Four years ago, I was utterly miserable. I was commuting five hours a day, working long hours for an employer who didn’t appreciate me, with zero time to spend on personal projects or a social life. I was living in Manchester, suffering from stress and craving a slower lifestyle.
Now? I’m typing this from my new home in the countryside, occasionally glancing up to admire the hills that loom outside the window. It’s 11 am, and I’m just settling down to work after a lingering breakfast and walking the dog in the woods. In the past couple of years, leaving my job and starting freelancing has literally changed my life.
I spent my twenties painstakingly climbing the career ladder in the fashion industry. From shop floor to head office, it was a long slog that involved unsociable hours, long shifts, hefty commutes and very little pay. At some point during this journey, I realised that I wasn’t even interested in working in fashion anymore; the fast-paced lifestyle was wearing me down. I was constantly exhausted, irritable and even suffered from an inflammatory skin condition caused by stress. I wanted a drastically different lifestyle but feared walking away from my job. Relief came in an unexpected form: redundancy.
Three months of unemployment was exactly what I needed in order to get to grips with what I wanted from life. I relished being able to manage myself and spend time with the people who mattered. Days became long and languid with the freedom to do what I enjoyed. I seized this opportunity to try something new and decided to give freelancing a go. Writing online content had always been the part of my job that I enjoyed the most, and I was interested to see if I could make my own money from writing.
Over that summer, I gradually built up a handful of regular clients and quickly realised that I could vastly improve my quality of life. I wouldn’t have to go back to work full-time if I focused on my freelance work – and if I didn’t go back to work full-time, I could drastically slow down. No more 6am starts, skipping lunch breaks and spending weekends catching up on sleep. I could choose my own working hours and structure my day however I wanted.
I put all my effort into finding new freelance clients, whilst securing a part-time job as a Creative Manager for an interiors brand. Gradually, I slipped into a new pace of life, where I spent half the week working for myself, abiding to my own rules. I could write all morning and take the afternoon off to go for a walk, or I could spend a long lunch reading a book and put my emails off until the evening. I was in charge of my own time, and I soon discovered that I both worked better and felt more content if I took things at a slower pace.
Fast forward a couple of years, and the move to the countryside that I’d always dreamed of was a possibility. I wasn’t tied down to a certain location for work, so we made the move and relocated to a small town in West Yorkshire surrounded by hills and woodland. Slow living came even easier following our move, as the countryside beckoned outside our door.
I credit my move to the countryside and satisfaction with my work-life balance to my freelance lifestyle. If I didn’t work for myself, I wouldn’t be living where I live now and wouldn’t be anywhere near as satisfied with my quality of life. Freelancing has enabled me to make time for the things that are important to me and allows me to easily fit my work around my life. I no longer live to work. Yes, my work still takes up a lot of time, much of which (pitching, admin, etc.) isn’t compensated by pay – but I value the flexibility that it gives me above all else.
Slow living is all about making time for what you consider to be important and enjoying the little moments in life. Rushing through meals, working long hours and neglecting the people that you love are the antithesis of slow living.
We only get one life, and it would be such a waste to rush through it without appreciating each moment. Working as a freelance writer has enabled me to set my own working hours, create my own schedule and take on as much or as little work as I like. I use all of this to my advantage to maintain a slower lifestyle that helps to alleviate stress and ensures that I enjoy what I do.
The flexibility that this way of working gives me is invaluable. I travel more, but at a slower pace, as there are no time constraints to contend with. I can take my laptop with me on my travels or turn on my out-of-office for a few days – the choice is mine alone. I have a dog, who sits beside me as I work, waiting for me to take a break for an hour’s walk through the woods. She helps me to remember to stop and pause throughout the day. If a working day is unexpectedly hot and sunny, I can move my work to the evening and spend the afternoon swimming in a local lake. As my boyfriend also works for himself, we can choose how we want to structure our week and have no qualms about booking last-minute trips away.
Where would I be if I was still working full time? Speeding through life without stopping to appreciate the things I consider important. Freelancing has offered me a way out of the rat race, and with it a chance to embrace a slower way of life. I don’t intend to look back, only forwards.