Pursuing My Idea of Freedom
Freedom means something different to everyone and that's exactly how it should be.
I was asked the other day why I got into consulting (it was at a client of mine) as he'd always been fascinated by people who venture out to work for themselves. To give some context, this year I took the plunge and became self-employed (eeep still crazy to think about) as an HR Consultant and I am also doing other things to pursue self-employment in other areas (coaching). So, how did I get here? Why did I choose this path?
It all came down to freedom. I wanted more of it because I love it and crave it.
In October 2015, I was made redundant from an HR Consulting company I had been with for a year. That job was the first taste of consulting life, with the security of being permanently employed with a steady income. At that stage I loved working with different clients and the variety it offered me, but I didn't feel I was ready to live the time tracking life (probably not as bad as being a lawyer), but I also wanted to get a bit more internal HR experience under my belt before I ventured into consulting again. Even though I was thinking that I wasn't planning on moving on from the firm just yet or being made redundant!
But, back to the story. The redundancy happened and I took a lot of time to think about what I wanted next. I wanted to get back into internal HR, but I didn't want to take a permanent role as I wasn't sure if I wanted to stay in New Zealand. I went through a breakup two days before the restructure was announced - not fun, so it felt like everything had changed, so why not change even more! I decided to take a fixed-term job for a friend who was taking maternity leave, it was going to be a great step for my career and just the experience I was looking for. It wasn't starting for two months, which meant when I finished at the end of October I wouldn't start working again until January 5th.
At first, I panicked. What if I didn't have enough money to sustain me for two months with no income? What would I do with all of that time? All my friends were working so what the heck was I doing taking two months off?
IT WAS THE BEST THING I EVER DID! Seriously! I'm a minimalist at heart, I always have been. I didn't spend a lot of money on things that I didn't need. I worked out my budget and confirmed that I had enough money saved to take me through to my first paycheck in January (I get so obsessed that I work out exactly my after tax and KiwiSaver pay so I know what my money situation looks like). I also worked out that I had a bit of money up my sleeve to take a little travel break, so I booked a TopDeck tour and headed to Europe for two weeks (AMAZING!).
When I got back from Europe, I had six weeks off before starting work. I spent that time resting, relaxing, exercising, going to the beach, reading, learning and finding out who I was. What I liked. What I didn't like. What I wanted in life and what I didn't. My biggest realisation? I learned that I didn't want to be permanently employed again and that I wanted the opportunity to take periods of time off so I could travel and relax between work contracts.
I learned that I didn't want to be permanently employed again and that I wanted the opportunity to take periods of time off so I could travel and relax between work contracts.
So fast forward into 2016, I start my 13-month fixed-term contract, decide that I'm going to move to London because there wasn't anything left in Wellington or NZ for me (so I thought), then BAM! I meet my partner Kyle on a work snow trip and the rest is history. I'm still in NZ, but now I'm in Auckland. My contract still finished as planned in February 2017 and instead of moving to London for two years, I decided that I would travel Europe alone for two months instead. Again, BEST DECISION EVER! (if you want to know about that experience, you can read this blog).
While I was overseas I decided it was finally time to pursue this freedom lifestyle I so deeply craved. I enjoyed the fixed-term buzz, but I thought 6-12 month fixed-term contracts were too long and made me feel locked in and restrictive, which is what permanent employment did to me too. Funnily enough, I panicked once I got home thinking I was going to run out of money so I took a 12-month contract thinking I could take a bit more time, but it was a big mistake. It wasn't the right role and it wasn't right for me. I didn't have flexibility or freedom and I knew I wasn't in alignment with what was really important to me.
I left that role and took a 6-month contract and decided it was time to start transitioning. I had to stop procrastinating and just start doing what I wanted to do. So I negotiated the contract for 6 months at 4 days a week (heaven!). Again, I worked out my budget to make it work. Then the test came about 5 and a half months in. The contract was coming to an end, they still needed me but was I going to be scared and stay on? Or transition further?
I extended for 3 months with the clear statement that 30 June I was no longer an employee. My goal was to be self-employed by 1 July. Non-negotiable. It went like this: first month, normal 4 days a week. The second month, away on holiday in Bali for 3 weeks. The third month, 3 days a week and picked up my first client outside of the contract.
End of June. It was done. Two years of thinking about doing this, it was finally here. Friday, 29 June was the last day I was paid as an employee. On Monday, 2 July I was officially self-employed and able to build the life of freedom I so deeply crave.
Now, with being self-employed comes a lot of other factors you have to think about, particularly, you now have to find your own work, you don't get a secure salary every fortnight/month, and how to do your own taxes (don't! get an accountant).
All of those things can be stressful and scary - but do you know what the most magical part about all of it is? The good things to think about, not the scary things?
I can choose who I work with and the work that I do.
I can choose how much work I take on and how I structure it week to week. Some weeks I might work full-time (or more), other weeks I might only work 20 hours a week. I get to choose that.
I can plan my work around my life, the life I WANT to live, not plan my life around the 40 hours a week I need to be in an office or around the work I think I should be doing.
I know that being self-employed will be tough at times and there will be ups and downs, but if I always come back to WHY I'm doing it and why it's important TO ME, it will always work out. It will always work in my favour if that's the outlook I choose to have on it.
How can you start the transition? Live a little lighter and save a safety net, try new things/projects to help you find your passion, decide if your job is right for you or if you need to find something else, talk to your boss about possibly working part-time.
Over the next few weeks, I'll be writing posts about the steps I took to transition into self-employment. I'll cover:
how I prepared myself mentally and professionally for the change
my budgeting tips - how I manage my money, what I save, what I buy
how you can start a conversation with your boss about transitioning
how you can create space within your life to start making the changes you want
Keep an eye out! They'll be out soon!
If you're interested in learning more about intentional living and minimalism (which is how I got to where I am) you can sign up for my TashTastic Letter where I talk about building a fantastic life and how you can too!
- TashTastic -