I started writing my first novel in January 2016. This was also the time I started blogging, and dreaming of a future in which I worked for myself. I said many times, in many posts, that I viewed writing as a business - not just an enjoyable hobby. My goal was to eventually combine my writing and my love of publishing to forge a career that was creatively and intellectually fulfilling and that would allow me to get the most out of life.
Well, folks. I've finally done it!
In 2017, I gave birth to two books and a baby boy - a bit of a whirlwind year - and at the start of my maternity leave I told myself that by September 2018, instead of returning to my job in educational publishing, I would be in a position to launch my own business and work for myself.
There are two parts to my business model: Bewick Press, my publishing company, which will produce writing and literature based resources for schools, and my freelance work as a book coach and author services provider.
Ups and downs and roundabouts
I started off pretty optimistically, despite friends and family gently reminding me that starting a business is pretty darn hard at the best of times, let alone when you’re accompanied 24/7 by a newborn baby. But I was determined. I snatched minutes in nap times and when my husband got home from work. I seemed to be spending every spare second working, planning, thinking, calculating... but nothing was happening.
Around the six month mark, I was utterly convinced that I would have to return to work. The time was coming when I would have to let my employers know whether I'd be going back and I just couldn't justify quitting my job when I had no evidence that any freelance work would be coming in.
I was also not having much luck with my educational resources. I was trying to launch my own creative writing based project and although I knew it was a fantastic idea because teachers told me it was, they also told me they didn't have the money to sign up for it. I spent a gut wrenching amount of money on my first email campaign and it resulted in absolutely zero orders. Actually, the cost of the campaign would be a drop in the ocean for most businesses, but for someone on maternity leave with next-to-no income it felt like a lot!
So, a few weeks away from the end of my maternity leave, I found myself with two choices: give up, return to work and plug away at my business whenever I could find time, which, let’s face it, would be pretty infrequently if I was working full time in the day and looking after a little one in the evenings; or give myself a kick up the butt and make one last attempt to MAKE IT HAPPEN.
Making it happen!
I chose the second option. I turned my business model upside down, sent another email and told myself that if ten schools signed up for the project I would quit my job.
Guess what? 30 schools signed up and I emailed my boss to say those two joyous words: I QUIT. (I actually worded my email much more politely than that but you get the gist.)
Becoming self-employed was still daunting. The money from the school orders won’t start trickling through until December/January and going from knowing what you’ll get in your pay packet at the end of the month to having absolutely no clue is pretty scary. But you know what I found? As soon as I started to think self-employed, as soon as I started to tell people that I worked for myself and about the services I could provide, things started to happen.
On top of the school orders for my educational business, in my first month of freelancing as an Author Services Provider I’ve done several coaching sessions, run a one-day writing retreat (with two more planned), completed a manuscript assessment for another YA author and secured a regular formatting gig.
Up up and away...
It’s actually incredible how much difference it makes, being responsible only to yourself. I feel free. Free to organise my working week how I like. Free to come up with new ideas, implement new schemes and projects. Just. Free.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s overwhelming too. Being the only one responsible for everything, I only have myself to blame if a mistake is made. There is always the possibility that things will go down instead of up. And having to keep money aside because you're not sure how next month will go is an entirely different mind set for me.
It's also incredibly challenging to 'Mum' and work at the same time. In all honesty, there have been times in the last few weeks when I've thought that going back to a 9-5 office job would be easier.
But then I remind myself than nothing great was ever easy. I get to see my little boy every day and I'm working for a future in which I can take him places, show him the world and be an inspiration to him. I want him to see that if you work hard you can make anything happen. And I want him to be proud of his mummy.
So that's my new plan... as Dory would say... just keep swimmin'.