I’ve had a lot of jobs. Perversely, I enjoyed living on my nerves and sweating over credit card bills.
I was a good(ish) employee but I worked in a grant-led sector. Twelve months into a twenty-four month contract I’d find myself sweating over a grant bid in a desperate attempt to extend my job for another two years. It was exhausting and I often lost sight of my project aims and objectives. The paperwork was relentless, each funder expecting varying levels of accountability, from a filed away yearly report to requesting monthly inspections of our finances, right down to the last penny. Outputs – outcomes – strategic plans – action plans – full cost recovery – monitoring and evaluation. And on it went.
But working in the third sector had its rewards. There was an awful lot of tea and cake, for starters. And tiny rooms filled with sweaty, sweary teenagers intent on bursting my eardrums. A daily audience of older people brimming with gossip, resentments and insider knowledge. People discovering new skills, finding their voice and standing up, ready to fight for their communities.
I knew what made people happy and what made them angry. I threw water over raging fires and demonstrated great restraint. With a cup of tea in my hand.
Community development workers are expected to be all things to all people. Charities don’t have the readies to hire a marketing officer, a grant bid writer and an events manager. So we had to write press releases, complete thick funding application forms answering the same question seven different ways, and organise multi-layered large-scale community events (and God forbid you ‘forget’ to invite your elected members).
Where was I? Oh yes. Everyone’s kind of a copywriter. I’ve been copywriting for 15 years, albeit in an incredibly amateurish way, without a lick of training. And I wrote short stories; self-conscious stories, stories with too many unnecessary words. But some of them were good. Really good. And I thought that maybe one day I could write words that people needed. And that’s what I’m doing now.
I’ve never had a talent for ‘in a nutshell’ writing. I’ve got a lot to learn about brevity. But what I’m getting at is this – we’ve all got a multitude of skills that we can shape into new and exciting abilities. Everything we’ve ever done has left a little imprint on our minds, and all we have to do is to seek out that imprint and shape it.
So, make the changes, however small, that are going to bring you personal satisfaction. There’ll be a lot of graft, and loved ones shaking their heads and tut-tutting and you’ll need to bring in the cash. Seriously consider your income streams while you seek your version of success. You can do all sorts from the comfort of your home: online tutoring, social media management, web research. So many glorious possibilities that will give you the time and financial reassurance to build your little empire.
Working for myself is scary, tough and exhilarating but as long as there’s tea and cake, it’s my empire in the making.