This post is my contribution to Sophy Dale’s Freedom Seekers community project. For the month of November 30 business owners are sharing their own take on creating freedom through and within their business: the upsides, the downsides and everything in between. We are almost half-way through and I am blown away by the depth and insightfulness of my fellow contributors’ essays. You can still join this free challenge by clicking here - this will give you access to a private Facebook group where you’ll meet some very inspiring entrepreneurs and can also back-read their stories.
I will never forget the summer of 2014. We lived in England at the time but for years my husband and I had been dreaming about moving to Bellingham, WA. Alas, he was committed to yet another corporate assignment in Europe and so we made do with spending our vacations in the Pacific Northwest. On this occasion, in August 2014, we met with friends in Bellingham who were constructing a multi-purpose building in the historic Fairhaven District. They invited us to take a look so off we went, hard hats on our heads and climbing open concrete staircases to the unfinished upper floors from where you had gorgeous views across Bellingham Bay. It was going to be a really nice building in a prime location. The second floor was dedicated to professional offices and I remember walking around in awe and saying to my husband: “I’ve no idea what it would be but I wish I had a business where I could rent one of these awesome office spaces. How amazing would that be, how free would I feel!”
You know what’s coming, right? Fast forward seven months and I took possession of a lovely office overlooking Fairhaven’s Village Green!
So what happened? Well, when we returned to the UK from that trip a seed had been planted. And four months later, following a succession of rather serendipitous events we quit our jobs and took our modest savings and moved to Bellingham! We called it our Radical Rethink. During this transition I had designed a website for a friend’s business and it was such a success that - rather than look for a new job - I decided to start my own business as a Squarespace web designer. It was a total gut decision but when I got that key to my cute little office with the balcony I felt so happy, and so incredibly free, I could have hugged the world!
But this is not where the story ends. Of course not. From the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey freedom was very much on my mind, mostly:
* The ability to choose my own daily rhythm
* Working in a field I felt passionate about
* Being location independent
What I was not prepared for was the true impact of being my own boss: the empowerment that comes from taking responsibility and acting accordingly, the freedom that comes from making decisions for my business, and myself, on my own terms.
Throughout my professional career I have always shied away from conflict or too much responsibility and as a result I was never interested in climbing the corporate ladder, despite being encouraged to do so on a regular basis. Subsequently I often felt trapped in my jobs so I kept changing them. Looking back this was not a bad thing because it afforded me many adventures and interesting experiences, and with each job I learned so much about the workings of the world, and myself. And it is this accumulation of professional and life experiences that now serves me so well in my own business.
Running a small business is not for the faint-hearted. You quickly realize that you are not just the creative who gets to do what they love, you are also the CEO, CFO, marketing & sales director, administrator and customer service agent all rolled into one. That’s a lot of hats to wear as one person and a lot of responsibility! And I won’t lie, there have been days when I’ve fallen back into my old corporate mindset where I put so much pressure on myself that I begin to feel trapped again.
That’s when I remind myself. I AM FREE. I am the boss and I can…
Make my own rules.
Make any decision I want.
Make mistakes and move on.
say NO to a potential client if I feel we are not aligned.
say YES to more self-care and self-compassion.
Raise my prices simply by changing the number on my website.
Be generous with my time and money.
Be paid adequately for my skills.
Take the high road or fight.
This freedom has taught me to become tougher and more assertive, it’s made me more confident and deepened my empathy and compassion.
I don’t ever take my freedom for granted and believe that it needs to be earned and often fought for and protected. But whether in business or life, it is always worth it.
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