Post Apocalyptic Hope for Freelancers

When the Global Pandemic hit, I was just polishing the final touches to my epic and awesome post-maternity-leave relaunch. Things were looking up. We’d even just finished renovating my office into a proper, bespoke workspace.

Everything was Up Up Up.

And then Down.

It’s absolutely true that we’re all going through the same storm, but are in very different boats.  We’re all at different places in our lives, with varying levels of support. 

It’s safe to say I spent much of lockdown drowning.  And then feeling guilty I was drowning, because at least we had one stable income, and I was able to focus on our children. 

But I was drowning nonetheless.

Swamped under the weight of keeping two Wildlings busy and safe, keeping on top of housework, and completely losing my identity in a way that hadn’t happened since my first son was born 7 years ago.  I had no direction.  I had no work.  I had no office (my suddenly work-from-home husband moved in), and I had no headspace whatsoever.

I’m the kind of person who takes action.  Decisive action.  When things aren’t working, I set about fixing them, changing things, or moving on. 

But it turns out that’s absolutely impossible in a Global Pandemic scenario.  I couldn’t just spring into action. I couldn’t “fix” my business.  But I learned a huge amount.  I learned the hard way.  And this is why:

In our little boats, bailing out water and attempting to weather the storm, we all respond in different ways. Some people instinctively reach out and pull together, while others hunker down and try to get through it alone.  I’m one of the latter.  I’m not sure how many of us are out there – islands of stolid independence, where it somehow feels a failure to find help.

What I discovered during the last 12 months is Community. Working together and finding support isn’t a failure at all: it’s what business, and life, is all about.

I hit rock bottom during the first lockdown when my website was hacked.  It felt like the final nail in the coffin.

I went to the Freelance Mum community to write my farewell post, and intended to shut down the business.  My heart felt heavy.  I figured I’d find something else to do (please, please not back in a corporate office job).

The words wouldn’t flow. 

Instead, I wrote about what was happening.  I ended up reaching out.  And the response I got was huge. 

To each and every person who wrote back, sent voice messages, emailed: thank you.  It may have only taken you a few minutes, and you probably forgot all about it by lunchtime, but to me it was everything.  The balanced words, the encouragement, the sense of community and connection. 

I have to give a special shout out at this point to the amazing Anorak Cat team who got my website (and me) up and running again, and who gave me kindness and space – with no pressure or judgement – to figure out the path I was going to take.

I realised two things.  The first was a bit mind-blowing for me: That it was ok to sit and wait.  I didn’t have to leap into action.  It was ok not to make a decision right now.  The second was that I had two choices: pack up the business and move on, or go all-out and create the business and the life I actually want to be living.

Over the last year things have gone utterly bonkers, and our world (and world views) have been shaken to the core.  Everything we thought we knew has been challenged at the deepest level, and when we talk about “coming out of lockdown” I don’t think any of us knows what that’s going to feel like. Things have changed, and we don’t know what’s waiting for us on the other side, or what our New Normal will be. 

I think there’s a lot of hype about how vaccines are being rolled out, and everything’s going to be awesome again.  But I don’t think it’s that simple.  With my Reality Hat on I think we have more frustrations and challenges to come.  But we’ve weathered the storm this far.

Being a small business means we’re flexible.  Whatever our strengths and talents are, there’s a place for us.  Simplifying down to what’s truly important helps us to identify this. 

And there’s nothing like being in Lockdown for months to help you focus on your priorities!

If we all concentrate on our own areas of expertise and outsource the rest to other small businesses, then every single one of us is in a stronger place.  We all rise up.

There’s no glory in me spending 6 hours frustratingly trying to draw a penguin logo, or wasting hours and hours per week tinkering on my website, when I can add far more value to the world by being out there and helping others tell their story through awesome photos and fun experiences.

The world is an interconnected web, and we shouldn’t underestimate the impact of even seemingly small choices.  Deciding to live and work more consciously and meaningfully can make a huge difference, even if we’re not immediately aware of it. 

Choosing who we give our money and time to can help us edge away from the destructive and power-centric path our society has been following.  Working with other small businesses, as providing support by recommending them to others, means that we can move in a much more positive direction, building communities in our own way. 

I’ve learned so much during the last 12 months, and SuperFunkyPenguin looks very different now than it did before the pandemic hit.  From being on the brink of closing everything down, I’ve focussed on my priorities, streamlined, and invested in getting the help I need to make my business fly.  I’ve learned that the dark days won’t last forever and sometimes sitting tight and waiting is all it takes. 

How does your business differ now compared to 12 months ago as we entered lockdown? What good things have come out of the experience for you, or what can you learn from the things that went wrong?

Post-Apocalyptic Notes to Self

  • There are possibilities beyond your current situation – you just might not know exactly what they are yet.  Follow the threads of ideas with curiosity and see where they lead.

  • Take time to re-assess your priorities. You don’t have to jump into action straight away.

  • Stick to your core passion & expertise, and make the most of other’s expertise!  By working together, we all benefit. Our extended community grows and the interconnect web strengthens!

  • Keep up with the positive habits you’ve picked up during the last 12 months (there will be some – whether it’s that morning run, or baking bread from scratch once a week).

  • Play the long game. Have a few long term big-picture goals, but don’t over-plan each day.  As we’ve all discovered, ANYTHING could happen tomorrow (another lockdown, anyone?).  Going with the flow more helps us to find more opportunities.

  • Believe in your business – and don’t be afraid to invest in it.

Hi!  I’m Adele Williams, and I founded SuperFunkyPenguin Photography in 2015 when my eldest was a toddler: It was the obvious path I’d just kept missing! 

I specialise in taking authentic photos that tell a story, working with fabulous folk to show the best side of them, without hassle, stress and awkward posing.

For more info,  drop me a line

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