I quit my job recently to become self-employed. I’ve always had multiple income streams, usually centred around one main salary (from a full-time job) and a few other trickles of income. That was always the problem, my secondary streams were never more than a few hundred pounds per month.
In 2019, I grew out of full-time work. Seriously. I’ve been working solidly in full-time employment for over 12 years and I’ve actually had enough. It’s not for me anymore. Big respect to those who can do it, but I can’t. I was actually fed up a good few years before I actually made the jump and quit my job for good. I had to start being serious about building a business with low startup costs.
During the last 3 years and using the skills I already had, I’ve built a network of successful income-generating websites, blogs, and more recently, an ecommerce website, all from scratch.
Back in 2016…
I spent around £300 of my own money on various domain names and reseller hosting and I got started churning out content with the intention of it ranking on Google to earn affiliate and ad income.
Over time, I brushed up on latest best practices and improved this content periodically. After 6 months, the sites were generating income. A small amount of income, but still extra money, yay!
I’ve been in the SEO game for a long time, I just never really put my business hat on when I experimented with SEO in the past. I always considered SEO to be technical and algorithmic, which it is, but I never saw it as a source of income, until now!
The truth was that I simply didn’t know how to monetise content. I knew ads existed, but didn’t know how to leverage advertising and strategically use affiliate marketing to form a business.
I’ve learned so much in the last 3 years.
I had major Imposter Syndrome and just didn’t want to put my name to anything online. It’s already so competitive and I didn’t want to be judged by my friends, family or even strangers.
I created some personas to write as, found some obscure stock images to represent them and started writing content about things that I knew.
All of my writer personas are from the US or Canada, so I adopted US spellings and phrases when writing for these sites. Something which – thankfully – didn’t spill over into my day-to-day life. I hate American spellings and I hate the letter Z.
It took me a total of 14 months to get everything setup to a reasonably high standard, build all the websites, create all the content etc. Bear in mind that I had a full-time job during these months so it took me a lot longer than it should have.
Creating content was by far the most challenging and tedious part of all this! One of my websites has over 150,000 words on it! 150,000! That’s longer than most novels.
Still, I was putting in hours of work for little return (at the time) so, in mid-2018, I let the sites ‘go passive’ and I stopped doing any major work on them, happy with the few hundred pounds per month they were generating.
It was a pretty decent side hustle and I was happy with the way things were going.
I got a new job.
I had to leave my job due to redundancy, which was a shame because I genuinely liked the organisation I worked for at the time. However, I was offered a new job somewhere else almost straight away. I wasn’t expecting to be offered a new job so soon!
In August 2018, I started working in Local Government and it quickly became clear that it wasn’t suitable for me but I was stubborn and I stuck at it. I don’t really quit things easily. The Council was trying its best to be innovative and progressive, but processes were old-fashioned to say the least, so getting anything done took forever.
Every day made me feel more and more worthless. I stopped believing in myself entirely and going to work became unbearable.
99% of the people I worked with were lovely people. Yet, a couple of members of staff made it clear they had huge issues with my mere existence and this behaviour made me feel completely worthless. There were countless occasions when I cried for hours after work. I felt so much dread and fear every day at work, my heart was constantly racing, I wasn’t sleeping and I felt like I was under attack even when I wasn’t.
My body giving me all the warning signs to GET THE HELL OUT. But, I didn’t. I carried on going to work day after day, each day chipping away at my self-esteem even more.
Behind the scenes, my little content business was still growing rapidly. Brands were sending me free products to review, I wasn’t ever home to accept delivery. Various little things kept cropping up throughout the day that required my attention – things that couldn’t wait until later.
Time became a real problem.
In March 2019, one of my sites suffered a zero day exploit that was used in the wild. This was due to an out-of-date plugin and I received an email in the middle of my work day to say that two new administrator accounts had been created on one of my sites.
There was nothing I could do about it, apart from nervously load the page knowing full well what would happen. A message appeared saying I was the 1 millionth visitor to my own website and I’d won a free iPhone. FFS.
The site was infected with malware and I was in work, it took a good few days to clean the site properly. I lost hundreds of pounds and it should not have happened.
That was also the last time I’ll ever use Social Warfare. Thanks for that!
This was no longer a side hustle, it finally felt like running a real business when I was dealing with these very real problems.
I had my first £5,000 month.
In May 2019, I earned just over £5000 in 31 days, which does include my job’s wages after tax. At this point I was spending about 8 hours per week on these websites. I did general maintenance and produced at least one piece of new content every week.
I dedicated 55 hours per week to my job (including travel) and just 8 hours per week to my websites. My websites were earning far more than my job was.
What would happen if I spent more time on these websites, creating and improving content? The earning potential is much higher than stable employment.
I can actually do this. It’s actually possible.
The clients came knocking.
Not long after my first £5,000 month, I had a sudden influx of clients, all via word of mouth and all wanting to work with me. I did 3 training sessions and 2 websites in June and July and had excellent feedback – I couldn’t believe it!
July was another £5,000+ month, including the wages from my day job. I had more than enough clients and potential clients to make this happen!
I had an epiphany, as if someone hit me across the face.
You don’t have to stay in your job, Sarah. You have the option to leave.
I hoped this would happen, but I never thought it would. It
was is happening.
In June 2019, I also had the opportunity to partner with someone else to create a print-on-demand drop-shipping store and add an ecommerce element (selling physical products) to one of my existing websites.
This is still in trial/testing period, but things are looking positive so far.
Another reality check…
Yes, perhaps I am insane. This comment came from a much, much more successful businesswoman in a virtual meet space for content creators.
Such a huge reassurance that I wasn’t a complete waste of space, which is how I felt in work. This comment came out-of-the-blue from a close friend on WhatsApp when I was feeling terrible about my life.
Something had to change soon.
I quit my job in August 2019.
In August 2019, I finally made the jump to leave my miserable life and make the most of the opportunity I’d created for myself. I still can’t believe this is happening to me, or that I made it happen myself. Who knows? But it’s happened/is happening.
There’s no way I could ever go back to regular, full-time work now.
My Business now
The network of websites I own is established enough to keep ticking over, generating income for me no matter what. That means that if I ever had a quiet month, client-wise, the website income is more than enough to pay my bills and live my life.
I also have some new and regular clients who I work with on various digital projects. This new website of mine (sarahtamsin.com) is also attracting new clients!
What Freelance life means for me now
My choosing self-employment (soon to become a UK Limited Company) over a job-job was never about earning more money. I’m happy with £40k per year. Self-employment is about time, choice and independence.
Self-employment means that I can…
- Start and finish my work days as and when I please. Sometimes I do long stints of work, sometimes short bursts.
- Get all of my personal errands done on my own time.
- Choose which projects I want to work on and who I want to work with, instead of having work dictated to me
- Attend regular networking events for businesses, eat free food, drink free beers and pick up free tech, marketing and business resources where ever I can
- Make use of amazing co-working spaces all over South Wales with other incredible people
- Talk to a roomful of people, I feel like I belong there and people want to listen to me
- Fit my work around my life, not the other way round
Self-employment isn’t for everyone
Just because self-employment is perfect for me, it doesn’t mean that it’s right for you. Some people work better if they have tight routines that revolve around being in work for fixed hours, which is fine. If it works for you and you’re happy then don’t change that.
But, if you’re unhappy with your work-life balance or work pattern then the good news is that things are changing. Flexible working is not very flexible these days, many admin, marketing, sales, creative, education and digital jobs can be done remotely. More and more companies are ditching their offices and embracing results culture over hours culture.
Of course, this doesn’t work for all jobs. Lots of roles in the service industry just need to be done in-person.
Self-employment or running your own business is a personal burden.
The cons of being self-employed are:
- Filing your own tax returns instead of your employer filing it for you
- Paying your own tax & National Insurance
- Sorting out your own Pension and Life Insurance
- Filing paperwork with Companies House (for Limited Companies)
- Feeling isolated and lonely if you work from home
- Lack of motivation
So before you make the jump and quit your job, make sure it’s the right thing to do! It’s a really big step that I couldn’t have done if it wasn’t for me creating all this content that generates income. Writing content is what created this opportunity for me.
My immediate plans are to keep growing my business and working with clients.
My immediate goals are:
- Full launch of ecommerce print-on-demand store
- Optimise adverts across all my websites
- Improve ranking of my 2 newest websites
In 2020, I’m definitely taking a few months off to reflect and spend some time purely for myself! I’m so so so much happier with my life now than I was a few months ago. Sometimes I feel like I should make the 3-hour round trip to my former office to just to fully appreciate how lucky I am!