I left my 30K a year job in search of self employed bliss... then Coronavirus came.

Okay so first up apologies for the seemingly click- baity title. But I have few things I want to talk about, and this really is one of them. And I had to get your attention somehow!

A bit about me.

For a quick bit of background, I studied English Lit at Nottingham Trent Uni (this whole blog thing is hopefully starting to make more sense to you now!) I graduated and managed to bag myself a temp job at the Home Office in an admin position. It wasn't my dream role by a long shot, but landing a job as an English Teacher or Writer back then was as likely as winning a golden ticket in a Wonka bar (lets just say the market was saturated), so I was pretty happy to work anywhere if it meant I was earning.

Then all of a sudden 6 and a half years had gone by. I had shifted roles and teams, and worked my way up into a middle management position for the Asylum Team. I was a Technical Specialist - which meant I basically had to know a bunch about the countries and Caselaw we dealt with. I was a Quality Manager, earning just shy of 30K a year.

On paper it looked like a great job. I had also managed to tick off the 'career' section on my invisible life goal checklist. You know, the one instilled within us by society and social media. I very much believed in this checklist, and I considered everything to be pass/ fail. I measured myself and my self-worth against it, focusing on if I had achieved a certain goal by X age.

What I wasn't looking at was my own happiness. As it turns out, I'm not really cut out for an office job. Over 6 and a half years, I had slowly turned into someone I didn't recognise anymore. I had always been a worrier, but I now also had a fancy new issue to deal with called Anxiety, and it took over my life.

I had known for a while I wanted something else to focus on, something that was mine that would keep me sane. So in 2018 I trained to be a Nail Technician. Making that decision was tough. I had always loved fashion/ beauty and had recently discovered the joy of nail art- I struggled to find anyone in my area who would do what I wanted, and I longed to do it for myself. But I was terrified of being laughed at for not fitting in. Or laughed at for wanting to 'just do nails' (don't get me started on that one). I managed to find the courage to go ahead and do it anyway, so I did an evening course for 3 months and totally fell in love with the Nail Industry. Which as it turns out, is an industry which is diverse, inclusive and conforms to no-ones stereotypes. I fit in just fine.

Starting my business.

Mostly out of fear of failing, I didn't do anything with my qualification for a long time. Then in 2019, out of the blue I applied to rent a chair on Saturdays at a local salon. I was terrified, sending that email. I still don't know what pushed me to do it - I think I just wanted to feel like I was doing something for myself, instead of what the checklist dictated. After a couple of months there, I decided I wanted to focus on the nail art side of things, so opened GLOSS Studio in Kelham Island on 6th July 2019. My own place, to work freely on evenings and weekends doing what I loved. I saved all the money I had earned doing nails to afford the deposit, and took the risk on the rent. I only had a couple of clients at this point, so it was a pretty bold (read: crazy) move signing a lease on a shop! But I felt confident I could make it work, and as my amazing client once told me, you don't get anywhere in life from being comfortable.

Fast forward to November 2019 and I was pretty much at my wits end in my day job. One Friday I came home in tears to my other half, who was by now entirely desensitised to my work- related breakdowns. But he told me there and then to quit my job. I was bewildered - it had never actually been something either of us had said out loud before. How could we afford it? Pete reminded me that I was now consistently bringing home £700 per month doing nails, and it had got to the point where I was starting to turn people away. "It will only grow from here" he said. I spent the weekend crying, and the following Monday I handed in my notice. It was easily the scariest thing I have ever done, especially from a financial perspective- I was about to take a serious pay cut. I think you also become a bit institutionalised working in an office for so long. It's not really the done thing- leaving a stable corporate job to go off painting nails. I secretly kind of loved the rebellion of it, even though in reality there wasn't much rebelling. You get replaced soon after and life goes on, of course. But for the first time in my entire life I had thrown way the checklist and given the system a middle finger. I was going to be responsible for my own happiness and my own money. And I quickly realised that there was some serious money to be had in this industry. And I was in total control of what I earned, for the first time ever. It was basically, bliss.

It goes like this; you need to charge fairly but know your worth, use high quality products and work damn hard. I mean like all hours of the day, hard. Be polite and kind, but be sincere. I can't emphasise this enough- be yourself. Trying to fake a personality to 80 clients a month every month just isn't going to cut it. Make friends, have fun, but set boundaries. You'll slowly start to build a reputation for quality and customer service, and eventually it will all fall into place. It felt that way to me. And when March rolled around, I finally had enough appointments pre-booked that for the first time since I had gone full time in January, I was due to exceed my Home Office monthly income. I was on cloud nine.

Then Coronavirus came. And I closed down, overnight. All appointments cancelled, overnight.

Like so many thousands of others, my business was too new- I hadn't submitted my first tax return yet, and my partner earned a wage. I wasn't entitled to a penny in support, and have instead had to watch my meagre savings dwindle away, pay my bills on recently extended overdrafts, and food shopping on credit cards. It's been a ride. It crossed my mind A LOT in the beginning that this was Karma coming to bite me in the ass because I had dared to quit my job. But I have worked past that now (it took some time), and I feel grateful I quit when I did. I don't think I would ever have had the balls to do it after living through the uncertainty of a lockdown. I'm too much of a wimp.

So fast forward to the present. We have been told we will not be able to reopen on the 4th July alongside other close contact industries. There has been much discussion over the last couple of weeks online regarding this decision and if it's the right one. Here is what I think.

We are an industry of hard working business women (and men!). We known our strengths, we work on our weaknesses and we stay on top of our game. We are our own HR, Secretary, Designer, Photographer. And if, like me, you stress about the thought of an unopened message you will answer every DM immediately. You are never not working. Let's let that sink in for a second. We are creative. We stay on top of the latest trends, products, and training. A set of nails is a collaborative experience of design and execution with your client and is the most creatively satisfying thing. It's a service your client will wear on their nails for the next few weeks as an accessory, and we have been a conscious part of that fashion choice.

Now, with this in mind. We deserve more than to be viewed as an industry of air-heads and drop outs. We have been deemed not worthy of consideration, and overlooked at what has potentially been the most difficult time our businesses have ever and will ever face. The beauty industry plugs around 28 billion pounds into the UK economy every year. We deserve to be given an explanation, even some basic clarity surrounding an approximate reopening date. But that doesn't seem to matter to our Tory government, because BoJo isn't desperate for a fresh mani.

I tried initially to understand this decision and the rationale behind it, I really did. But ultimately what you are dealing with here is an industry of individuals who are and have always been trained to implement the strictest health and safety standards on a normal Tuesday afternoon. Add a Pandemic into the mix and beauty professionals have been installing hand wash stations and stocking up on PPE since March.

In stark contrast to this, let's take a brief look at the pubs that will be allowed to reopen on 4th July. Now don't get me wrong, I'm genuinely thrilled that the hospitality and hairdressing industry will be able to reopen. I have friends who work in both, and I was over the moon for them when it was announced, knowing the relief they must be facing. I am also positive that the recommended safety procedures have and will continue to be implemented in pubs- of course they will. But let's think about it for a second. Is social distancing going to look the same two pints in when you've not seen your mate for 3 months, and you're not required to wear a face mask? The stickler here is, this is considered to be less risky than going to your nail appointment, in a clean and sterile room, one on one, with a nail tech geared up for a moon walk. Riddle me that.

This really isn't about pointing fingers, or me saying these industries should not reopen. They need to, of course they should. The longer the government held out, the fewer businesses would be reopening full stop. But my point is, it's the same for us. If I truly believed this was about safety, or if we had seen some of the demonstrative 'science' to back up their decision, maybe I would be a bit less angsty about it all. But we haven't, so there's my two cents.

It's a funny old time to be expanding the studio in new premises, which is where I'm currently at. But the universe works in mysterious ways- and this was an opportunity I couldn't say no to. So, with the help of my amazing partner and family (and my business account overdraft, let's be real!), I can't wait to welcome you back to my Kelham Island studio in Kelham Arcade when we finally get that illusive reopening date. I've set myself a whole new list of goals for what is left of this year- but i've taken away the time pressures, and the expectation of others this time. This lockdown has taught me a whole host of life lessons. I'll be putting myself and my family first in future, and here's hoping the remainder of 2020 makes up for this corker of a start. I mean, you couldn't write this shit, could you?

302 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All