I have been doing freelance design work for almost 20yrs now. I started out doing web graphic design and have done so many amazing, fun projects since then. Designing photo book layouts, digital scrapbooking products, software digital content, 3D texture designs and more recently having my own fabric collection.
There was never an intention to start my own business or be a freelance creative. I fell into it when I was a stay at home Mum. It was a way to make a little extra pin money. And by the time my kids were leaving home, I was going through a divorce, I found myself doing it pretty much full time.
My lovely Dad did have a huge influence on me. He ran his own software business and he was part of the team that set up the UK’s first internet cafe in 1994. While my kids were still little he would give me various projects to do at home. He set me up with my first computer. He bought me my first copy of Photoshop. I was invited to various training days that included Photoshop/Illustrator, web design and so on. So that’s where my love of the techy side of what I do comes from. And it’s been a great joy in my life and although I was annoyed at the time, I’ll always be grateful to my Dad for enrolling me onto a business course instead of doing my A Levels.
Here I am many, many years later finding myself at another creative crossroads. I need to change direction again. And I wanted to write about it. To share my own experience in the hope that it will help and hopefully encourage other women in my situation. Facing some kind of personal circumstances that requires a re-think and change in direction.
Over the past 10yrs, although I’ve sustained my work and been blessed, for sure, I’ve struggled to be consistent. You would never know that I’ve actually been online writing a blog since 1996. But I have. I’d love to say that I’ve built up a huge following and am a “social influencer” but I haven’t and I’m not.
What I have done is built up a lovely small group of subscribers and followers who are genuine in their engagement with me and my work and I love each one of them.
Every now and then I have attempted to talk about some of the issues that have been holding me back. The first obvious one was losing my parents 10 yrs ago. I won’t go into all the grief that I went through, suffice to say it was traumatic as is any loss. It was unexpected and threw us all.
Now, I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or the death of my parents triggered something in my body, but not long after, I began having a lot of gynae health issues. Apparently I was in peri-menopause and the symptoms, for me, were awful. I’d go months with nothing then out of the blue I’d be in a lot of pain, horrific bleeding - sorry for the tmi here - fatigue and so on. And so it was. And as such my work did suffer.
I couldn’t be consistent if I tried. I did what I could when I could. I was dismissed more often than not by doctors. And honestly, my life was miserable a lot of the time. I let people down. I let my family down. I would make excuses so I didn’t have to go out. Terrified of a “flood” or honestly feeling so exhausted. And didn’t want to explain why. Seemed too personal and I felt like no one would understand unless they’d gone through it.
I did finally get a good gynae doctor who ran tests and offered a proper diagnosis back at the beginning of this year (2019). I had a very bad spell of bleeding and ended up in hospital. While I was there, they ran a number of tests and discovered I had some fibroids and also a condition called adenomyosis. They suspected I’d had this at least 10 yrs. It’s not easy to diagnose. So fair enough. I’m now going through treatment. Medication is messing with my body so I’m swapping one set of symptoms for another.
However, it’s not life threatening (they initially thought it was uterine cancer because of my age and being post menopause by this point), even though it’s life altering and challenging for the moment. Last resort will be a hysterectomy but first they’re hoping to shrink my uterus/fibroids and then do a uterine artery embolisation. My uterus is enlarged and fibroids too big for a safe hysterectomy. Plus, and this is not easy to share, I’m too overweight according to the NHS NICE guidelines. They have offered me weight loss surgery - I’m under an endocrinologist as they found some hormone issues when I was in hospital related to both my weight problems and gynae issues. Honestly, this is a whole other blog post. I have a lot of thoughts about this subject. It’s complex and has messed with my self confidence and esteem for far too long now. And this isn’t the time to talk about it. But I will one day.
So here I am finding myself at another crossroads with my work. I’m fortunate that my hubby’s side of our business is reasonably successful so I’m in a position where I can make some changes and be supported financially while I do.
The one constant in all of this, is that I love what I do. I’m multi-passioned and so I’m finding myself doing what’s easiest to cope with at the moment. Building up a portfolio of designs and illustrations, designing embroidery patterns, creating digital content. I’ll also be teaching workshops at my local fabric shop and designing kits to sell there.
I’ve always wanted to see my designs on fabric as I’m a hobbyist sewer and quilter. Having my own fabric line with Makower last year was definitely a highlight of my career and made me realise how much I love that aspect of my work. As such I’m setting up shops at Fashion Formula and Spoonflower. These are both online print on demand businesses using digital printing technology.
ll send out a newsletter in next couple weeks about my online fabric shop and will do other appropriate product updates as and when I have them.
These are all manageable for me. I have a couple of surgeries coming up and I’m still navigating side effects of medication that I’m on and so making these changes are helping me release the fear and guilt I have felt for far too long. Fear that I’m somehow behind my peers and “competitors” and guilt that I’m not being consistent enough for my existing customers, subscribers and followers. It is what it is.
Learning that this whole process is about being true to myself, completely transparent and authentic. It’s taken me awhile to realise this. I hate, hate letting people down. I’m an otherwise private person so talking about this stuff feels open and vulnerable. However, I’m learning that it’s important to share especially if it can help other women who maybe going through something similar.
It’s ok to change our minds. It’s ok to move in a new direction. There are no rules to say it has to be the way you originally planned. The goals are not set in stone. Do your best on a daily basis is all you can do. Being true to yourself and embracing the changes. Lean into the adventure that will come with those changes.