly means that some users will feel left out.

I’m very lucky to be part of several supportive networks, but there have been times in the past when I’ve felt the sting of rejection – whether that be through having an unanswered comment, or through not being followed back.

So how do you cope with not being accepted into an online circle?

First and foremost, remember that these people don’t really know you. They don’t know that you typed that lengthy comment just after you’d had a rubbish day at work/school. They don’t know that you put your elderly neighbour’s bins out every week or that you have a difficult family life.  They only see one side of you and in many cases, just your curated digital persona – not the living, warm, complicated human. When I feel overlooked, I always take a moment to step back and appreciate my real-world self with all its intricacies.  I consider the physical connections in my life – family, friends, pets, colleagues. The online sphere has value , but it’s not everything.

Understand that it’s not personal.  The people who haven’t responded to you might have restrictions on their time, which means they can only connect with a certain number of people.   As an account holder, I’d love to be able to include everyone, but I already struggle at keeping up with posts of the people I follow.  Social media is just one facet of my life so I have to manage it carefully otherwise it could easily encroach into family and work time.

Appreciate the online friends you do have. Nurture them, do something fun together – maybe set up a hashtag challenge or arrange a buddy read.  Stop chasing what could be and be thankful for what already exists.

Take a moment to reflect on your own communities – could you be more welcoming to new members? Have you taken the time out to help others or build new connections? Whether we realise it or not, we’re all tribal to a certain extent – it’s up to us whether we break our own algorithms.

And if all the above still doesn’t work then seriously consider taking a break from social media for a few weeks.  Indulge your interests, reward yourself in other ways – maybe organise a trip away or take a course. Make time to develop yourself and if you decide to return, you’ll have a new perspective on everything. As with any situation, if being in a certain place isn’t making you happy then you can leave, and with social media it’s even easier.  All you need to do is switch off your phone and walk away.

 

 

Life After Quitting the Day Job: The First Quarter

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Back in late December, I packed away my office and quit my day job, a step that I’d been contemplating for several years.  There wasn’t one factor that encouraged me to make this decision, rather a number of reasons – both positive and negative, but the dominant motivator was to find out whether I could follow my passions and make a living from them.  This wasn’t about becoming a housewife or indulging my whims (OK a bit!), it was about finding my enthusiasm for work again – within a finite timescale and with a limited budget.

So how’s it been? Well great on the whole! My first priority was to earn money from a remote-working job, which took a little longer than anticipated but in March I managed to secure a small contract as a social media evaluator.  The role is ideal for me – it’s doing something I enjoy and it’s extremely flexible but I still need additional income – ideally as a part-time copywriter or as a social media co-ordinator – so am focusing on this next (any offers welcome!).

My second aim was to write a new manuscript which again has gone well, if more slowly than I originally predicted (isn’t it always the way?!). I’m two-thirds through the first draft of a middle-grade fantasy adventure and hope to finish it this month then revise throughout the summer. I’ve also been accepted as an emerging author by the Society of Authors, which has boosted my confidence massively.

Alongside all the above, I’ve hosted a writing retreat, been on holiday, built on my Instagram account and have – most importantly – been able to support my little girl during her first year of school.

As with any change, there are a few downsides. I have to be disciplined as my days have been much shorter than I expected (I’m only free during school hours at the moment). I’ve also noticed that I’m busier now because I’m excited about the projects I’m doing and want to work on them so this means being mindful of making quality space for family, friends and myself. The lack of money hasn’t been as big an issue because we changed our spending habits before I quit the day job. My main regret is that I can’t support as many charities or friends with their ventures, something I used to love doing, but I hope this will improve as I find more work.

So what next?

More writing, more image-making, more leap-taking.  My goal is to turn this world of ideas and creativity into a permanent situation – either working for myself, for someone else or a combination of the two.  If you’ve ever gone down a similar route, I’d love to hear from you.  Likewise, if you have any questions for me, please contact me via email or in the comments below. Wishing you a magical day!