Self Employment; Living The Dream?

Walking through Manchester City centre at 8.25 this morning I am confronted by my alternative path. Thousands of people pushing down the road in the opposite direction. Away from me. All different but all the same in one way. They’ve all got that same familiar look that betrays their thoughts, they all have a face of dis-ease. Hunched shoulders and purposeful, urgent marching they make their way towards their place. Dressed and distressed like professionals. Professional what in, I’m not sure. Perhaps professional widows. They’re all actors definitely. 

 Typical morning on Deansgate.
Typical morning on Deansgate.

 

Ill fitting shirts and blouses and treading carefully on tight shoes some shuffle forward and some lunge. Some even lurch not unlike zombies hearing the distant drone of human flesh nearby. Me, I’m wearing shorts, a white t shirt and my knock off Ray Bans. It could be my imagination but I can’t help but feel side glance every now and then from some of them. Anger and perhaps judgment at me not wearing the money making clobber that 95% of the rest of the city centre has on right now. I must look far too comfy to them. If we are music then they are jungle and I am Elevator.  As I meander to the dulcet tones of a generic backing track they are confronted by a cacophony of clanging beats and sharps sounds. 

 I firmly suspect it may be the dirt and rust that is holding my van together.
I firmly suspect it may be the dirt and rust that is holding my van together.

 

I dropped my van off for its MOT this morning. That’s why we’re walking in opposite directions and hear different music. It’s the reason I wear shorts and they don’t.  This is why I have the time, not just to passively see their faces but to actually observe what is in front of me. I am self employed. Writing it like this makes me sound like I have a ‘condition’. Perhaps I do. It’s certainly infectious. Since I have become self employed I have influenced a number of others who have also decided to follow my path. I’m not sure how much they still like me now to be honest.

 

When you’re self employed your boss can’t sack you, but the universe can. You have no one to answer to, except the constant nagging voice in your head that demands to know what you are doing to get more money, to improve and succeed. There are no shit employees you have to deal with and this is because you are alone. Days can go by and no one will talk to you. You can take any holidays you want whenever you want and these will be unpaid and each will start with the desperate realisation that with every passing second everything you have built diminishes. You are the master of your own destiny, as long as you don’t expect that destiny to involve getting a mortgage. You get the enviable task of informing people at parties and social gatherings that you run your own company, which invariably is met with admiration and trilling about how others wish they had the guts whilst your own guts seize with fear at the sheer uncertainty behind every move and decision you take.

 

The suit I chose not to wear now is still on me. At the end of the day however employed people take theirs off whereas my one is unremovable. I am ready at any time to work because I must be. In the words of those fierce New York queens – I don’t get ready, I stay ready. I start to ponder about how this is really just a constant state of emergency.  

 I have become really quite good at thinking on my feet and getting shit done regardless the situation.
I have become really quite good at thinking on my feet and getting shit done regardless the situation.

 

With this my phone rings. The van has failed it’s MOT and it will cost too much to repair it. It’s a write off.  My money maker has given up the ghost and I’ll have to work out how to finance another. This used to be the stage at which blind panic would take over me and consume the rest of my day. But for some reason over these past weeks and months I have become more aware. I’ve shifted more into the present and I know that somehow, some way, this will all work itself out. 

 All easier said than done, but so worthwhile striving to do.
All easier said than done, but so worthwhile striving to do.

I guess that is the thing, I don’t have the consistency of a guaranteed monthly wage but time teaches you that as long as you work hard, are willing to be reflective and make changes and never give up then good things happen. Unless you’re a cunt.

Instagram. The Tragic Tale of Compare & Despair

A question I get asked time and time again is ‘how do I manage to remain so fabulous at all times yet still consistently produce outstanding design and also restore top end furniture – piece after piece after piece?’

 

Only kidding. Never been asked anything like it.

 

Instagram is a funny one isn’t it. I started with it back in the day when it was totally cool to filter the fuck out of anything you uploaded. The more crackling and vignette you could apply the better. If you could ram an over the top border on there then you were really playing your A game.  Of course back in these days I was a happy go lucky coffee drinker in hipster city centre bars, taking more than my fair share of arty shots of daisies in milk bottles etc etc. Every now and then my eyes would glance across my follower number and perhaps take in that it had gone up or down. I’m not even actually sure I did to be honest. I always noticed the amount of likes a picture would get, but I think that’s more down to a predisposed genetic reaction more than anything else.

 

 Curved edge?  Check! Vignette? Check! 
Curved edge?  Check! Vignette? Check! 

Fast forward 8 years and we are not in Kansas anymore people. In my instance my profession changed and I began to run my own company and so I started coming at it all from the new angle of ‘more followers could mean a stronger business in the long term’.  I feel like the whole game has kind of changed for everyone now though hasn’t it. From the interiors obsessed stay at home mum to the dangerously skinny gym obsessed cowboy hat wearing socialites, it’s all about the followers and the likes.

 

There are courses you can go on to tell you how to get more likes, more follows, more interaction, more, more and more of everything. You can listen to podcast upon podcast analysing and dissecting every aspect of what makes ‘lovely squares’ and the difference between your main feed and your ‘stories’.  You can pay companies to managed your instagram. YOU CAN PAY COMPANIES TO MANAGE YOUR INSTAGRAM!?? Hashtags are key, always use 30, no more no less or the internet will break. Always tell everyone your life is utterly fabulous but (and here is the trick) link that with a slightly imperfect yet highly curated image. Or even better, brag about how bonkers your life is. The piece de resistance of course is just having a mental breakdown on your insta and then pulling up a pew with a brew awaiting the ‘you ok hun?’ and the ‘you’re amazing, just focus on being you’ messages. Oh yes and you can also sign up to newsletters by other instagramers that will send you weekly nuggets of wisdom on how to claw in as many followers as you can.

 

I got sucked into Instagram earlier this year. Sucked in I tells ya. The driven, competitive side of me kicked in and I decided that there has to be a basic formula to all of this. So I decided to do what I have always done in the past in order to achieve a goal. I read up, I looked around me at what others were doing and then I practiced my arse off at working to get the right blend to improve my presence on insta. Took about 3 weeks to reach burnout.

 

Then I read the phrase ‘compare and despair’ somewhere. The idea that we measure our own success against that of others based on minimal details.  This isn’t something I’ve ever suffered from but I realised I had contracted it in recent times. I was constantly looking at the work I had produced and measuring it against other, more engaging or ‘successful’ work. Fucking major alarm bells started clanging in my head. I had allowed myself to get sucked in to the vortex of instagram algorithm desperado hell. I was chasing likes and follows like they actually meant something. They do not. If instagram disappeared tomorrow, if we all woke up and the tile had gone from our phones not only would our lives simplify rapidly, but the only people that would be worse off for it financially are those at the top of the chain. 

 

We all know them. They’re normally self employed, and in their eyes they run the MOST popular and MOST successful businesses. They don’t have time for anything literally. Just so busy. No one can even fathom how they fit in the umpteen blogs they churn out a week reinforcing how fabulous they are alongside the seemingly never-ending instagram stories about their success. It seems a miracle they find time to take a shit let alone update us on how glamorous said shit was.

 

When I read on peoples feed about how utterly busy they are and how they simply do not know how they are managing to fit in all the quality work they are totally producing whilst still responding to the many people that are desperate to employ them or collaborate with them in one way or another what I think is; ‘why are you telling me this?’. Why do I need to know how great your life is? The rest of us are out there making the dream happen whilst these people seem to be more focussed on curating the dream.

 

 By all means I want to see nice images. I will always want to see them in whatever format they come in, but do I want to know how great things are for you as a stranger to me? No. Why? Because I alongside the rest of the planet, am only human and have to work at not comparing myself to you. For the most part I manage it, but for a little while I didn’t which led me to look around and see a lot, a big lot, of people who don’t manage it effectively either or maybe at all. There is a lot of frailty out there and a lot of low self esteem. More than likely to be the exact issues that many of the bragging instagramers suffer from themselves. 

 let's just all agree to be fucking fabulous and wait for others to recognise it. I think the phrase is 'may your character speak louder than your words'.
let’s just all agree to be fucking fabulous and wait for others to recognise it. I think the phrase is ‘may your character speak louder than your words’.

 

 

I’m no fool. I know that human nature is what it is and we are all different. It’s what makes us great. But my question is, if you are a person that suffers from looking around you and feeling like others are doing better then what good does it serve to start banging your own drum about how great things are for you? We end up in a cycle of compare and despair. One that can be broken at any time by any of us.

 

How about we all agree to carry on championing our best insta images but tone down the ‘I’m fabulous’ parades that go underneath your square? You’ll feel better because you won’t have to concoct a bunch of shite on the regular(and underneath it all we all know it’s shite), and the rest of us will too, because we’ll see you as human. Then we will feel more human and everyone will come down just a tiny notch. Just a smidge. Back down to calm and feeling ok about who you are. Back to normal. Back to reality. Namaste mother fuckers!