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Becoming Self-Employed: Quitting My 9-5 and Never Looking Back

07.10.17

Becoming self employed. Why I quit my 9-5 and never looked back. Minimal home desk.

Quitting my 9-5 salaried job for self-employment was the most terrifying, liberating thing I’ve ever done. I made the leap two years ago. Fed up of hating my life Monday to Friday, I talked my husband into expanding his financial management business; consequently creating space for me to come on board. I’d always struggled with working for someone else because I hated everything about it; the commute in the morning, having to be there for a set time, managers breathing down my neck, having a set workload, the lack of flexibility, knowing that no matter how hard I worked I would still earn the same amount at the end of every month. The list goes on. I knew there was more than that 9-5 slog that I found so soul destroying. I felt chained to that desk and I resented it. I hated it.

fitting in

I knew there was was an alternative in working for myself and I’d always envied people that did it but there were always a million and one excuses, mainly the fear that I wouldn’t make enough money to pay the bills. I’d flit from job to job, feel enthusiastic for a few months and then I would hit that wall of ‘I hate this’. Every. Single. Time. I was miserable Monday to Friday but it paid the bills and I thought that’s all that was available to me so I kept struggling on, trying to go against everything I was and conform.

I didn’t fit into the employment world and looking back this was clear from day 1. It never felt right. I’m too opinionated, forward thinking and surprise surprise the top dogs don’t like being told how to do things better, especially in the NHS where I found myself working after Uni. I like working alone and I wouldn’t call myself a people person so all that group work was exhausting for me. Without a doubt I was in the wrong place.

Cancer will change you

Being diagnosed with cervical cancer when I was 25 changed my outlook on life. I was given the all clear that same year but all of a sudden life was much more precious than it had ever seemed before. I felt a duty to make the most of every day and live a life that was meaningful, one that made me happy. It took me a long time to process what had happened to me but the fire had started burning and I knew I couldn’t carry on the way I was. I had to figure something out and soon.

thank you bullies

When you don’t fit in with people, you stand out. This happened to me at work and I got bullied. It was a terrible time for me and it made me ill but it’s also one of the best things that ever happened to me. Combined with my new outlook on life post cancer, it was the push I needed to quit and get creative with what I could do that would suit me. There were no more excuses. I wish I could tell you I quit in a Bridget Jones style but alas I wasn’t quite that brave. True to my introverted INTJ self, I sent my resignation in an email and never spoke to anyone again. I’m not sure which version I prefer.

It turned out the answer to my problem had been there all along, I just hadn’t seen it. I’d envied my husband’s self-employment freedom for years and after a little creative thinking, we, or I, decided that expanding the business was the way to go on the condition that if it didn’t work out, I would have to find something else. It was a big risk and losing that salaried income was a huge shift but I knew in my gut it was the right thing to do and for the first time in years I felt excited about work. It wasn’t the perfect solution as ideally I would have started my own business, but I had to let go of perfect and just start somewhere. I’d encourage anyone else who finds themselves in this position to do the same.

Want less

The biggest obstacle was money and I’m sure this is the case for most people. Like it or not it makes the world go round and we need it to survive. The worry of not having enough is what held me back from being brave and trying to make it on my own. Figuring out what’s right for you comes down to focusing on what your priorities are because we can’t have it all. We can’t wake up one day, quit our job and expect all those bills to still get paid.

The answer to this problem is to have and want less. Thoreau said, ‘I make myself rich by making my wants few’ and I think he sums up my point beautifully. It’s surprising how little we actually need. Once you put that to the test, you realise how much freedom we have. The answer for me was to get rid of as many bills as possible, stop the mindless spending, cancel the subscriptions and sell what I didn’t need. I was prepared to live on the breadline in exchange for my freedom. This was never the case because once I’d created a working environment I was happy with, I thrived.

Reaping the rewards

I make more now I’m self-employed than I ever did in employment and I feel proud to be able to say that. It took time to get to that stage and nothing is permanent when you work for yourself, but it isn’t about the money. The greatest reward of working for yourself is the freedom and drive it gives you. I love working from home and structuring my working week in whatever way I want. I can choose to work for what I believe in, what aligns with my values that makes me feel fulfilled. At the end of the day, I feel satisfied with what I’m putting out into the world. When we’re doing something purposeful is when we thrive. I’ve never been more driven than I am now and starting this blog is a natural extension of that drive.

I wanted to share this little story of my life with you to let you know that there’s always another way, you are never stuck. We all have a choice, even when it doesn’t feel like it. There’s nothing wrong with quitting what isn’t working for you and embracing something that isn’t mapped out in black and white. When we’re children, we’re asked what we want to be when we grow up but there is no ‘grown up’. The fact is we don’t stop growing up until we die and we aren’t meant to do just one thing for the rest of our lives. Being alive means we’re always growing and changing and that’s a beautiful thing. Embracing it isn’t easy but it’s where the magic happens.

I’ve learned we’re not all meant to work according to the social constraints we currently have in place thanks to 21st century living. We’re not designed to sit in cubicles for 8 hours a day 5 days a week, take 30 minutes to an hour for lunch and be micro managed. Some of us – although my guess is not many of us – may like that but what are the rest of us supposed to do? Live a life of misery? No. I always knew that deep down but my cancer diagnosis concreted it for me. Life is short. Make it meaningful. Live it with intention.

I’m cheering you on x

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26 comments on “Becoming Self-Employed: Quitting My 9-5 and Never Looking Back”

  1. Can I just say that you are amazing!? It takes a big leap to go from the security of employed to self-employed, I don’t know if I could have done it. Congrats on making that leap and taking control back over your life. x

    1. Thank you Britt! It was a turbulent time and it’s only recently I’ve felt able to talk openly about it. I think it’s important to share and cheer each other on where we can. Thank you so much for your comment. It really means the world x

  2. This is my first time on your site and I’m so happy to have read this post! I recently lost my full-time employment. I was with the company for 6 1/2 years so it has been quite an adjustment! I had been blogging for just over a year and I started freelance writing a couple months before my layoff. While I don’t make as much as I did working full-time, I’m really excited to see where this could take me. Your post helped me to remember why I’m seeing this through!

    Congrats on kicking cancer’s butt by the way 🙂

    1. Your journey sounds like an exciting one! I think the longer you stay in one job the harder it is to leave so that must have been a real shock for you. Are you aware of YesandYes.org ? Sarah has some really inspirational posts for freelance writers. I’m so happy you found my post helpful. It really means a lot to hear from you!

  3. Amazing I know it is liberating I’ve been self employed for 14 years now, and I say all the time I could never work for anyone , It suits my personality and I’m trying to persuade my daughter to tak the plunge, if you want it bad enough you Will make it work and thrive! Well done Jessica it’s great you can share your experience with others to help them x

    1. Thank you Amanda. I just wish there was more encouragement for women to go self-employed. There isn’t enough out there. I agree that you get a whole new gear of drive when it’s all on you to get the work done and pay the bills x

  4. I can relate to this in many ways and while I’m sorry you were diagnosed with cancer, sometimes it takes a life changing circumstance to push us out of our comfort zones into something uncertain. I’m so happy to hear it worked out for you!
    Having been self employed for 10 years I can’t imagine ever being employed by a company again. I’d rather adapt my own work and direction…
    Plus, amazing blog design, seems so familiar 🙂

    1. I don’t think I could ever go back either Julia. I love hearing from those who it has worked out for long term. I can’t ever imagine you not being able to make a living out of your stunning photos. You’re a constant source of inspiration to me. Knew you’d like the blog design!

  5. Oh! I know the feeling! I also quit my 9-5. The company changed so much as they grew that they just weren’t looking after employees, focusing more on the financial rewards. But I liked my job so much that I quit but decided to still do the same thing but as MY company. It’s great. I love that I can plan work around life and not the other way around. That’s how it should be.

  6. Never a truer word said Jessica. Like you I had a critical illness in 2012 that changed me forever, I went back to work thinking that this was the only normal thing left in my life; however work life became harder and harder but I would not let it beat me despite my failing health only having to work harder. Then in 2016 I found my self in a situation that devastated me. In early 2017 I became unemployed. It was the most frightening thing I have ever experienced.
    Again I fought back and started a new life away from the NHS where I had worked for 31 years. I now work at a Nursing Home where I Care for the residents with love and compassion. I nowlove the job I was trained to do again. This almighty change has also given me my life back as I now only work 36 hours a week all paid for instead of the minimum of 42 hours for which I only received 37.5 hours pay.
    I can highly recommend taking those giant leaps in life so you can enjoy it to the full.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about your struggle but it sounds like it has lead you to something better. That’s the best thing that can happen to us. I’m so happy it worked out for you and you enjoy what you’re doing now.

  7. Jessica, thank you for sharing recent events in your life story. I can so relate to not fitting in. I am a complete oddball and really, I’m just a little weird. Instead of forcing things now, I accept that I am a unique individual. In fact, I wouldn’t want to fit into some mold or fit in with the crowd. It’s been an interesting progression learning to accept me for me. I have worked different jobs but have not had a career. I loved being a stay-at-home mom and having time to volunteer. Long ago, I decided what was important to me was to live within my husband’s income. It’s the right decision for our family. I admire you ladies who work hard and achieve your dreams. But I’ve decided to admire my choices, too. Believe me, I get a lot of cross-eyed looks when people ask me what I do and I tell them I’m a stay-at-home wife. I pray you have continued good health and that your message reaches many people. You have benefited me greatly. Thank you and God bless!

    1. I’m an oddball too! There’s nothing wrong with that ha ha. I don’t think there’s any greatness in fitting in. There’s a ridiculous pressure on women today to have it all – the career, the husband, the children, the perfect house, the perfect social media feed. It’s all nonsense. The truth is that if you’re excelling in one area you’re usually failing in another so having it all is impossible. Having the opportunity is what counts. It’s therefore admirable that you chose to focus your entire self on your family if that’s where your values lie. That’s an amazing thing to do and you should be proud of yourself. Hand on heart those cross-eyed looks will be jealously.

      1. Haha oddballs unite! I liked all you said and especially the excelling/failing bit. Thanks for your support!

  8. I absolutely loved this post, Jessica. I feel like I’ve learned so much about you in one brilliantly written blog post. It’s a personal story, yes, but one we can all relate to — as evidenced by the slew of comments here! I also quit the ‘corporate thing’ just over a year ago to figure out what it is I want to do. That ended up being freelancing (which, if I’m honest, is quite up and down with how much work, and money, I earn) and blogging.

    However, what I’ve learned about myself is both terrifying and invaluable: I am not the most driven person, nor am as career-oriented as I thought. At first reading this, I am both in awe and, frankly, envious of your driven, determined and confident nature (I am none of those things). But then I stopped, and re-read one of the things you wrote: “We all have a choice.” We do, don’t we? Your post is truly inspiring. Something that I see myself reading time and time again when I’m feeling particularly unmotivated, like-I-want-to-crawl-into-a-hole the way I sometimes get. Appreciate what you have, and make the most of it. Simple.

    Also, huge congratulations on beating cancer. So, so very happy to read that and know that. So much love, too. x

    Eire | http://www.wolf-and-stag.com

    1. Eire – you always leave the most thoughtful, kind comments. Thank you so so much. It sounds like you’ve figured out what suits you and that is something to celebrate. I’m reading a lot into self-knowledge right now and knowing these things about yourself is invaluable. We are all different and yes we all have a choice. I think it comes down to trying our best to figure out who we are and then using that knowledge to make life work for us in a way that feels good. That won’t be the same for everyone but that’s the beauty of it x

  9. This post is exactly what i needed to read right now. I l can completely relate to everything you said and it has given me hope knowing that there are people out there who have been through the exact same predicament as me, of not knowing whether to take the plunge into self employment and all the other worries that come with it. I’m still working full time in a 9-5 job, but I’ve reached that stage (usually a year for me) where I’m no longer motivated, hate the constraints and do not feel I’m using my creativity to its full. I know for me to be happy long term i need to go self employed and i constantly dream about the day i’ll be brave enough to take that first step. Its just scary when there’s so much at risk, although your tips were extremely helpful and have given me hope that it is possible. Thanks for putting up such an inspirational post 🙂

    1. No matter what job it was, just like you, I always got to that stage of not feeling motivated. I’m so happy you found it inspiring. Comments like yours really make my day. I’m cheering you on with finding what suits you. I’m sure you’ll get there if you keep chasing after it.

  10. I couldn’t imagine going back to an office now, being made to feel like rubbish because you’re uncomfortable doing things their way. Good for you!

  11. I have always wondered about a minimalist lifestyle and never thought I could accomplish it, but you have made it so much clearer to me! Your posts are very helpful and inspirational. Thank You for opening my eyes to the lifestyle I hope to achieve within the near future!

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