Darren and I were walking home in the snow yesterday having spent some time together at The Finishing Room. He asked me a really good question; whether self employment and doing what I love had fulfilled my expectations. It made me realise that the past year, and certainly the past 6 months have been something of a blur and that I haven’t made time to reflect on what’s been achieved.
Now I know I say every time that I write a new post that my blog has been woefully neglected, and once again this is true. The blog has been such a great tool for summarising and marking the key stages of my transition from corporate HR person to self-employed upholsterer that it seemed like the right place for a few musings on the last year.
I’m still pinching myself a bit if I’m honest. I’m sitting in my new workshop looking around at the fabric books, the completed chairs, the curated shelves of my shop and the plans on the table for workshops and it’s funny to think that a few months ago very little of this existed in my world – 6 years ago none of this even existed in my head! If it’s not too conceited to say, I feel a real sense of pride that I’ve made this happen and also a real sense of appreciation for those who have supported me as I’ve pushed forwards. I also feel like I’m heading in the right direction now, and I’m incredibly excited about where this business is going to go.
Plunging into the world of self employment hasn’t been a walk in the park by any means and for Darren and I, loosing a regular salary has at times been really noticeable. The biggest surprise for me was how much I missed the structure of employment – being your own boss sounds fantastic but boy do you have to be disciplined! The first 6 months started really well with a number of commissions to work through, but a lack of confidence in my old brand and too much focus on doing what was in front of me meant that I was failing to generate a pipeline of work. I very quickly found myself without a great deal to do and lacking enthusiasm to promote myself under a brand that I wasn’t sure about any more.
This unexpected slow patch seemed like a great opportunity to get some DIY done at home I told myself, but really I was hiding from the reality that I needed to make some changes and some investment if this was going to work.
I’ve already talked about the brand change and the move of premises, but what I didn’t share was the concerns I had over whether I was doing the right thing. Sure, on paper it looked right but I was starting from a position of very little work and I was about to invest some of my savings, change my name and double my rent commitment – yikes! Thankfully, I summoned the necessary courage and did it.
Brave Jon – 1, Risk Averse Jon – 0.
I’m happy to report that the bravery paid off. Having a public space has changed my relationship with customers entirely – they are free to come in, have a look around, see what I’m doing and chat casually about their projects without any commitment to proceed, and the nice thing is that often they are choosing to come back. Compare that to me having to sit in your living room with my fabric books and it’s a big step forward. having an interiors shop has been really exciting too, it’s enabled me to showcase my work and that of other talented, local makers. It’s probably the child in me, but there’s something very fun about playing shop! I’m proud that I’ve been able to create a look and feel for my new space that is consistent with what I do, it’s presenting a much stronger, cohesive story and people are engaging with it.
If I’m taking a moment to reflect (and you’ll allow me one more reflection!) I should also think about the development of my skills. I was in my shed the other day and came across The Hare Chair – my first ever upholstery project which I tackled with nothing more than a book on upholstery and some basic tools. It made me think about how far I have come in six years, not only in terms of skill but also (again) bravery. I recently rebuilt an Ernest Race DA1 armchair for a customer, this being the most valuable item I have every worked on and also one of the most complicated. Its all-metal construction is similar to an iron-framed nursing chair and means that it is a feat of hand sewing. Not that long ago I would have run a mile from a project like this, but today my feet are firmly in the workshop.
So there we have it, you’re up to date! I write this post partly for my own benefit in recognising my achievements (and I hope that it doesn’t come across as a big, bloggy, bragging session!) but also for those of you who read the blog. I know that many people have found this blog as they contemplate making the change from a job they hate to something that leaves them feeling fulfilled and I hope that a story of brave moves that pay off might give you a little courage too.