I missed my own anniversary. My business anniversary that is; my wedding anniversary is seared into my brain like a brand on a juicy piece of steak because it is a bona fide reason to call on the in-laws to babysit overnight so we can enjoy a night away and a lie-in (children steal your lie-ins forever, that's a fact). Anyway, I had missed my business anniversary but thanks to the power of LinkedIn, a flurry of messages over the past couple of days have informed me that:
Five years ago I ditched my corporate career
This makes it sound like I threw it out of a moving car (which I would quite happily have done on more than one occasion - and then backed the car up and run it over for good measure. And then got out of the car and stamped on it.) but in actual fact it was a planned move. I had decided to go, sought advice, put a (kind of) financial plan in place and then gone to become a "freelancer".
A freelance what?
Initially I started out offering Alliance Management consultancy because I was good at helping businesses to figure out how to work with Microsoft. I still do it a little bit, in subtler ways but something happened that I wasn't expecting, and it took me in an entirely different direction to the way I thought I was going to go.
This very blog that I started writing to celebrate my freedom got picked up by Cosmopolitan and then people started asking me if I would consider blogging for them. And then I started ghost writing for people who simply didn't have the time to write the stuff that they kept getting told they should be putting out there - funnily enough thought leaders and captains of industry are often too busy to spend three hours at a keyboard crafting content. And because of this, I started getting asked to write other stuff - web copy, eShots, LinkedIn profiles, even poetry for events and off-sites.
And the more I wrote, the more I got asked to write. Luxury brands, small businesses, start-ups, charities and individuals all asked if I'd give them a hand.
Some days I write about skin aesthetics, others about cloud computing. The day I had to write both a white paper and a best man's speech was a pretty interesting one. Every day I get a proper writer's work out, and there's nothing like flexing your writing muscle to make you want to write more.
And at the same time that all this was going on I was getting a chance to properly put into play all the things that the corporate training courses that I had attended told me about - especially in the realms of managing cash flow and profitability. The training was right but the context was wrong. The theory of running your own P&L is wonderful in helping you understand your customers but it's not until you actually run your own that you really get it (especially that first time you realise that you didn't save enough for your tax bill...).
Tales of the unexpected
Quite aside from the fantastic thing that was realising I had carved my own career as a writer (thus proving my English teacher right - just 20+ years after her initial assertion that I should "do something" with my writing), the past five years have included publishing three books, becoming a trustee of a fantastic charity and making some tentative steps into stand-up comedy, all of which have made a massively positive impact on my life and all of which I don't think I would have had the courage (or time, let's be honest) to try when I was still employed by a corporate.
If I've learned anything over the past five years, it's that the best thing about freelancing is in the name - being free. Free to make choices and mistakes, free to take risks and opportunities, free to create your own definition of success. Free to decide to spend a day doing stuff that you have chosen to do. And it's because of this freedom that I can't say for sure what will happen over the next five years - who knows what ripple in my life the next decision will create. Whatever happens - I'm glad I took that first step. Happy Anniversary indeed!