A Year to Work Freedom: First Quarter Update

Earlier this year I shared how I’m aiming to achieve “work freedom”.  For me this means transforming my career to have a more flexible working pattern and more time with my children.  As my one-year deadline moves closer, I’m reviewing the progress I’ve made and what I need to focus on to make this a reality.

Last month I also shared how I’ve been feeling overwhelmed at work and my strategies for feeling better and more in balance.  Rather than throw me off course, this has helped me to work towards my goal in a smarter and more sustainable way.  

My Roadmap set out how I was going to:

  • Build and leverage my network
  • Develop skills and confidence
  • Create additional income sources
  • Improve relationships and quality of life and
  • Increase my pension contributions

…all with the aim of enabling and optimising my dream flexible working pattern.

As I look back I’ve made decent progress in some areas but I will really need to double down and make the best use of my time if I’m going to pull this off.

What’s gone well?

Current working pattern

Well, for a start I’ve negotiated a four-day working week from August so that I can have an extra day with my children.  For me this is a great example of putting “Coast FI” into practice; grabbing a piece of the lifestyle that I want now, even if I can’t have the whole pie. 

I might find that this offers me the balance I want and that having the kids in breakfast and after school clubs on the other days works fine. While I’m keeping an open mind, I’m still aiming for more flexibility for now. 

Pension and investment contributions

I’ve also increased my pension contributions to 20% (10% from me and 10% from my employer).  My thinking is to boost my pension as much as I can now to compensate in case my income goes down in the future.  I’m also using up my Stocks and Shares ISA allowance for the same reason.

Until now I’ve had our emergency fund in a Cash ISA.  I’ve saved some additional emergency money now so am planning to keep that in a normal savings account and transfer the same amount from my Cash ISA to my Stocks and Shares ISA so that the money can go towards our “freedom fund” and start working for us.  

Work in progress

Building skills

Since my feelings of overwhelm at work I’ve also reframed how I view challenges. With my focus on work freedom, I see difficult projects as opportunities to build skills.  I’ve also been more assertive about areas I want to learn more about that I think would complement my freelance plans.  I prioritise making valuable contributions in those areas so that both I and my company benefit.  

Building confidence

My confidence has taken a dent over the last year or so.  Once I had verbalised this, I decided to prioritise anything that would help to build this up. For me this includes:

  • Stepping outside my comfort zone to remind myself I am capable and resilient 
  • Calling out gremlins eroding my self-esteem: sometimes I realise that I am thinking or acting as if people are going to “find out” that I’m stupid or incompetent.  If I notice this and remind myself that I am neither of those things, I can clearly see how unhelpful those thoughts and actions are.  
  • Making healthy choices like early bedtimes so I can fire on all (or at least more) cylinders!
  • Looking after my loved ones and letting them look after me – everything is easier with your family on your side

Simplifying life and reducing living costs

We are already pretty frugal but a lot of our savings over the last year have been a result of the pandemic and not travelling for work, going on holidays or going out.  As life (hopefully) returns to normal we are planning how we can have great family experiences on a budget.  If my income decreases then the first thing to go will be holidays, so our plan is to try camping in the hope that this will become our main way to holiday.  We were given a great tent, so we just need to bite the bullet and get out there!

As always I’m constantly decluttering so that we can spend a bit less time tidying and finding things.

Must try harder!

Creating income sources

The most important thing that I need to do (which I am struggling most with) is building additional sources of income.  

I love maintaining and building this blog, but the site visits are too low for me to monetise it. Although I’ve had better months when I’ve focussed on creating more and better content, I don’t see this changing significantly in the next year.

At the moment I am focussing on building my credibility as a freelancer in my current field as I think this will give me the highest return on my time.  Working on my confidence now has helped me to see this as a feasible and enjoyable option.  I’ve been investing more in books and courses to help with this, such as this 2-week Reset Festival on Confidence and Work next month.  

One of my strategies is also to build up a few very flexible gigs that I can turn to if I have no freelance work and need to cover the shortfall in our basic costs.  Options I am looking into include transcription but I also have language skills that I could use for translating and proofreading jobs.

My progress so far

I’m laying the foundations in some key areas, but if I carry on at this rate then I will be reliant on finding freelance work to cover my costs, as I haven’t built up additional sources of income.  I also need to put much more effort into planning what freelance services I will offer and building up my profile in that area.

That said, I’m excited about shifting down to 4 days a week and I’ll have a good 4 or 5 months before I was hoping to quit to figure out if I still want to do it.  

If anybody else reading this is planning to shift to more flexible work and has any words of wisdom please do share.  

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