Why I quit my job – and what's next?
Pics: Gabriel Beady via StockSnap
Having a Snapchat account where you receive messages all day long is brilliant – not only do I get to chat to a whole host of different, deadly (mostly) women, but I also get really great ideas for my blog content, based on the questions that I get asked most frequently. One of those? Duh: it's why I quit my job.
Those of you who've been following my social media accounts (I'm @rosemarymaccabe on 'em all, bar MyFitnessPal, which is @rmaccabe but also very badly neglected of late) will know that, up until a few months ago, I was working full-time as deputy editor on Irish glossy magazine, STELLAR.
It was a job I really enjoyed – in a magazine I genuinely love. And, for the first while, I really liked going into work – I loved writing features (two that I was most proud of were a feature where I interviewed women who'd been through the direct provision system, and another focusing on endometriosis sufferers) and the team was (and is) incredible. But I had been freelance – working for myself, from home, on a variety of projects and topics – for four years before I joined STELLAR, and in that time something had shifted in the way I like to work.
As a freelancer, one of my number one hopes was that I would get a full-time job. It would give me a stability that I craved, and an assurance that I could do all of the things I want to do: buy a home... er, and decorate it. (I blame Pinterest for my home-decor obsession.) It would mean an end to worrying about where next month's rent came from, and never having to do four jobs in the one day...
But as they say, the grass is always greener – until you hop the fence and realise that grass is grass. It just looks greener from far away (it's a full-on Monet). While working full-time, I really missed the freedom of deciding for myself exactly when and how I was going to work. When you're self-employed, sure, there are days you absolutely have to get out of bed because you have a job that starts at 6am and another three that take you right up to 8pm, but there are other days that you wake up and realise that you didn't sleep well and you feel a bit wrecked and unfocused – so you walk the dog for an hour, go for a coffee, read the paper and don't start work until midday.
Essentially, working for yourself allows you to create your own flexible working day – and, working in an office, I began to resent having to be in at 9.30am and work right up to 5.30pm (and sometimes beyond), with a mere one-hour break in the middle. Now, I know: this sounds incredibly spoiled. And it is – working for myself spoiled me. I was lucky enough to do what I wanted – write – when I wanted, at times and in locations that worked for me. And working full-time, though it had been the ultimate goal, showed me that, actually, working for myself suits me far better.
So, a little terrified (I still have to make my rent, remember!), I handed in my notice after Christmas, and finished up at the very start of March – my end date was delayed while my replacement was found. And ever since...
No, my desk does not look like this... (I wish!)
Things have changed a lot since I was last freelance, both personally and in the industry in general. I'll start kind of backwards: in terms of the media landscape, it feels as if there are a lot more freelancers vying for the same writing jobs. Therefore, there are fewer features being commissioned and, even if you do get a nice juicy feature for an Irish glossy magazine, it barely covers 25% of the rent – and that's without factoring in living expenses (or shoes).
When I was last freelance, I was writing a lot for The Irish Times; I was doing the fashion blog on irishtimes.com and writing regular features for the newspaper, across a variety of sections. That was my bread and butter – and, since I hung up my freelance hat, those gaps have obviously been filled. I was also doing a lot of styling on Xposé, which went hand in hand with the fashion features I was writing for the Times but, again, a lot of those gaps had been filled – although, thankfully, I've been able to get back into TV3 a little bit, with stints on Midday and on Xposé's fashion panel.
But things have changed, too, in terms of how "influencers" can make their money and, since I was last freelance, my social media profiles have exploded. So there's a whole new landscape there – and a whole new world of possibilities!
So, how do I make money?
Well, I'm glad you asked, you nosy things you! (I'm serious; I love when people are nosy, because I am the nosiest person you'll ever meet, and I love when people are as cheeky about their curiosity as I am! If you ever have a question to ask me, ask me; if I don't want to, I won't answer it, but nothing ventured...)
The ultimate goal? That would be to be able to write what I want, when I want, and make a living from it. Right now, I'm (very slowly) working on a novel – which may or may not ever see the light of day – but I'd eventually like to be able to blog, full-time, and make my living from this here site.
I accept, however, that doesn't quite answer the question of how I'm getting by right now – and that's because there is no one straight answer. I'm doing a variety of different things that are classified as "work", and it's all ended up being very different to how I thought it would be – meaning, I'm not writing two features a day any more. Instead, I'm...
- Okay, so I am writing features. You can catch my latest one in the current issue of Irish Country Magazine, on my time at No1 Bootcamp. I've also been writing for STELLAR (I told you; I really love it), and am working on some pieces for The Irish Times, as well as pitches for IMAGE Magazine and Irish Tatler.
- TV work: I appear sporadically on Xposé, Midday and Ireland AM, although I have moved away from styling somewhat. I still love fashion, but styling was never my "talent", if that makes sense. I don't have the vision that a lot of incredibly talented Irish stylists have, and to be honest, working purely on fashion for so long kind of ruined it for me! So it's nice to take a step back. I've also appeared on UTV Ireland's evening news programme – twice! I'm so grown-up.
- I've been giving a few talks and lectures, at venues and events around the country – from #BLOGGERCONF last weekend to an appearance at a Girls' Day Out event in Newry and a lecture I gave as part of Irish Times Training, on "how to blog".
- Then, there's the social influencer sphere – I recently partnered with Let's Get Checked to record a YouTube video on my experience with STI testing, and am working on a few more pieces with them that you'll see pop up right here very soon. I'm also collaborating with a few different brands in the next few weeks, on fun social media projects that I'm hoping you'll enjoy (see here for my attitude to payment, freebies, and believe me when I say that I'll never promote a brand or product that I don't genuinely like).
- Every now and then, you'll hear me pop up on radio – sometimes paid, sometimes not. As a rough rule, a phone interview is often unpaid, while a studio interview is paid. It's a pretty small fee, but it all adds up, right?
- Then, I'll do the odd day, here and there, of contract work – so, this week, for example, I'm doing two days at VIP Magazine filling in for someone who's sick. I worked at The Irish Times (before I ever went freelance, God I'm so old) as a sub editor, which is such a handy skill to have – I've filled in as a sub on IMAGE and Irish Tatler magazines, too. And while, like I said, I'm not after a full-time office job, it's handy to have the odd day here and there!
In other words, it's a bit of this and a bit of that – there's no main earner right now, which, to be perfectly honest, makes me feel a little anxious! But I'm trying to go with the flow, accept that the social media landscape is changing incredibly fast (which means having to be adaptable!) and see where this all takes me – while, of course, figuring out novel new ways to pay the rent!
Freelancing is not incredibly easy – but it's not incredibly hard, either, and I accept that in a lot of ways I'm really lucky. I get to go to the hairdresser midweek, for example, or make appointments at the bank for a Tuesday afternoon. Like I said, if I don't feel like working, I don't; I take a break and a breather, and I get back to it slightly later. Yes, I spent a lot of time during the day at the gym – but I often work up until 8pm, too. It won't be for everyone, but it's definitely for me – long may it last!
If you have any questions about journalism, freelancing, what it means to be a "social influencer", ask away! And – if I know – I'll do my best to answer.