Facebook memories, free coffee, and 7 years of working for myself full-time

So, yesterday Facebook reminded me that 7 years ago, the guy outside the station gave me free coffee.

I didn’t know his name and I don’t think he knew mine.

He sold coffee outside my local station and, as I started and finished work late in an attempt to miss commuter traffic, there wasn’t usually a queue when I got there. This was a good thing because I was often late. I don’t like mornings anyway. Mornings when you have to go to a job that you don’t want to be doing any more – that’s a recipe for lateness!

So, there were no other customers and the coffee guy and I got chatting. He knew I was counting down the days to finishing life as an employee. To be fair, some of my colleagues knew about this countdown too. One of the lawyers used to joke with me and asked me most mornings how many days it was.

Saying goodbye

When it was 50 days away, it seemed like for ever! Then it was 30, 20 – then single figures! It was getting real!

On the last day, the guy selling coffee said he knew how long I’d been looking forward to this day and the coffee was on him! Such a nice thing to do!

I think things are always hard in the last few days of a job. I’ve never left a job to not have one – it was either to move to another job or to go self-employed. But you either find everyone that you ever knew wanting you to do stuff that apparently only you can do, just before you leave, or you end up doing the most boring things ever because everyone thinks it’s pointless for you to start something new. Or someone who hates you decides to give you a really awful project to do as a “parting gift”.

I’ve experienced all of these. But as I sat there on the train, drinking my coffee and doing the commute for the last time, I was excited!

A manager (not my manager, but one who often made time for me and helped me out) took me for lunch. I did very little work. I had a speech planned, but in the end couldn’t be bothered with most of it. Those who mattered knew how I felt, and those who didn’t, didn’t matter!

I went for hot chocolate with my team mate, one of the few people I’d genuinely miss, and then I got back on the train for the last time as a commuter.

I reached down and patted my golden retriever girl. Things would be different for my guide dog too. NO more cramped trains. Visits to the park in the daytime. I thought she might miss some of our friends, but she’d probably like self-employed life too. We’d both had a little taster of it when I tried to work from home once in a while, but that’s really not the same as doing it full time.

And all of that was seven years ago now – it feels like much longer than that! I’ve moved house twice, once to a new town, started a relationship, got engaged…

First months

The business isn’t actually seven years old this month – I began it in the April and worked on it part-time. But it really felt like it was happening when I handed in my laptop for my old job, gave back my security pass, and said goodbye to the people who were now my ex-colleagues!

I’d given myself 9 months to decide whether it was going to work out. After all, I had no idea. I had a concept and a couple of customers already, but no guarantee that the idea was viable. I was the sole breadwinner, so I needed it to work. Perhaps if I had been really happy in my last job, I wouldn’t have felt as empowered to leave, but I knew I was taking a risk. The couple of people who said I was crazy actually inspired me to prove them wrong, and everyone else was pretty supportive.

I decided that if things weren’t working out after 9 months, I had a couple more months to find a new job before things got really desperate! “Working out” didn’t mean earning the same as I used to, but it did mean that things were going in the right direction and I thought there was a realistic chance of English with Kirsty providing me with a reasonable income and way to pay the rent, have some kind of social life, and facilitate me doing the things I wanted to do.

I worked really hard during those first months. Too hard actually – I didn’t make time for friends or take any time off. So that was my first lesson. I’d always thought my time management was pretty good, but I can get hyper focussed on something to the detriment of everything else. I still made sure my dog was taken care of and basic things like that, but life had got a bit out of balance!

Once I’d got into the swing of things, I loved it. I knew I’d love working from home and not sharing my office with anyone. I was disciplined enough to make it work, and I enjoyed having the ultimate responsibility for decisions. If something goes wrong, it’s my fault and I’ll do better next time, but I’ll never again have to pay lip-service to something that I think is a really stupid idea!

Seven years later

I’ve learned a lot since then! I’ve learned that some months are better than others, and you need to take a longer-term view, not letting how you feel about yourself be determined by how busy you are on any given day.

I’ve learned that not everyone who offers training in the areas that you need will do a good job, but there are some fantastic people out there.

I’ve learned that quality of life is more important than climbing the career ladder in the traditional sense, especially if the latter is making you miserable. Yes, it’s still hard when I see what other people are doing now who carried on in the direction that I was going. Sometimes it’s hard not to compare myself to them – usually if I’m having a bad day anyway! But I chose a different path, and there’s a lot to be said for going to work with a smile because you enjoy what you do, and not having the awful Sunday night feeling where you’re dreading Monday morning!

I’ve learned that you don’t only need people in your own industry in your network. There’s a lot of support to be gained from other self-employed people, even if you’re working on completely different things.

I’ve learned that things change, and you have to keep your eye on the ball – things that worked in 2012 are not working now, but there are some new ideas that are working really well.

I’ve learned that people who annoy you before they’ve even signed up will probably continue to annoy you if you decide to work with them. First impressions can tell you a lot, so try to attract the people with whom you’re going to enjoy working!

I’ve learned that some of the best parts of my job are when you see how you’re making a difference to someone’s life.

I’ve learned that it’s good to take stock of where you are and where you want to be – stopping some activities when they’re not adding value, and realising when it’s time to grow. That’s why I added a second website this year called EwK Services, for all my translation, communication, and accessibility consultancy services.

I’ve seen my website grow from something with four or five pages, to one that has a blog, a podcast, and plenty of resources for people who want to learn English.

I’ve developed new skills in marketing, podcasting, bookkeeping – if you don’t outsource, you learn to do things yourself.

I’ve written and published two books.

I’ve met really interesting people from different countries and with fascinating stories.

I’ve found a way to use my German skills –something I always wanted to do, but never managed when I was employed.

I’ve become a teacher – something I’ve been wanting to do since I was about 5!

I’ve been able to move and not remain tied to a physical place – after all, my customers are in at least four different countries and they don’t care where I am as long as I have a good internet connection. This is also great when there’s snow outside, or when I’m managing other health issues – working from home really is the best option for me.

I’ve learned to celebrate the small wins – and the big ones too! To recognise them and acknowledge the work that went into achieving them.

I’ve got something that I have built. I ask others for help when I need it, but this is something that I started, at a time where online training wasn’t as common as it is now.

It definitely hasn’t been easy. Starting something from scratch never is, especially when it means you have no guaranteed set income each month as you do in paid employment. You have to earn it!

There have been setbacks, such as the time when I moved and the stupid phone company didn’t get my internet connection sorted out quickly. There was the time when I could no longer use the site where I’d found a lot of my customers and my main marketing strategy had to be replaced, pretty much overnight. There were times when big customers’ contracts came to an end and they had to be replaced or there’d be a gaping hole in my earnings. There was the time when I had more requests than I could handle – mainly because I was under-pricing my services. But all of these things taught me something as well and gave me tools to use if something similar happened in the future.

It’s good to plan and look forward. But sometimes it’s also good to look back and remember the journey so that you can see how far you’ve come. This little Facebook reminder helped me to do that yesterday.

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In celebration of grandparents and what we have learned from them

I share some things that I learned from my grandparents and then open the question up to other bloggers.

I wanted to write a blog post to celebrate grandparents.

My Nan and Granddad brought me up, and I learned so many things from them. Sadly they are no longer around, but they live on in my memories, and in the many life lessons I learned from them.

I decided to write a few of these things down, and then to ask some other bloggers what they learned from their grandparents. I noticed that when I was talking to other bloggers about scents and the memories they bring back, a number of people mentioned their grandparents. That’s another reasons why I wanted to explore grandparent memories a bit more.

  1. My grandparents taught me that dogs can be a child’s best friend.
  2. My granddad taught me how to use my new computer, even though he’d never used one before. He read up all the books he could find so that he could help me to learn.
  3. My Nan taught me how to bake cheese scones and other tasty treats.
  4. My grandparents taught me that you can discover all kinds of interesting places without leaving your own country. They didn’t enjoy travelling abroad, but we went to many different cities in the long summer holidays and marked the counties off on a map.
  5. My Granddad taught me all the names of the counties and many of the big cities in the British Isles.
  6. My Nan taught me to love books and that there are so many interesting characters waiting to be discovered in them. First we had story time – and she read to me for hours. Later I read the books myself and finished most of the children’s audio books in the library!
  7. My grandparents taught me to work hard for what I want. If at first you don’t succeed…. Keep trying until you do!
  8. My grandparents didn’t have a lot of money, so they taught me to value it and not to be wasteful. If you want something, work hard and save for it.
  9. My Nan taught me that home-made Yorkshire puddings are better than shop-bought ones!
  10. My Granddad taught me about his plants and flowers. He knew all the names, how to care for them, where to put them, and his advice helped me to win the tallest sunflower competition at school!
  11. My Nan taught me to talk – having a blind child, you can’t just point at things, so she talked and talked to me from a young age, explaining what things were, what they looked like, and what they were for. Maybe that’s where I got my original love of words.
  12. My grandparents taught me to find my own ways of doing things. Maybe they won’t be the same as everyone else, but as long as I do the thing, that’s all that matters!
  13. My Nan taught me that preparing for Christmas is almost as much fun as Christmas itself.
  14. My Granddad taught me to swim way before most of the children in my class could.

Now let’s hear from some other people!

“My nana taught me to never change yourself to make someone like you.”
Grace from That Feeling inside

“Mine taught me that to be fully independent it’s actually ok to ask for help when you need. You don’t need to suffer in silence and it’s ok to rely on others.”
Fiona from From Fiona

“My grandparents are no longer with me, but they taught me not to let life stop me from achieving my goals. Don’t stop believing in yourself, that you can achieve anything you set your mind to, just because someone told you it’s not possible. You will always be supported by people who love you; those who put you down don’t need to be in your life.”
Michelle from Oh Sew Vegan

“My Nanny taught me how to bake. We spent hours baking cakes, scones and biscuits, and most of what I know today is what I learned from her. I have lovely memories of it.”
Isabel from Boxes and Swatches

“I only ever had my gran on my mum’s side, and she passed away when I was 10. My mum’s dad passed away when she was a little girl and my gran raised my mum and her brother as a single parent.
My gran loved the opera. Adored it. I have memories of going to her one bed flat as a little girl and hearing her talk about how wonderful Pavarotti is. She was so knowledgeable. Thing is, we don’t know where she got this love from. We’re a working class family from Liverpool. It’s not like it’s something everyone was doing.
Now I’m in London I go to the Royal Opera House as much as I can for ballet and opera. I think of gran when I’m there and how much she’d love it as much as I now do.”
Kim from Kinsey’s Blog

“My grandparents always taught me to do my best and to be proud of my work – no matter what the circumstances. I particularly remember at secondary school in art classes, the whole class was excitable one day and way too noisy. The teacher made every child write an essay on “what is a decibel” for homework in lieu of detention for being noisy. I was encouraged to write the best essay ever at home. It’s always stood me in good stead in life to do your best, to go that extra mile, and be proud of your work…..and it’s something I try to pass on to my kids. In other words, even if you don’t succeed, as long as you’ve tried your best then that’s okay!”
Rachel from The Daisy Pages

“My grandparents taught me that life is what you make it. Both sets of grandparents came from underprivileged backgrounds, but the stories they told inspired me. I share them with others. They taught me that you don’t need money to enjoy life and be loved. Something I hope to share with my daughter.”
Justine from Lilgemandbabye

“Mine taught me to have a sense of humour and that it gets you through the tough parts in life too. To laugh and to love. My nana also taught me to love soaps, (not sure if that’s a blessing or a curse). Also that as long as you’re hard working, it doesn’t matter what you do don’t let others judge you. The sad thing I was taught by them at a young age was that people die.”
Lynne from Almost midlife and looking for a crisis

“Mine taught me the value of a loving family, the snugness of cosy chats by open fires, the welcoming smell of a busy kitchen and the simple beauty of a well kept garden . They all had strict traditional values which I’ve learnt to appreciate more as the years go by.”
Anne from Yoga Ladies

“By the time I was born, I only had one living grandparent, my dad’s mum. She’d raised 4 kids on her own in the 50s during a time when women were treated as secondary citizens in China; she worked, she made all of their clothes by hand, and taught her 3 daughters and my dad that women CAN do anything they put their mind to. They were the most fashion forward kids in school and each of my aunts grew to be capable and accomplished in their own right. My gran taught me to sew, to make pancakes, and she also taught me to take no shit.”
Lucie from Call me dumpling

“My Nan taught me the reality of life. My Nan told me from a very young age about her son she lost when he was just 2 years old, she cared for my great grandmother who suffered with dementia when I was 10 years old, and I watched her cry and go through the transition of losing her husband when I was just 16 years old. She’s my biggest inspiration and I have the utmost respect for her introducing so many realities of life into my life.”
Daisy from Daisarella

“My Granny Eve always told me how beautiful my skin was, even when I had terrible acne as a teenager and incredibly low self-esteem. I’ve finally learnt what works for my skin and it’s now clear, but I really needed that belief in me when I just couldn’t.”
Keely from Keely’s nails

“My Granny taught me that to get anywhere in life you have to work hard and never give up. She was widowed when my dad was only 7 and she was one of the strongest people I have ever met. She could be stubborn and had her own way of doing things but led a full life up to the age of 99.”
Lynn from More 4 mums

“My grandad taught me to value my family and those who love me. The most important thing about life is being loved and to give love.
Natalie from Up your vlog

Elle shares this post about what she learned from her Gran:
“My gran taught me the importance of saving money. She helped me sew to make do and mend, she encouraged me to grow herbs, to not waste food and to look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves:
4 of the best money-saving hacks from my Gran

This post is a bit different, but I added it because I thought it’s a lovely way that Moushmi is remembering her Grandfather in this imaginary essay.

“I was so young when my grandparents died but what I learned from my granddad was how to learn spellings of different words. In general he taught me by his actions that sharing is caring.”
Asma from Makeup Dreamer Blog

How about you? Feel free to add what your grandparents taught you in the comments. There have been so many recurring themes about working hard, believing in yourself and trying to be the best you can be. We have a lot to thank them for!

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Scents and the memories that they bring back

13 bloggers and I talk about special scents, and the memories that they bring back to us.

When we were out walking the other day, I smelled the unmistakable smell of horses! I love that smell! It took me straight back to my horse-mad years (the end of Primary school and beginning of high school) when all I wanted to talk about was horses, what I’d learned in my lesson, what I’d read about them, and my latest jumping or dressage lesson. My Granddad used to take me to the stables on a Saturday morning, and I spent the day there with a group of girls, grooming the horses, mucking out, and teaching the golden retriever tricks before my afternoon lesson!

I still have the riding hat that my grandparents bought me for my 11th birthday, and surprisingly it still fits!

Thinking about how easily a scent can bring back memories, I realised this is true of products as well. I first discovered the Seychelles handcream from the White Company the weekend we went for our wolf adventure, and now the coconutty goodness always reminds me of that special weekend.

There are scents, such as Organza and A Mirage, that I wore when I first moved to London around 15 years ago, but I don’t wear them now. They remind me of that time in my life, discovering the big city, getting my first job, and finding new friends. I’ve moved on, and so my taste in fragrances has moved on too. However if I smell one of them when I’m out shopping, it reminds me of that time.

There are also scents that remind me of my Nan, who is no longer with us. It’s not just fragrances – although Chanel no. 5 will always remind me of her. The smell of pine trees brings back memories of her too, because we always had a real Christmas tree and decorated it together.

When we went to her house after she had passed away, the first thing I smelled as I stepped inside her room was her face cream, and I expected her to walk in at any moment. I’d smelled that cream a hundred times as she got ready in the morning, and now when I smell it, it makes me think of her (which is why I bought some the other day!)

There are certainly smells that I don’t like, but I can’t think of any that have such distinct memories for me in the way that the positive ones do to remind me of childhood fun, a holiday, certain times in my life, or a special person. I think scents are powerful – the same one can mean many different things to different people, but the connection between the scent and the memory is often so strong, that you almost feel you’re back in a different place and time when you smell it.

Scents are perhaps more important to me as someone who is blind. I don’t subscribe to the idea that I have a superpower sense of smell, but using this sense comes in useful, because it can help me to work out exactly where I am (the scent of a particular bush on my way home, or the smells coming from particular shops), so I guess I take more notice of them. They can be practical as well as enjoyable. Still, I was certain it couldn’t be just me, so I asked in a couple of blogging groups for other people to share their scent and memory stories. Here’s what 12 bloggers told me:

Jazmin

The scent of the Passion Fruit lip balm from Lush really takes me back to when I first moved to Liverpool for University as it’s one of the first products I bought whilst living there. My home town doesn’t have a Lush so I was super excited to buy a bunch of stuff from their.
The passion fruit lip balm is still safely in a trinket box on my dresser and every time I use it I’m definitely transported back into my first University halls.
Visit Jazmin’s blog Jazminheavenblog.

Janelle

Being a classically trained violinist, White Musk by the Body Shop used to be my go-to perfume for concerts and events. I am strangely superstitious when it comes to these things, and something about spritzing this on always gave me that delicious rush of adrenaline that I loved and thrived on. I actually found a bottle lying around the house recently, and it brought a lot of lovely memories rushing back. There’s just something so unmistakably invigorating about this scent and I can’t quite place it – that’s exactly what I love about it. All I know is that I’ll be reaching for this a lot more when I have special occasions now!
Visit Janelle’s blog Beauty Expert Amateur.

Daisy

Yvette

I always treat myself to a new perfume at duty free when I go away, on my way back from Vegas I bought La Nuit Tresor by Lancome. I then took it on holiday to Tenerife with my best friend. Every time I wore it, my friend would rave about how nice it smelled. Ever since our holiday, whenever I see her, if I’m wearing the perfume, she’ll comment on how much she loves it and how it reminds her of our holiday. If I wear a different perfume, she tells me off! The frustrating thing was it was another year before it was available in the UK!
Her fiancée has just messaged me asking what perfume it is as she talks about it so much he’s surprising her with it for her birthday!
Visit Yvette’s blog Getalife101.

Jessi

My parents have a house in Portugal and I spent half my childhood years there. Being a redhead, it meant I was constantly having inch thick sun cream slapped on me on the hour, every hour. Back then sun protection only came in the white, thick cream version that took 15 minutes to rub in, and whenever I smell that kind it transports me straight back to running around by the pool as a child. I’m so glad we now have spray on, more transparent type protection, and that’s what I take to festivals, but I sometimes buy the old stuff as I miss that hit of nostalgia.
Visit Jessi’s blog Where’s My Tent.

Rachel

Chanel N°5 reminds me of the days when I worked as an air cabin crew member. The fragrance takes me back to those carefree days without responsibilities, with lots of travel, spending time with friends and having fun. It also makes me pause to think how I can inject more travel and fun into my life now I have a family.

Tamara

Whenever I smell Anais Anais perfume it always takes me back to our holiday at Disneyland Paris when I was about 5? My mother always had set perfume for all occasions and this one was a small one that she took away – I love the memories that come back each time I smell it!

Hannah

Aromatics Elixir Perfume. “Every year I would go on holiday to Lanzarote with my mum, sister and Godmother, and every year my mum would wear the Aromatics perfume each night we went out to dinner. I’ve since moved away from home, but the smell of this perfume always reminds me of my mum, and takes me back to the waves hitting the rocky walls as we laughed and joked on our way to dinner. Whether I walk past someone wearing the perfume as I’m out shopping, going for lunch, or even just heading to the cinema, it always comforts me and relaxes me, especially when I’m feeling stressed or anxious.”
Visit Hanna’s blog HD Personal Fitness.

Ally

Brut after shave reminds me of my dad. I remember he used to put it on once he had his RAF uniform on and some days when I stood beside him, he’d then pretend to wipe it on my face. Whenever I smell it now, I can picture our bathroom, our house and my walk to school with him by my side

Vanessa

My favourite smells are chlorine and neoprene! This is only since I became a parent and it transpired that my first child (girl now age 11) was/is a total water baby. We started taking her baby swimming at 8 weeks old – and she loved the classes, becoming the ‘demo model’ for the teacher! She just never cried whatever the class did (these are the sort of classes where you just push them under water and let their natural instincts kick in). From there she – and her younger sister – have gone on right to the end of typical swim lessons to swim for a local town club – training a couple of times a week. Our summer holidays soon began to revolve around the beach and body boarding – so we now all have wetsuits too. My husband now also swims in open water. Accordingly my ‘babies’ often smell of chlorine and the laundry room is full of costumes and towels smelling of it too. And when it’s time for our summer trips to the coast, out pop the wetsuits – and neoprene is in the air once more!
Visit Vanessa’s blog A Happy Healthy Mummy.

Sarah

When I was a child, I’d always sit on my Grandma’s bed while she was doing her hair (she loved doing her hair). I always remember that she did it ‘properly’ every morning and filled the whole room with a hairspray mist. Now every time I spray hairspray, no particular brand, it reminds me of her. Strange how those sorts of memories stick with us!
Visit Sarah’s blog Dream of Home

Becky

The scent that brings back strong memories is Cacharel In A Flash. I don’t wear perfume all the time because I forget to put it on, but I tend to when on holiday because it’s in my wash bag with everything else. So this perfume reminds me a lot of being in New York City, because I was there for 6 weeks and used it every day. But that was almost 3 years ago now! The memory that comes along with the scent is fading, so I’m finding I’m more reluctant to use the perfume, despite really liking it, because I want to make the memory last…
Visit Becky’s blog Becky Becky Blogs. .

Bethan

I’m an enormous fan of scent (and have the perfume collection to prove it!) and love to buy a new fragrance as a way of remembering special occasions. For example I bought Jo Malone’s Pear and Freesia to wear when I was a bridesmaid for a good friend. Not only did the scent reflect her English country garden wedding, but every time I smell it I’m taken back to that day. Likewise I bought Clarins Eau des Jardins after I was a witness in a court case to remind myself how I could be brave and get through difficult times, and Miu Miu reminds me of a lovely trip to Barcelona last year. I could go on and on (Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue evokes massive memories of high school!), but it’s fair to say I reckon fragrances are a great way to make memories!
Visit Bethan’s blog A Pretty Place to Play.

Rachel

My smell would be lavender. Not necessarily a certain product, although Yardley’s lavender soap would be it. The smell reminds me of my gran and baking round her house. She used to always have the soap for washing our hands with before baking and she had dried lavender in her wardrobe so all the clothes smelt of it too. It’s such a comforting and happy smell for me now. It also makes me want to bake!
Visit Rachel’s blog Rachel Emily

How about you>

Thanks to everyone who took part in this – I really enjoyed reading your stories. How about you? Do you associate any scents with particular memories or people? Let us know in the comments!

Don’t forget the giveaway is still open

My September giveaway is still open, so if you’d like to be in with a chance to win some skincare goodies from brands such as the Body Shop and Sanctuary Spa, this is where you can enter.

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