Although I only discovered yoga towards the end of my corporate career, I remember that every time I sat down at my desk I would instantly kick my shoes off to sit cross-legged on the chair. Even if there were armrests, I’d find a way to somehow wedge my knees above or under them. Extracting my body from the chair is another story, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable sitting any other way – it’s as if my body already knew what my mind hadn’t yet worked out.
Straight out of University, I spent 10 years working as a portfolio manager in the City and absolutely loved it. I felt challenged and found the high stress, fast-paced lifestyle really motivating.
Although, needless to say, I found it incredibly difficult to switch off or relax, my mind literally didn’t know how. Although our bodies are remarkable with what they can withstand, everything has its limit if we abuse it for too long. My weight plummeted, I had bad skin, huge mood swings, my periods stopped and I developed Candida in my gut.
What had started as a career that enabled me to thrive, gradually became one that brought out the worst in me. I felt disconnected from myself, from everyone else and at a complete loss on what to do. It was early 2014 that I finally admitted to myself I wasn’t well and needed help, and ended up getting signed off work with anxiety and depression.
At the time I felt like a big, fat failure. I remember thinking that all I needed to do was eat lots, sleep lots and then I’d feel better and be able to get back to work, but that turned out to be far from reality. After a month or so I still felt exhausted and very low, struggling to motivate myself to do even the simplest task.
During this time, I’d started to go to local yoga classes. It was the one thing in a long spout that sparked my interest and desire to want to know more, so I took the leap and invested in my yoga teacher training – purely to learn more about something I was becoming increasingly curious about.
For the first time in ages, I felt genuinely happy. I laughed, properly connected with people and felt a sense of fulfilment I’d forgotten existed. I knew immediately this was something I wanted to have more of in my life, and the rest, as they say, is history!
I have been a freelance yoga teacher for about 5 years now, and can safely say I’ve never looked back. Sure there are things I miss about my corporate job (being part of a team, the monthly salary, the paid holiday, having regular feedback on how I’m doing), but they pale in insignificance to the benefits of what I do now. I feel happier, healthier, am more self-confident, open-minded, adaptable to change and better able to appreciate the good things in my life.
Below I’ve listed the main differences I’ve found having taken the leap from corporate to freelance, for those also toying with the change.
Figuring out my ‘why’
Why do you do what you do? What are you passionate about? What motivates and inspires you? These were some simple yet powerful questions that helped me work out what I wanted my life to look like. Everything started to unravel in my corporate job when I lost connection to my ‘why’. I went through the motions of my day-to-day because that’s what I’d always done. Before I knew it, I’d been pulled so far in a certain direction I had forgotten why I had started in the first place. I lost my sense of purpose.
I now wake up every day and know exactly why it is I do what I do. Sure I still have good days and bad days, but I’m so much more motivated and inspired. I truly believe that what I do matters, and find it hugely rewarding to feel like I am making a difference to people’s lives.
Freedom & flexibility
I love being my own boss. I get to decide what my priorities are, what the structure of my day looks like and the intensity of my workload. No one is telling me when or how to work. It’s completely up to me how I choose to spend my time.
This brings a huge sense of freedom and flexibility, yet with it the need for self-discipline, motivation and knowing when to stop. When you work for yourself it becomes much harder to justify switching off and taking a break – both financially, but even more so when your job is your passion. It can be hard to prioritise taking time off, but ensuring that you take regular breaks to do something for yourself is crucial – not only for your wellbeing but for the success and longevity of your business.
Working for myself has given the word ‘networking’ a whole different meaning.
Getting to know your peers, potential clients and others in the industry is essential when starting out on your own. However, I no longer associate it with hanging around in a bar after work, awkwardly asking polite questions and wondering how early is too early to make a swift exit.
Networking now is about meeting people with similar interests and having insightful conversations about what they’re about, their journey, and how we can mutually help each other. It’s also been hugely helpful for me from a support perspective. Working freelance means you are no longer part of a team. It’s just you. For someone who loves working with others this was a difficult transition for me, and so reaching out and getting to know others in the area who live similar lifestyles was essential. You understand each other’s challenges, support and trust each other. What used to be spending time with ‘work colleagues’ has fast become spending time with some of my closest friends.
If you have that fire in your belly and are thinking of taking the leap from corporate to freelance, my advice would be to think hard about it financially, but otherwise, just go for it. There are many different routes to get you where you want to go and doing things differently is scary, but not necessarily wrong.
Have confidence in yourself and your decisions and trust your gut. Yes, it’s terrifying, humbling and it’ll be hard. You’ll make mistakes and it’ll be far from stress-free, however there’s nothing more fulfilling than waking up every morning knowing you are working towards something that you wholeheartedly believe in.