Nearly one year ago, I left my full-time legal career to transition into life as a travel writer and editor and fashion blogger and stylist. What I’ve learned in that time about work, life and style could fill a book. The flexibility that comes with a freelancing mutli-hyphen career. The freedom from office politics. The new perspective on life. And, most of all, the increased room to play with my style choices.
At the time I left my full-time job as a legal director at an international advertising company, I knew I was 100% doing the right thing for me. I’d done all the research and preparation to make that leap of faith a safe and thought-out one. But there was still that one moment where I had a tiny crisis of faith.
It was my first Monday morning as a multi-hyphen freelancer. I got up, put on a very casual outfit of jeans, sweater and trainers, and went out for coffee. As I strolled through the park, flat white in hand, I started to feel a very low-level anxiety. I felt butterflies in my stomach and a weird feeling of weightlessness. Without that
drudge routine of get up – go to office – check emails – review documents, I felt lost. I promptly started cry right there in the middle of the park.
Fortunately, this mini-crisis lasted all of one hour. I went back home and got stuck in to all the tasks I’d set for myself for the coming weeks. Before I knew it, I was freelancing three days a week as a lawyer for a large media company, and working on my writing and blogging every other waking minute. There has literally been no time to feel scared, sad or anxious since then, and I don’t think I would even if I did have that head space to reflect that deeply on it all. Life has been too goddam awesome.
There are three main things I’ve learned about freelancing in the last year.
no more office politics
Number one is that as a freelancer, I no longer get caught up in office politics. I go in to the office, I get the job done. In the evenings, I leave and go and do whatever the hell I want. I’m no longer looking over my shoulder at what everyone else is doing, who’s getting promoted, who’s getting fired, who’s acting weirdly political etc. It just doesn’t affect me anymore.
Of course I need to know who’s who in the company and who I need to involve in the projects I’m working on. But other than that, life as a freelancer is refreshingly politics-free. This fresh perspective then lead me to a way of working that, for me, is so much more efficient. I’m no longer second-guessing myself in terms of my long term career prospects in a company. I’m simply focussing on doing the best job I can each hour I’m working for that company, without all the emotional and mental drain of worrying about office politics.
being a multi-hyphenate requires discipline
This has been a tricky one for me. On those days when I’m working purely for myself and my own brand, I’ve had to learn a new kind of discipline.
At the start of my freelance life, I used those extra two days I had to myself to run errands, go to pilates, the hairdresser, the gym, meet friends for lunch… Seriously, anyone who says “I just wouldn’t want to stop working, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself” needs to hang out with me every Thursday and Friday. There are just so many ways I can fill my day without it actually involving work.
There came a time when I realised the mani-pedi afternoons had to stop. I now treat those extra two days as proper work days and fill them with work that’s exclusively for me and my burgeoning business. And even though it is effectively work, its my passion. So I absolutely love every minute of it.
multi-hyphen career means multi-hyphen style
What I’ve learned about my own sense of style is that I have had to become a bit of a chameleon, depending on what I’m doing and who I’m meeting with.
On those days when I’m lawyering away in a corporate environment (albeit in the media industry), I still need to dress according to the standards of an office. I may need to be in meetings with executive board members on those days. Sadly, I can’t let my full fashion-girl freak flag fly too high on those days. On the plus side, I still get to wear some of the beautiful, but more conservative, pieces I have invested in over the course of my legal career.
Then there’s the days I’m meeting with brands and fashion PRs. Those days are my favourites. I get to fully express who I am with my outfits and not worry about how it will be perceived. So if I want to wear leopard print corduroys under a neo-gothic white shirt-dress with cowboy boots, then dammit I will.
On days when I’m working form home, I have found that (with obvious exceptions that I have written about here), sleepwear is not an option if I want to be productive. I have found I don’t get much done in sweats and pyjamas. So on those days, I make a rule of getting up, showering and wearing something that I wouldn’t be embarrassed in if I bumped into someone important. It takes discipline, but it means I get a whole lot more work done.
I’m still on a learning curve about career, work and how to balance work, life and style. It’s exhilarating, exciting and incredibly fulfilling. So if I could go back in time and talk to that girl crying into her flat white on the park bench a year ago, I’d say, “Snap out of it, Suz! Your life and style is just getting started.”
Some brands work so well at bridging the gap between my corporate persona and my fashion girl reality. Here, I’m wearing a red leather skirt and the most heavenly trench coat from Finery, which is one of those labels that makes elegantly chameleon-like pieces.