I was unemployable as a designer. I had no qualifications so no one would hire me and therefore I had no experience.
But for the last 12 months I've been a successful self-employed graphic / web designer:
I have 20+ websites and 10+ brands in my portfolio
It has been my only source of income
I've financially met my side of the household contribution
My work fits around my life and I don't work full time
I'm a working mum: I home educate my son and run my own business
Here's the thing though - it's taken me nearly 20 years to achieve this.
Another Personal Best!
I've made my first £10K! ..
It's taken me 12 months and not 4 weeks - but the way I have done it has made me feel like millionaire!!
The entire £10,000 has been made from designing beautiful Wix websites, creating gorgeous brands and focused social media marketing for small businesses - so that £10,000 might as well be £100,000 in my eyes.
Could I work more? Yes. Could I earn more? Yes.
But for me, running my own business isn't about working all the time or making 6 figures, it's about bringing in the cash to pay the bills, whilst doing something I love. And then spend the rest of the time enjoying myself!
Where I am right now, is my version of SUCCESSFUL.
Almost 20 years previously ..
I've always wanted to be a Graphic Designer - right back since 1994 when I told my careers advisor as much. She was useless and her contribution was a leaflet for the Job Centre. But I knew the first thing I had to do was to get qualified, so I enrolled myself into an Art & Design college. I finished with 2 merited A Levels.
Unfortunately my parents then decided to tell me they couldn't afford to send me to university. At that age - without further education and a degree - no business would hire me as a designer.
In 1998 my dreams went in the bin and I got an office admin job.
I worked in admin for 12 years. I commuted with the World's Most Miserable People and ate my lunch out of Tupperware. I hated being employed. I hated being interviewed and pretending like 'this was the best job ever!' I hated being told what to do, when to do it and what to think. Company values, office politics, 9-5 and doing the same thing everyday, with the same people.
And I even hated Friday's because it was only two days until Monday again.
This was because apart from having a job in design, I've always wanted to work for myself - ever since the age of 8. I remember seeing a shop For Sale in our local parade and thinking 'one day I'm going to own that and run a business'. Obviously I never bought that shop but I loved the sense of freedom I got whenever I thought about it.
But I come from a long line of grafters that said you should be employed in a job you hate for the next 50 years till you retire. Because that's the way it is.
To be fair, it taught me responsibility and loyalty - but it also made me feel like having my own business was never an option.
The Leap to Self Employment ..
In 2011 I couldn't stand office work anymore. I wanted to run my own business. I knew I couldn't be a Graphic Designer, so I did the next best thing - the right thing - and looked at doing something I enjoyed: photography.
I retrained in digital photography and Photoshop and quit my office job to become a Wedding Photographer.
It was HARD running my own business because over the next 5 years I always a struggled to find new clients, which fuelled my financial anxiety and imposter syndrome, so my confidence was low.
In the end it didn't feel right. I didn't enjoy being a professional photographer the way others clearly did. And if I'm going to be really honest, it didn't come naturally to me.
Plus, I needed a part time office job to fill in my income gap. In my head I was a Photographer / Business Owner - but to everyone else I was a part-time office temp with a failed business.
I wasn't a successful Business Owner because SUCCESSFUL to me meant:
it being my only source of income
having work come through organically
and to love what I was doing
So in 2016 when my son was born, it was a relief to give it up and focus on being a mum.
I vowed never to work for myself again.
I'll never go self employed again. But wait ..
Fast forward 6 months after my son was born there was no way I was going back into employment!
I didn't want to miss out on - or be away from - the most precious thing in my life: my son.
I will take the financial anxiety and lack of self confidence, thank you very much.
Self Employment: take 2
I previously tried running a business in something that I enjoyed but that didn't work out, so then I decided to run a business in something I was good at. The one thing I could do with my eyes closed and had LOADS of experience in was - admin.
I fucking hated it. But at least I was good at it.
So in August 2019 I started a Virtual Assistant business: One Hour PA, specialising in traditional admin services to small businesses in the Salisbury area.
Even though I had previous experience as a Business Owner, I wanted to do it properly this time, so I enrolled onto a VA Mastery Course in 'How To Start Your Own VA Biz' for £500. It was brilliant. It gave me business skills I completely missed the first time round (things like niching, branding and marketing).
(Check it out if becoming a Virtual Assistant ever interests you - https://www.vact.co.uk/ )
My new business got off to a great start, compared to my photography venture and I felt good about this.
But there was something missing. And it was called passion.
A choir of angels started singing and light shone around me ..
During the early stages of my admin business I found Wix.com - a brilliant piece of software to create a beautiful business website with. Then I discovered Canva - a much simpler and more fun version of Photoshop. I also got hooked on creating content for social media marketing and figuring the best strategy to build my online audience.
Casually, I started to offer branding, web design and social media marketing amongst my admin services.
Then one day in September 2020, I realised that I had been doing what I've always wanted to do - I had the clients and I was already doing the work. In fact I had already designed 5 websites and 2 brands with 2 other clients on my social media service.
If a design business wouldn't employ me as a designer - I'll start my own design business and DO IT MYSELF!!!
(que: choir of angels)
In October 2020, I closed down One Hour PA and Freaky by Design was born.
12 months later and I'm #LivingTheDream baby!! I don't do interviews, I do consultations. I don't go out begging for a job, people find me. I don't jump through qualification / experience hoops, I have natural talent and actual work. I'm doing what I have literally always wanted to do.
You know who you are ..
I want to thank each and every one of my clients who have believed in me enough to hire me - from quick power hours, to massive web design projects and ongoing social media retainers - you are the reason I am here today and living my dream and I love you for it.
Don't forget to subscribe .. big kisses, Claire x