It was three years ago today that I waved bye-bye to full-time employment having decided to take voluntary redundancy.
Despite having the best job on The Birmingham Post – I was Chief Feature Writer for five years – the time felt right for a change.
I was about to get married, the paper itself was in a state of limbo as a new editor had been appointed but was yet to start, I wasn’t enjoying working full-time as much I once had and so I took the leap into the great unknown.
Actually, it wasn’t that unknown. I’d already lined up freelance work – including a guaranteed 3-month project.
So, on reflection, what have the last three years been like?
For one thing, time really does fly when you are having fun.
I was fortunate enough to remain busy for the first couple of years, finding regular clients and picking up other work here and there. Working mainly from home also opened up new possibilities – such as dipping a toe into social media – and six months after going freelance I began blogging.
My first proper post on this blog – on plans to redevelop New Street station – shows how some things never change.
Although I have now come full circle in some respects and have a full-time job again, I’m still attempting to maintain some freelance work.
I’m on a fixed, 12-month contract with my employers (which might, or might not be extended) and Rachel has helpfully pointed out that it means I’m on what amounts to a sabbatical from self-employment.
There are benefits to having a “proper day job” once more – not least that I’m thoroughly enjoying the work I do and the new set of colleagues I have. It also makes life a little easier in these recessionary times – especially as we remain on one source of income – to know you have a guaranteed amount of money coming in each month.
But I do miss the “office” I had for the last couple of years – namely our sofa, or any wi-fi friendly place I could find. So if this new role is to be limited to 12 months then I’ll certainly have no qualms about switching back to self-employment and working from home again (if that is what I decide to do, obviously).
One of the major lessons I’ve learned from my self-employed years (and as a result of Rachel’s illness) is that you grab opportunities while you can.
Another is that although the relative freedom and flexibility that comes with the type of freelance work I do is fantastic, you do have to work very hard to secure such opportunities and maintain it over any prolonged period of time.
I possibly fell down on this last point once or twice – my in-built laziness was a factor, but I did struggle at times to strike a comfortable balance between the need to get out and about to network and secure opportunities and the desire to stay home and carry out my role as Rachel’s carer.
So, for many reasons, the last three years have provided a number of steep but valuable learning curves.
On reflection the last three years – self-employment and moving back into full-time employment – have been tremendous fun.
But not half as good as married life.