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  • Writer's pictureHannah Duncan

Why I ditched the boss and went freelance 🤙

Updated: Mar 7, 2022

Like a quarter of Brits from my generation, I worked evenings and weekends as a teenager. I collected my first pay cheque at thirteen, earning £200 a month.

Fifteen years later, and the constant surveillance of insecure middle managers was beginning to take its toll. Time to begin working for myself.

The highs of working for someone else

Loving my time at Borders, Wales 📖 📚

Hannah Duncan working at Borders
Borders, aged 15

Some of the jobs were brilliant. Like the three vibrant years I spent in a buzzy bookstore. I always arrived early, for the sheer love of being there. I didn’t go on holidays as a teen, but I escaped into books and devoured every new edition. Each page was an adventure, a papery road to a better place. My colleagues were closer to me than my best friends at school. I’m sure that those formative years shaped my career as a writer.

Hannah Duncan working at The Nuance Group
The Nuance Group, aged 22

Living the high life at Nuance, Switzerland 🥂

Or the wonderful time I spent in a Duty Free company, where a glittering world of parties, and designer goods popped open before me like a glistening bottle of champagne in the sun.

Everything seemed to smell of Lindt chocolate, and crinkle with gift wrap.

Feeling at home in Irish bars, Wales & England ☘️ 🍻

Hannah with a dog behind the bar
Morning shift after the night before, aged 20

There's nothing like the crunch of sticky ice and glass on your shoes. Or the sickly sweet smell of sambuca drenching into your clothes to remind you of the vivid realness of the here and now.

I loved working in bars. Especially the Welsh ones, where the tips were fantastic and the noisy ruckus of singing continued long into the night.

Before I pulled pints I was kind of shy, but after a couple of weeks, my confidence sky rocketed. The same thing seems to happen to everyone. I laughed louder. Greeted people with confidence. And learned to use a mop real quick!

And the lows ...

But there were bad times too. Weaving in and out of the fabric of my career were moments of splintering pain, which left scars.

Hannah holding a phone in a staff room
The staff room, aged 19
In 2012, 323,000 incidences of violence at work were reported in the UK. One of them was reported by me.

My supervisor got angry about his own incompetence, blocked me from leaving the staff room and shoved me back. I wasn’t expecting a 40-something man to barge me across the room over a Sony Ericsson. I was just 19 years old. It was a shock.

Sadly, it's much more common for women than men to be at the receiving end of menacing behaviour in the workplace.

Being 'managed' sucks

What I always resented about working for someone else – no matter how much I loved the job - was constantly being told what to do. With no room for autonomy or independence.

Office life was no different. I felt like a limp rag doll being pulled about, ordered here and instructed there. I hated that it was somebody else’s job to ‘manage’ me. Especially when, from time to time, I felt that I was actually more capable than the supervisor bossing everyone around. And less of a perv!

A meme about sexual harrassment
One of many memes my colleagues and I sent to each other

Sitting at a desk, the micro-managey vibe was even more annoying. People work in different ways. If you want to generate new ideas, you have to take different routes. For example, I’m a prolific doodler. Etching out smooth granite lines is like a soothing massage for my brain. You'd be amazed at the blogs and articles which appear while I'm shading in a triangle or looping circles together on a page.

Hannah in the office with a frustrated face
Just got mansplained! Age 24

But somehow, you're only allowed to have ideas when you're staring at an Excel Spreadsheet.

Life is too short for anal rules about nothing 🙄

Most of all, it was the time thing. Answer me this…

WHY do I have to be at my desk at 09.00 exactly? Like… WHY? I don’t get it.

I stay until 10pm most nights, keeping the chubby office mice company while I finish strategic, value-adding work and meet important deadlines. The work is done. No thanks to you. I'm knackered, but I didn't pull a sickie, here I am.

So why the dirty look when I plonk my arse down at 09.05?

Pedantic bosses 😒

Working late instead of going out, aged 26

One line manager told me that because I came in after 09.00 again (literally it was 09.02), from that day onwards, I had to come in at 08.30. She was such a dick, honestly.

Every award pitch that I submitted won. All of them. And while she left at 17.30, I worked late into the night to achieve that. But my terrible line manager couldn’t see past her own super anal 09.00 rule and look at the bigger picture.

Micromanagers have issues.

So after fifteen years, I came to this conclusion: You only have one life, right? And it’s short. Too short to spend your time worrying about ridiculous 09.00 starts. Or keeping doodles a secret. These people are never going to value you.

And, to be honest, those are some of the main reasons why I decided to start working for myself. Literally, I just couldn't be arsed to follow someone else's neurotic rules.

Today, I start when I start 🤷🏻‍♀️

I have never worked so hard in my entire life.

Running a business is this hectic whirlwind of projects, meetings, taxes and networking. Every last strand of my life is interwoven into my articles and blogs. And each week I get around three or four recruiters reach out to me, so I must be doing something right. I'm turning away more clients than I'm taking on. Today, I enter my own awards.

And do you know when I start…? Whenever the f*** I want. Wahayyyy!!!

HA! Freelancing at age 30

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