Choosing to end my career, a career that I’d moved from South Wales to London for, didn’t come easy. My blog was around a year old when I left GQ and it was such a daunting thing to do. I’ve been in employment since I was 13 years old and spent a good eight years getting to where I did at Condé Nast so the prospect of being my own boss came with both its perks and concerns. What if the blog nose dived? Would I miss that salary? Would I get lonely?
But what if it went really well? If it grew and started doubling traffic every month? I’d saved in advance so that I’d be able to survive for three months without a salary but aside from that and filling my diary and scheduling content, there was little else I could do to prepare. Overall, with the anticipation and freedom to no longer consider the blog a side project but a full time job came plenty of optimism. But of course, ask anyone who is self employed and they’ll probably all tell you the same. The story doesn’t end there.
I used to check a job spec and use that as my minimum requirement. In London’s publishing world, as I said on my video it’s important to always go above and beyond to get yourself recognised and matter. As my own boss I drew up a job spec for myself. The list was endless. Social media management responsibilities, photographer, buyer, stylist, copy writer etc. Seeing everything in one space made it easier for me to manage my time and schedule the week ahead.
Being An Expert
I confessed to someone at Prada fragrance that without my magazine experience, I’d find it super difficult to be a blogger. I probably wouldn’t have a blog. My experience has taught me editorial integrity, the importance of brand relationships and appropriateness. I’m aware that I have a responsibility to over 50,000 to not endorse things that don’t work and to be consistent.
Developing my blog alongside my previous GQ role meant I was able to become an expert in blogging, SEO and building content. Don’t quit your job until you’re at this stage because there is so much to learn. There are lots of courses to enrol on like this ‘One Week Fashion Journalism Course’ at Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design. For those who don’t know, Condé Nast is the global publishing giant publishing the likes of Vogue, GQ, Glamour, Tatler and many more (see vacancies here). If reading is more your thing, there are some great books to use such as ‘The Ultimate Blog Plan’ by CareerGirlDaily.
Money, Money, Money
I covered myself for three months worth of income as a buffer and then set a timeline of events for the year in which I could run projects alongside. I made myself a PR calendar (see how to make one here) and drew up a few ideas in advance to pitch to brands. On the back of this grew more streamlined ideas (e.g. natural skincare, IPL hair removal for Summer etc). Set yourself financial objectives but remember being self employed means you’re never guaranteed a certain amount of income each month. Unless you earn a decent revenue from affiliates like RewardStyle. Having this buffer meant whenever there was a month where sponsorships aren’t in abundance, I know I’m still safe.
#2 Being worthwhile/purposeful
As your own boss, you need your business to be successful. You don’t want to blur into irrelevance or worst still, be the same as everyone else. I made it my number one priority to not be another ‘same’ blogger, to not be too ‘pink’ and to not compete against or try to be like anyone else. I want my blog to be unique, different and special. Without being worthwhile, the blog won’t stand out. This goes for mistakes too – the amount of spelling errors I see on big blogger’s Twitter accounts is ridiculous! As my own boss I try to be purposeful and make every blog post count.
#3 People like people – not brands like people
I once saw a blogger brag on Twitter that she replied to an email from a brand with limited budget “well sorry but I don’t want to work with a failing brand who is on the brink of bankruptcy”. Career suicide. All brands have ‘limited budgets’ and that’s the job of a PR person – to get coverage for free/a small fee.
What I learned working for magazine brands is that it’s not the brands who like you as a person, it’s people. Similarly in hiring, it’s not a company that likes a person, it’s a person who likes a person (the interviewer). Relationships are so integral to a business and more so when you’re self employed. I’ve spent years taking out clients for lunch, drinks, after work events. Spent a lot of time getting to know my contacts, learning about their families and friends. Even sending birthday cards and flowers on special occasions. Investing in relationships with your contacts is so important – especially if you want your business to grow.
#4 Being Focused
As my own boss it’s never been more important to be focused.
I have to spend time planning my week ahead, calling out samples, getting the exclusive on that new launch. I have to make sure my meetings are in the diary (I try to do about 10 a week) and I’m never without phone or laptop charge. Now I’m not saying I find this easy, the other day I caught myself on deadline writing a collaboration post and started googling ‘Raspberries during pregnancy’. I was craving them and wanted to know what vitamins I must have been lacking. 20 minutes later I was knee deep in ‘babies being born at 24 weeks’ and no further on my post. It’s important to be disciplined.
At GQ I knew I’d always be in for around 8.30/9am, lunch was at 1pm and I could leave after 6pm. I enjoyed this structure and try to maintain it even though I can dictate my hours. I’m organised in my day when it comes to meal times. I always ensure my fridge is stocked with healthy snacks, my jug is always full of water and that lunch is waiting for me. I do miss popping out onto Regents Street and Bond Street for a nosey around the shops on my lunch break but instead I now put a washing load on, watch a TV program or go out for a walk. In the long run it’s saved my hundreds of pounds a month but it can get a bit boring if there’s no variation.
#5 Being your biggest human resource
I’m forever reassessing my resources and myself. When you’re your own boss, there is no HR department. There is no one there to care for you, look after your pay and benefits or to define and design your workload. Ultimately the way in which you maximise your productivity is down to you. So you need to find ways to optimise your own effectiveness.
I treat my income as a business pot from which I take a modest salary each month. Enough for bills and a nice standard of living, (I live in London after all so don’t mind enjoying myself here). Sometimes there are things like memory cards, new lights and other equipment to pay for. Sometimes there’s an outfit I’d love to feature or an experience I’d like to blog about. These need to be budgeted for. In the seven months I’ve been blogging full time it’s only now that I’m starting to put aside more budget for an assistant, a larger (rented) workspace and more professional props. Expenses aside, I also make sure my work week is Mon-Fri and that I don’t work in the evenings (my husband would hate it). I never work on weekends either.
#6 Growing a team
I always intended team Sassy to be just one person in its first year. But as the blog grows and LittleInTheCity.com takes off I find myself questioning when do I have time to go to the Post Office to collect parcels/send returns. I rarely have the time now to answer every email, to organise my diary efficiently, book cabs, be at every event. Not to mention clearing up after my flat lays, building my newsletters (sign up by emailing ‘newsletter’ to firstname.lastname@example.org) etc. Like any brand, in order to grow you need a dream team around you. By the end of the year I’ll more than likely have a part time assistant.
#7 Flexi Working
Yes take as many sick days as you need but remember it’s only you that makes the money. I recently took a two week break for Cornwall (a pre wedding calm) and then a week off post wedding to recover and pass my driving test. Despite dipping in and out of emails I still felt utterly exhausted. It’s great having the flexibility to work (and not work).
#8 Work Space
Eventually I’d like a big office space where a team can work altogether, have meetings and brain storm. But right now, as the blog is in it’s very infant stages, it’s just me in my London home on a table. As we consider an extension for a bigger, brighter office and work out whether to have our kitchen moved into our dining room to make more space for the new baby, work space for me has always been a bone of contention.
The boxes mounted up in the dining room for upcoming projects and photo shoots are getting a bit out of hand. As are my incessant demands to my husband for tidiness in our home so I can work better. Yes I head in to the West End for meetings and coffee shop spaces but it can be a bit frustrating at times. It’s key to identify a clear boundary for where and when you work if you’re working from home.
#9 Programming your mind
I know that sometimes I’m inconsistent, unhealthy and get worked up over small things. But I’ve learned that in programming my mind to stay as that young media professional I was during my time at GQ, ELLE (and various other magazines) has kept me sane and on track. As my own boss I have three rules. Never finish a work day unsatisfied, know that a to do list is revolving and never work to an end goal but constantly develop and grow instead. This positive mental attitude will reflect in your work.
SHOP THE POST
Camo Shacket – Topshop
White Long Sleeved Tee (Similar) – ASOS
Jeans (Similar) – MOTO Topshop
Pointed Shoes – New Look
Black Bag (Similar) – ASOS
Bronzer – Marc Jacobs Beauty
Did you find this useful? Are you thinking of becoming your own boss? Xx
Psst… did you know that I’m expecting a baby this September? Read all about it on my new second blog, LittleInTheCity.com and follow on Instagram @LittleInTheCity
I freaking loved reading this post and I can’t wait to see how your blog flourishes now that you’ve left GQ! I’m also super excited to read your post about starting your own business – while I do enjoy my job, I’ve come to realise that I don’t think I’ll ever be truly happy until I can work for myself.
Olivia – The Northernist x
It’s a huge step and one that realistically you need to be prepared to do. I found it so daunting given our London property mortgage, all of my outgoings and the standard of living so unless you’re prepared to take a dip or cut, it’s important to plan ahead for a few months. Maybe start putting the groundwork in now and who knows where you might be just before Christmas! xx
Great post! I went freelance a few months ago after realising that I wasn’t going to achieve my career goals and be happy whilst working for someone else. It comes with its challenges but I’m a lot happier now. These tips are so helpful too!
Thanks for your comment!
Glad to hear that it’s all going well for you so far… x