Join us, the 4.7 million self-employed workers in the UK and, no longer be snowed under, enjoy being snowed in!
7.30am. The silence is deafening. The brightness through the glazed bathroom window confirms my suspicions. The beast from the east, as the media call the icy blast, has hit North Wales. A thick white blanket is covering the garden. Even if the school was open, I couldn’t make it down the hill to the main road. First time I was booked to work there too. Thank goodness it is closed, and I don’t have to make my apologies. I can enjoy my coffee, the wintery canvas, and the prospect of a whole day writing in blissful peace.
8.39am. My phone quacks. The message is from Sian, my friend and previous colleague, with whom I joked about the challenges of this new placement.
“Is your school open?”
“No, closed! A day reading & writing! J You? xx”
“Closed! Shame you’re losing the money! xx”
“Downside of the type of work I’ve chosen but am totally free, priceless! Enjoy the day! xx”
For years, like Sian and most teachers I know, the conscientious ones anyway, I got up at the crack of dawn, rushed my children out of the house, juggled many hats all day – teacher, entertainer, party planner, decorator, photographer, news reporter, mother, counsellor, detective, police officer, psychic, social worker, doctor, dietician, babysitter and more – completed tasks landing on my desk due by yesterday, ticked endless to-do lists, spent most evenings, weekends and holidays responding to messages, preparing lesson plans, marking books, writing reports, schemes of work, policies and development plans doomed to be scrapped once completed, neglecting family, friends and myself in the process, counting the days until the next break that would never be one.
I knew I was unwell. IBS and its circle of friends, chronic fatigue, food intolerances, joint pains, weight gain, low moods and many more had become part of my daily life. It wasn’t until I slipped on a wet cypress stump and fractured my coccyx that I realised how unwell I truly was. Forced to slow down, I had to face reality. Despite working in a privileged environment, the job I loved was harming me. For it was not just the workload. More than anything, I resented the way I was forced to operate, to teach students to pass exams, killing their creativity and, consequently, narrowing their vision instead of broadening their horizons. Frustrated at work and unhappy at home, I was barely surviving. So, I finally made the difficult decision to file for divorce and resign from school.
I used my savings to retrain and have just set up my own holistic counselling practice. It is still early days but the number of sessions booked is steadily increasing. The feedback is excellent, so I trust that word of mouth and the Universe will continue to send more clients my way. As well as counselling, I give private tuition, and recently registered as a supply teacher, which allows me to enjoy the better aspects of teaching without so many of the unpleasant ones. As well as counselling and teaching, I hope to start fostering very soon too, something I have wanted to do for years. And all of these activities feed my passion, writing, my way of raising awareness of various issues linked to our wellbeing or lack of.
Sian has a point. Being self-employed, I rely, amongst other factors, on good weather and good health to carry on earning. I would be lying if I said that it was easy. In fact, it can be quite daunting at times to have sole responsibility for your breadwinning occupation. The uncertainty can be scary. Some weeks are very busy, others very quiet. It takes a while to adapt to not having a steady income topping up your bank account during term time and holidays alike. As well as time, patience, motivation, determination and faith, starting your own business does necessitate funds, and savings quickly disappear when money doesn’t go in.