Monday, 23 April 2012

Looking back

I went on a weekend course in 2010, to gain inspiration and encouragement to take the step that I am only just now, 2 years later and no further on really, starting to take.  I wrote this about it just afterwards:
Dial House in summer.
  They usually leave some of the grass to
grow, meadow-like, these days.

"This weekend just gone I went on a short residential course at Dial House in Essex, "Ditch Your Day Job, a Permaculture Approach to Quitting the 9 - 5".  The more time goes on, the more desperate I am to escape, so I booked myself and Husband (with his agreement) on the course, and we got back last night.

The course was run by Graham Burnett, Permaculture guru, and Tom Hodgkinson, editor of The Idler magazine amongst other enterprises.  I've met Graham before and like him immensely, but Tom was a new acquaintance and I was very surprised by how young he turned out to be.  It took me until middle age to decide that the rat race is unendurable (although I've never liked it, I've never discerned any practical alternative).  Tom picked up on this piece of wisdom in his twenties, and thanks to a fortuitous sacking, put his ideas into practice and has been gainfully "idling" ever since.

The atmosphere of the course was pretty pragmatic.  We can't do without money altogether, but maybe we can do with less, and earn that in an enjoyable way.  Many of the things we buy, commonly, are to reward ourselves for doing our crap jobs.  If we don't have that aggravation in our lives, then quite possibly we don't need so many of these little rewards.  This habit is so common we've even coined a term for it over recent decades - Retail Therapy.  How grim that we are living lives that require such a panacea.

Freeform beret, made for a friend's toddler
grand-daughter, subsequently passed on to her sister.

Another consideration - so much of my spending actually supports my ability to do my eight to five.  That's potentially money I don't need to earn.  My car, for example.  I've been taking notice lately, and I doubt that I do 5 miles per week that isn't to work and back (80+ miles each way, thankfully not every day!).  I have a bike, and for the odd occasion (maybe once a month if that) when a bike won't do, there are always taxis.  How much do I really need a car if I'm not commuting?  That has to reduce my outgoings by £2-3,000 pa, and that is taxed earnings, so I can probably afford to earn £3-4,000 pa less gross if I don't run a car.

We were encouraged on the course to take stock of our talents and experience in things we actually like to spend our time doing.  On from this, the one point that set off rockets in my head was the concept of multiple income streams.  I have mulled for many, many  hours over recent years, ways in which I could earn money that would involve me in activities that I already enjoy rather than sitting at a computer from 8am to 5pm each day.  But none of them would provide a living wage, even a modest one.  So, why not do several?  See what works, what doesn't, and whilst I'm going through this learning period hopefully the things that don't work will become obvious quite quickly and the ones that do will prop up my optimism whilst I develop more ideas.  If I can accumulate a number of revenue streams then I will never be dependent upon just one which may collapse at any moment.  I've been made redundant once in my life and although it wasn't the tragedy for me that it is for a lot of people, it left me with no income and led me into a job that not only did I not enjoy, but which swallowed up 4 hours of each of my days in sitting either on a train or behind the wheel of a car.  Awful, awful.  I'd panicked, and taken the first job I was offered.  I wish I'd had Tom's foresight then.
My first commissioned piece - a cloche with a tiny brim,
freeform scrumbles and beads attached.  Great fun to make,
and I am told, well received.

I dabble in crochet, (also freeform knitting and crochet), and I have a number of ideas surrounding this particular subject, including making things for sale, maybe running short courses on freeform (bit ambitious, that), and preparing kits for sale with materials and an instruction booklet to give newcomers to freeform a head start.

I have also cherished a desire to write for publication - mainly fiction although I'm open to suggestions - for many years.  Since my teens, really.  I have had one timid effort at submitting a story for publication (rejected), but now I'm going to push at that door more firmly.  That is so scary.  (Note - have tried again twice since.  Both rejected.  Getting used to it now!)

Which brings me to the barriers, of which fear is of course the biggest.  Fear of personal failure that may diminish me, but also fear of letting Husband down and leaving him the sole breadwinner - I am BAD, I am LAZY, I am living off SOMEONE ELSE, I can hear the gremlins shrieking in my head, and I've not even started any of this yet.  The next worst barrier is a dreadfully unhealthy attitude towards money.  I'm fine with my employer putting a lump of credit into my bank account each month.  We don't talk about it at all, and usually each January it rises by the inflation percentage of the time - although not for the past 2 Januaries due to the credit crunch.  But taking money from individuals for my time and efforts makes me cringe.

Gordon, my toy baboon, fetchingly modelling the beret.
I'm told it looked a lot better on the child!
To illustrate this unhelpful trait of mine - a couple of people at work saw some of my crochet work and each asked me to make a hat for them to give to a relative as a gift.  I was delighted and flattered and I spent many hours making those hats and each was well received.  When those people asked me how much I wanted to be paid, I went bright red and refused point blank to take anything.  It was an act of friendship, making those hats, and I could not have thought of taking money from a friend.  Which was all very nice, but it did mean that for one thing they'd never ask me to make any more for them, and for another, that I didn't get any concrete reward for my efforts.  That's fine all the time I still have the day job, but if I want to diversify then I have to get over the abject horror of taking money for my work.  It was the same when I did house cleaning for a friend when I was unemployed a few years ago.  I nearly died of embarrassment when he handed me those three five-pound notes.

So I have some big hurdles to haul myself over if I am ever to make the break with full-time employment.  But my mood post-course is positive and warm inside, which is a big improvement on my average mood of the last few years.  I am so sick of whingeing.  I don't what to moan - I want to idle."

I still do!


  1. Getting over the fear of taking money... or asking for money... I can SOOO relate to that one. But here's the thing, when you're making money without a job, you have to think of yourself as a company, not just a person.

    One thing that has really helped me in my personal money making endeavors is to use the word "we" rather than "I". I just don't tell people that "we" is me and my cats! I also say things like we have a "family owned business" which just sounds so much more official than saying "I'm trying to make a buck without working." Making that leap really helped me.

  2. Hi EcoCatLady! You're right, of course. It's an attitude thing, and I need to adjust the way I thing about such matters. I'm trying to do that in small ways at the moment, catching myself when I start to think negatively and trying to turn my attitude around. I suspect that the money thing is going to be the hardest though, and I can't think why it should be - after all we all need to earn a living.
    Thank you for the suggestion, I shall bear it in mind and add it into my mindset adjustment program. I would just like to say though that you aren't trying to make a buck without working, from what I've read of your blog (which I think is pretty much all of it) you're trying to make a modest income without being an employee and there most certainly should be no embarrassment in that!
    Now if I can just keep telling myself that, I should be ok!

    1. Ha! Guess it just doesn't feel like work if there's no boss telling me what to do. Who me? Issues with authority? Not me!