It occurred to me as I sit here working from home during our third lockdown, how things have changed in only five years. Where once I might have found myself on the BAFTAs red carpet or organising high-end PR launches, I now find myself seated at my dining room table in my slippers, working from home. Some days are a slog but I know I am not alone.
In 2016, after a 25-year+ PR career, culminating in a high-flying role as MD of a beauty PR agency, I decided to swap the red carpet for my red slippers and work for myself
as a consultant. I loved my job, but it got to the point, approaching mid-fifties, that I needed more balance. And to be honest, the reputation, experience and contacts I had earned over the years, had given me the ‘know-how’ to be able to work on my terms rather than working the 9 to 5. The result, I am now able to work less, but offer more, and really enjoy every minute of it.
But leaving a big role to go freelance is not easy. Talking to friends and work colleagues in the 50+ decade, a few have done the same, and many are thinking about it but just don’t have the courage. They are worried about ‘becoming invisible’ and ‘staying relevant’. How do we still feel ‘worthy’ and ‘relevant’ without the big title? So, I’ve put together my 5 key tips which may help with making that ‘big decision’, or simply staying ‘on top’ once you’ve done it.
1. You don’t need a title to feel important
Sounds simple but, actually, it can be quite daunting. The smallest things like making a call and being asked where you’re calling from can leave you feeling insignificant. I ended up creating a name for my ‘consultancy’, almost so that I had an answer. It comes down to confidence and being prepared. Remember, it’s a brave move to work for yourself, and you undoubtably have many years of experience under your belt and an established reputation and credibility within your industry. You have earned it through your years of hard graft. Be prepared for the questions that might insight moments of self-doubt and have your answers at-the-ready.
2. Maintain your network
The one benefit of a career change or sideways move at 50+ is that you have years of working behind you and will have invariably built up a pretty decent network of contacts. Make sure you stay in touch as you never know when you will need to draw on them. Staying visible within your network will help you stay top-of-mind, along with keeping you sane! Social media is great for this if you don’t always feel like picking up the phone.
3. Less than 100% perfection is OK
When working for yourself, be aware that there is no one to tell you to stop now, your project is complete. As a perfectionist, this can be a great obstacle in productivity as you could literally go on indefinitely trying to reach perfection. Perfect, for a perfectionist is undoubtably way higher than ‘expectation’ and often unattainable. Acknowledge the Pareto 80:20 rule. Don’t waste time obsessing over minor details and remember that the first 20% of your output will usually deliver 80% of your goal. Perfectionists will often over-service, and working alone can often exacerbate this as you feel you’re never done. Doing this could result not only in burnout but also by spending too much time on the small stuff and potentially pricing yourself above the market – particularly if you are paid by time)
4. Find your tribe
Look to build a support network around you. I recently took part in a ‘Mid-Life Reset’ workshop, hosted by Aviva Wittenberg-Cox and MPowered women. One of the exercises was to chart the people in our lives and understand how they support us. This could be professional, emotional, physical etc. It’s an interesting exercise as you can clearly see where you might fill the gaps and actively look to fill them to ensure you are getting the support you need. Find relevant networking groups such as Lunchclub, or look at the various interactive workshops available where you might meet like-minded people. There are also some great Facebook groups for freelancers. Having a network you can bounce-off, exchange ideas and both give and receive advice and support is vital. I know I couldn’t do without my tribe!
5. Never stop Learning
This is so important at whatever age, but it is vital when you are freelancing - or ‘working alone’ - to stay on top of trends and developments within your industry. This will ensure you stay current and relevant within your offering. Use social media to keep up-to-speed and check out relevant courses and webinars. I use Linked-in and Instagram mainly and have come across some really great events and even been able to use this to widen my support network.
If this resonates with you and you fancy a chat
- do get in touch here