This week we’ve got a guest post from the lovely Michelle Abrahall, a member of the Freelance Lifestylers group and a graphic designer, illustrator and copywriter. I loved the idea of this post she suggested, as I know quite a few freelancers have a history of job-hopping a little before settling into freelancing (myself included). 

You can also check out Michelle’s charming illustrated gifts in her Etsy shop. 

Here’s her guest post! 

Like many freelancers, my path to self-employment was far from smooth sailing. After leaving Uni with a degree in Illustration, I had a ‘what now’ moment that I’m sure every graduate can relate to. Caught in the Catch-22 of not having enough work experience to apply for jobs, and not being able to get a foot in the door to gain said experience, there followed a decade of job hopping that would have put Kermit to shame.

During the Decade of No Direction I did all sorts to pay the mortgage for minimum wage: split shifts at a gym that meant finishing at 10.30pm and going back in for 6am the next day, working in a card shop in a new shopping court that was as quiet as a graveyard, and being stuck in a Groundhog Day-esque loop of tidying a perfectly tidy stationery cupboard in an office full of old men.

At the time, if you’d offered the wisdom that ‘all experience is good experience’ you probably would have got a Grade 5 Paddington Hard Stare for your trouble. When you’re in job hopping hell, you don’t want to hear such platitudes. You just want a job that actually uses your skills (thank goodness for freelancing!).

But, lo and behold, looking back on my job-hopping years I can see that they did have value and have even contributed to my self-employed success.

Validation of Ambition

Many times during those uninspiring years, I wished I was the kind of person that would be happy just doing a job to pay the bills. But I wasn’t, and as a friend of mine says, sometimes dissatisfaction is the price of ambition. All that time spent not doing what I really wanted just reinforced the idea that there was a better job out there for me, even if I had to create it myself.

Customer Service

It doesn’t matter what area of business you freelance in, ultimately you are working for a customer. My various retail and hospitality positions gave me an excellent grounding in customer service, and an ability to talk to just about anyone. Dealing with both happy and disgruntled customers taught me that friendliness and politeness goes a long way, but also that some people just can’t be reasoned with!

Office Life

Administrative roles were fantastic work experience for me: even simple things like knowing how to compose an email, use a spreadsheet, update a website, and plan an event are all invaluable when you’re self-employed. Helping to run a business day to day taught me so much about how to run my own, so even though giving up a salary felt like taking the plunge, I wasn’t in completely unchartered waters.

It’s been great to look back and put a positive spin on those job-hopping years, and to feel like perhaps they weren’t the waste of time I always thought they were. Who knows if I’ll ever go back to ‘traditional employment’, but I know that if I do, I’ll have plenty of experience to fall back on!