I’m a freelance digital marketer and vlogger. That’s a small sentence, but it’s taken me a long time to feel comfortable saying it ‘out loud’. Not because I am not good at what I do, but because of the crippling insecurity, general lack of confidence and post-labour fug I found myself in after having my first child.
Here’s the truth: When I went on maternity leave from my office job in a media agency I had a sneaky suspicion I wouldn’t be coming back. I couldn’t see how the commuting / childcare logistics would work but I also looked around at my peers with children and they seemed to be working twice as hard with no acknowledgement or appreciation.
The problem was that I wasn’t actually qualified to do anything. I had ten years experience in media but I wasn’t sure how I would be able to make money form this outside the M25. So when I wasn’t caring for my newborn I was Googling ‘flexible work’, ‘work from home opps’, ‘remote working’ and on and on. Then I tried everything from Avon, to Stella and Dot, to remote data entry, to setting up my own e-commerce store, to taking a part-time job… and was miserable. I call this my WTF Phase.
Anyway, the good news is that I eventually found my way and I am freelancing and doing a job that I love whilst also making enough money to make it worthwhile. So if you are in your WTF Phase, hopefully the following will help shed some light on what you might be able to do.
Think about your skill set
It’s really easy to marginalise what you do and wonder “who is going to pay me to do that?”. If you find yourself here, then its time to look to others to build you back up. It can be hard for friends or family to help as they may not know the intricacies of your specialism, but why not try reaching out to a few favourite clients and colleagues or previous bosses? Reach out to people on LinkedIn, meet up with people for a coffee. Look at job specs of companies that are advertising similar roles to ones you’ve done, it will help you realise how to categorise your experience.
Think laterally – Ok, maybe (for whatever reason) you can’t freelance in your particular specialism, but are there things you are knowledgeable about that others would pay to learn from you? Perhaps you know a lot about kids’ healthcare and parents might pay you to give workshops? Or you could advise sales teams how to most effectively speak to the kind of client that you used to be?
Consider retraining – There are loads of courses out there that can help you find a new career. I became a course junkie and studied social media marketing, search marketing and copywriting. Don’t panic if you haven’t got money to invest though, there are plenty of free courses out there. I found Google’s Digital Garage really useful and it’s completely free.
Embrace your multi-passionate self
This is something that held me back massively. People thought I was flaky, trying something new every 5 minutes… “What are you doing this week?” This really knocked my confidence and made me feel like I shouldn’t keep trying things, that I should just stay at home and stop wasting time and money on trying to find my ‘thing’. If this is you then HOLD THE PHONE, because I now realise it’s only because I am SO AWESOME that I am able to give these things a whirl. Also everything I’ve done — and I mean everything — I look back on and see that it’s helped me get to where I am now. So if things don’t work out first time around just think ‘plot twist’ and see where your story takes you next.
Invest in yourself
I’ve talked about courses but I also think that during this time when you are facing massive transitions on all fronts (oh yeah, because we are still looking after these little people whilst going through the WTF Phase, remember?) it’s really important to take care of you. Even if it’s just having a bath so you can collect your thoughts — you need to make sure you are carving out some time for yourself.
A really good friend advised me to get my thoughts down on paper. I bought a journal and did just that and when I looked back over, it I realised the things I am really passionate about and enjoy doing. This is particularly useful when you are struggling to remember what time the next feed is, let alone how you felt when you worked on that project / read that news article 3 months ago.
Stick your flag in the sand
This is a really important one. Once you’ve decided what you are going to do DO NOT PLAY IT DOWN. I remember going to a networking event and I kept introducing myself as “well I… er… I’ve sort of retrained in digital marketing”. Yeah, people weren’t really banging down the door to work with me SURPRISE, SURPISE.
I had a word with myself and started saying, “I am a digital marketer and I’m working on a business idea that is about connecting other women in the same field”. Honestly, the difference in the conversations I had was huge. So change your LinkedIn status, get out and talk to people and find networking groups for your niche.
I hope this will help you figure it all out faster than I did. And if nothing else, please realise that you are not alone. There are a lot of us that have been through our WTF Phase and survived it. That also means there are plenty of us out there that can help you find your freelancing mojo too. Good luck.
Photograph by Nicola Washington.