Be careful what you wish for

Or, the other headline I was going to use for this month’s column is the current Rightmove TV advert catchphrase; ‘no perfect time, just the right time’. Because something I asked for has come to fruition, the timing isn’t perfect, but it could be the right time.

I floated the idea of writing a blog for a client back in August and re-pitched a feature to a fashion magazine; both have come back to me to follow up. I’d forgotten about the offer to write a regular blog, and I hadn’t heard from the fashion magazine editor for a couple of weeks, and I’ll admit I was relieved. Both responses, positive, came back in the same week, and I had a bit of an “oh sh*t” moment.

I’d asked a fellow writer for some advice on blog writing, so I sort of knew what I was doing. Responding to the client, detailing the service in black and white though felt a little fake, almost dangerous. Who was I to outline a service I hadn’t delivered? How long do I give myself to complete a blog? Am I charging enough or short-changing myself? The feelings I felt when I first posted on The Dots, way back in May came flooding back, fear, excitement and nervousness. The ‘what have I just done?’ moment.

And it’s merely the imposter syndrome rearing its ugly head again, but I have to start somewhere, don’t I? For many creative people, the beginning of a new career or side hustle feels organic, a bit messy like learning to walk as a child. Occasionally you make it across the floor, sometimes you fall after a step, but you get back up again and take tentative steps, like an octopus gingerly feeling with a tentacle. All the while quieting the voices in your head that say you can’t deliver, or they’ll find you out.

Ok, I’ll admit, I’ve Octopi on my brain as I watched ‘My Octopus Teacher’ on Netflix recently. If you have the time, do watch it; it’s the most beautiful story of a human’s connection with an octopus and the natural world. The octopus learns to trust a human, and I must trust in my abilities and skills. I invited the unknown in, and it’s up to me deal with it and commit.

After saying I was taking a step back in my last column, it may seem like I’m not now. I’d come to terms with the decision I made as it’s the right thing to do at the moment; however, the blog or this feature could be the start of more long time work, and when I have more free time or eventually go part-time, I want to have them in my back pocket.

And the part-time option might come true. Now, for anyone who’s holding down a ‘bill paying’ job but really wants to work on their passion, having a yearly development conversation with a manager can be a difficult conversation, especially when you have an ulterior motive. I had just this type of chat, and with significant changes coming down the line for our team, I took the brave step and asked to go part-time. As the words left my mouth, I closed my eyes, almost waiting for a bomb to hit, unsure of what the response was going to be, because I’m a bit of a pessimist, when I should be more of a glass half full person because I’d nothing to worry about! My manager asked me if she could share my request with the management team to include in their thinking regards the structural changes, and I said yes. I’m hopeful!

Truthfully, I don’t think I can face applying for an external role either. I’m in a permanent position after being a contractor for many years and am comfortable, just a little bored. Boredom generally signalled a new contract for me. The thought of ‘pimping’ myself out now as I used to doesn’t appeal, especially within the current job market.

That’s not to say I haven’t been looking; I’ve signed up to some job boards and scroll through them daily. Nothing had jumped out at me until recently; then I applied to a part-time role at a publishing house, although I didn’t get through to the interview stage. If I can get what I want where I am, it’ll be so much easier. I just need to sit tight. Who knows what’s around the corner, fingers crossed, a much better year, because let’s face it 2020 has been such a crappy year for obvious reasons.

If the part-time thing does come off in 2021, it’s going to stick a rocket up my backside, that’s for sure!

School of Hard Knocks

I’d been thinking a lot about how to start my first column and introduce myself to you. I’d pitched this column as a fly-on-the-wall account of my career transition from full time employment to freelancing building on the Beginnings article you might have read in Issue 1. I was going to talk about my wins, fails, and how I was navigating the creative and freelance arena.

What I didn’t expect was for my first column to reflect on mistakes already. And some big ones. Enter the reminder that you’re still very much a novice at this Claire.

Mistake number 1:  if you’re going to write about someone, ask for their permission first even if you truly believe what you’ve written isn’t going to be an issue.

Mistake number 2:  have someone read your work to check whether it makes sense and for grammar, punctuation etc. before publishing.

My first mistake is painful and personal; the second mistake grates me the most because I know it.  In my day job I check other people’s work and others check mine. We all know that we’re often too close to our own work and can’t see the wood for the trees so I don’t know why I thought it was any different this time.

I’m going to blame a behavior, a trait that is a positive and a negative.  The in-the-moment behaviour that has me rushing headlong into things without thinking of the consequences. The ‘jump before I leap’ attitude that I talked about in my Beginnings article. It’s not helped many times and certainly hasn’t helped on this occasion. Being told about and seeing my mistakes felt like a slap in the face and the euphoria of seeing my article in disappeared instantly. It’s also left me doubting myself. I’ve read many a freelancer talk about the need to have a thick skin in this industry but I attribute that need for when you receive criticism of your work in relation to topic, argument or style, not to mistakes that have been my own doing.

I’ve learnt my lesson the hard way both personally and professionally but a lesson it is and I shall dust myself off, chin up and move on. After all the deliberating and agonising over the last few weeks about what to write in this column, I’ve inadvertently given myself a topic to talk about. It’s a very, very thin silver lining and I’ll take it.

Not enough hours in the day

Something I’ve been struggling with and thinking about this month is how I am going to do my full time job, writing and turn it into something sustainable. It’s well documented that building up your own business or changing career takes time, years in some cases, and invariably you have to continue to do a full time job on top of working all the other hours and weekends to build a new business up.

Working from home, and with a slightly less hectic role due to changes in business priorities has certainly allowed me to start exploring but since I started looking, connecting with people and talking about projects it has felt all consuming already. I’m only one month in!  I’m trying to snatch time to look at links, articles, respond to people but crucially I need time to think about the areas I want to focus on. I might be missing out on an exciting opportunity but I really need to be honest with myself about what I can take on with a full time job and what I really should be saying yes to. I also spend a lot more time in front of my laptop, a disadvantage of working from home that means I don’t want to look at a screen in the evenings. I want to go outside and have my one hour of exercise, relax or simply just do nothing. But I could miss out on an opportunity, I have FOMO!

Do you ever feel torn? How do you find a balance or do you struggle? I’d love to know.