When I left the corporate world a decade ago, the idea of having freedom and flexibility in ones working life was not common. But, that is exactly what I wanted.
At the time, my husband and I had spent four years commuting from our country home in Tauranga in the rural Bay of Plenty region in New Zealand, to our city apartment for work each week. We'd set off early on a Monday morning and return late afternoon on a Friday. It was a great life and one we enjoyed doing together.
From out of nowhere came an abrupt and unpleasant end to my corporate career. After being stressed for many, many months from working twelve hour days (and still not keeping up with the demands of the two-person job I was in), I burnt out. Taking time out was the only thing I could do, I had nothing left in my tank. Zip. Zero.
Spending three months at our country home getting myself back together was exactly what the doctor ordered, quite literally. Being able to relax, spend time in our garden, and if I chose to, travel to the city with my husband for the week.
Before long it was time to start thinking about what I'd do with the remainder of my working life. Prior to my burn out I had a carefully laid out plan—I'd work full-time in the corporate world for two more years, then I'd get a part-time role until I retired. At the time this seemed logical and I thought, fairly easy. The universe however had other ideas, it seems I was not finished with my entrepreneurial journey.
So, I asked myself: What do I do now?
About five years prior, I'd worked for a website development company wiring content for website, and a number of years earlier, I'd been a technical writer. I actually loved writing anything and everything.
Soon enough, I had my answer. I'll start a copywriting business—all I will need is my laptop and my brain, and I can choose to be at our country home, or travel with my husband to the city for the week. This was the perfect solution.
It's now been exactly a decade since my corporate career ended and having started and run three businesses during that time, all of which have created me the ultimate in freedom and flexibility, this is what I've learned so far:
1. Get quiet and the answers will come. Rather than going into a panic when I first because unemployed, I let it go. To be honest, I didn't have any option. With my mind, body, and soul literally exhausted and really not much use to me, I had to surrender. When I did start thinking about work again, the answer came very quickly. If you'd like to create a working life of freedom and flexibility, ask yourself: What could I be doing? Something will come if it's what you truly want.
2. Be prepared to work harder than you ever have. Being in business, and on a path of freedom and flexibility has sure had it challenges. There was an enormous amount of new technology I had to get up to speed with, and I had to learn how to manage my own time without a boss and a 9-5 workday. This was difficult initially both from the perspective of working too little, to then working too much. Discovering that I was it—I did the work, found the work, and did the banking, the marketing, paid the accounts, and everything else that went along with owning a business, was a shock at first.
3. Embrace the freedom and flexibility. The thing I love the most about the life I have created is the fact that I can work where I want to and when I want to. Getting up early is my thing, so over the last couple of years I start anywhere between 5.30am and 7.00am and work through until midday or 2.00pm. I love these hours and it really works for me. I do my best work early and my energy decreases in the afternoon. At any time during my week, I can fit in coffee or lunch with a friend or fellow business owner, attend a yoga class, or go for a walk or do the garden. This to me is the ultimate in freedom and flexibility.
4. Celebrate your successes. Working for myself is hugely satisfying. When my first clients were prepared to pay me a great hourly rate for my work, and kept coming back, I was over-the-moon. Today I still feel the same level of satisfaction when I have helped a client, inspired someone, and made a difference in their life. And it's all down to me. Learning to celebrate your successes and recognise them is important.
5. Review and reset. There will always be change in our lives, and that is because as human beings, we are always changing. Being aware of where you are at both personally and professionally at any given point in time will mean you can pivot your life or business or make a complete change if you so wish. In the last decade I've been a copywriter, the owner of a furniture paint company (and still am), and now I'm an author, speaker, and mentor.
In 2023 it's easier than ever to create this kind of lifestyle. Even as an employee, it's possible. With many corporates now working flexible hours from home things have changed enormously.
Achieving the ultimate of freedom and flexibility will mean being self-employed. But, this is so doable. You'll need to be committed to the cause and be a self-starter because you're accountable only to yourself and your clients. There's no boss cracking the whip if you get behind on a project.
Even though there are challenges, the benefits far outweigh the pitfalls. Whether you're an entrepreneur with a number of business interests, a freelancer, or a contractor of some description, you can call the shots and have a successful and fulfilling working life.