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It’s always important to have many an impossible dream in life, I reckon. As I heard Tamsin Greig say recently, “if something looks completely impossible, it’s probably the very thing you should be doing”.
Which is why, at different times in my life, I have had aspirations to do the following: own a restaurant, star in Hollyoaks and/or Neighbours, write a book, have three kids, live by the sea, own a business, do stand-up comedy and fall in love. Some of these dreams I’ve achieved, some of these dreams I’ve grown out of and some I am still working towards. I’ll let you decide which is which.
One dream I never realised I had until I became a mother was that of being my own boss.
It happened by total accident: I’d had a successful career heading up a Digital Marketing team at a youth media company, and once I left to go on maternity leave I felt a bit lost. Eight weeks in to my leave I had an email from an old work contact asking if I’d be interested in a little freelance project – it was some online PR for Orange’s sponsorship of Glastonbury – and I realised I was.
One small project led to another, and I used the remainder of my KIT days to investigate the possibility of setting up on my own and collect some clients; once Elfie was 6 months old I went for it proper.
It’s been an amazing 7 years of self-employment. I’ve led site re-designs that cost more than my first house, launched online magazines, carried out huge strategy reviews, won industry awards, spoken at massive events… all with the flexibility for me to be home in time for the school run.
I took a year back in 9-5 employment to hone my skills as a director within a couple of Marketing agencies, but this time just served as a demonstrator that being employed by someone else is not for me. In my lifestyle as a single parent I need the flexibility to drop everything if one of the kids becomes ill, or to stop work at 2pm on a Friday to go to the school Harvest Festival, and the only way I can guarantee that is if I’m the boss and CEO of my own life.
My career hasn’t been easy – I’ve had times when I’ve worked 60 hour weeks and have had less sleep than as the mother of a newborn – but it’s taken me from a place where I was in debt and worried about where the next paycheck will come from to a comfortable Waitrose-shopping occasional Jimmy Choo-buying bank balance. And as the only person in my household that’s been earning a wage for the last 4 and a half years, that makes me really proud.
This blog has been one constant during my career. I designed my first website, a blog where I wrote about boys and makeup (er, not much has changed then), at the age of 15 and have written in some form online ever since. This platform started making money almost by accident back in 2012 and the online blogging world has become more and more commercialised in the years since. It’s been incredible that something I love so much – a little website I started because I was so freaked out about having a baby at 24 – has grown to become something that helps financially support that same child.
More Than Toast now welcomes around 60,000 people a month (this still makes me feel weird) and the people I’ve met via the site and my Social Media platforms have become some of my closest friends. Yet I still barely write about toast.
It’s gone from earning me pocket money pennies to being half of my income, and in the last three months the blog and associated projects – event hosting, speaking engagements, writing, teaching and mentoring – has slowly crept up to bringing in enough money for me to earn my previous full-time wage from it.
Which is why, when I was reviewing my figures and More Than Toast projects a couple of months ago, wondering where I was going to squeeze in my corporate project work, I had a lightbulb moment. As much as I have always absolutely adored my consultancy and the work I’ve done with my clients, More Than Toast is my third baby, my passion, the love of my life. The writing I do here and the discussion it sparks always inspires me, and the community I’ve built via Social Media gives me drive I feel lacking elsewhere. If I want to write my book, do stand-up comedy, star in Hollyoaks, start a Tshirt line, run online courses, make videos…I simply don’t have time to do all that when I’m spending two days a week working with corporate clients.
And so I made a slightly terrifying decision: I gave notice to my big client, the one whose monthly fees would support my family should the worst happen and no other work come in. The one I loved and adored and cherished. The one whose work was nourishing and fun but ultimately, was not my blog: the contrast between the creativity I felt every time I worked on my own website and the client-facing corporate work had become huge, and I wanted to my work life to solely be More Than Toast.
So now when someone asks me “what do you do?” I no longer reply with the job title Digital Consultant. I now say I’m a blogger, a writer, a hopeful Social entrepreneur: a thinker, a doer, maybe a little bit of a hustler. Since July I’ve taken a break for holidays and family time and then have been working on events, partnerships, the book and an ecourse for aspiring bloggers. It’s more than slightly terrifying to not know where my next paycheck is coming from but that fear is fuelling my fire and I believe that being more content will lead to further opportunities.
I’m always transparent when I work with clients on the blog and I hope that you, my lovely readers and community of friends, will continue to support me and the people who allow me to follow my dreams. The time I’ve freed up will give me more scope to work on the features we all love: not just the drivel about my love life but the inspiring Work That Works interviews and gorgeous Home Tours, and more exclusive email content and fun videos (I have four waiting to go live – subscribe here!).
I’m so excited to not only be on this journey but to have you all along with me, and am incredibly thankful for all the support, well-wishes and relationship advice you’ve given me along the way.
As my very first client Orange used to say: The Future’s Bright. And when it comes to More Than Toast, I know that’s true.