That time I lost my job

Reflections on three years being freelance

Three years ago, on the penultimate Friday in July, around about the time this email will land in your inbox, I was losing my job.

I’d just come back from lunch and my boss’s boss popped up in my gchat, requesting a video call. When she appeared on my screen, she was sitting on a sofa next to a woman I knew worked in HR. They were calling me from the New York HQ while I was in the London office. 

My boss’s boss started saying something about financial pressures, shifting priorities and streamlining. I can’t recall exactly what she was saying but I remember feeling my stomach drop and my ears ring. The HR woman cut her off mid-sentence to ask where I was, “Sat at my desk in the middle of the London office,” I replied. They asked if there was somewhere private I could go, so I scooped up my laptop and found the closest empty room.

It was there, in an industrial-style boardroom with no windows but a glass wall overlooking the office floor, that I got made redundant. The details of the conversation aren’t clear to me now, I wasn’t really sure what was being said to me at the time. In fact, I actually thought I was getting fired. It was only when I got back to my desk and saw an email with a link to this story I realised I was one of many losing my job that day. 

While the details of the letting go process are hazy, what’s crystal clear is the conversation I had straight afterwards, with another senior colleague. He told me I was a model employee, that there was nothing wrong with my performance, quite the opposite in fact. But the powers above me (and him) just couldn’t make it work and my job had to go. 

The anniversary of my job loss brings up a mess of emotions for me. I was really angry when I got made redundant. I’d worked myself ragged for that job, trying to do good journalism under undue pressure and nonexistent budgets. I’m ashamed when I think about the budgets (or lack thereof) we had for our freelancers. And in the end, none of it was enough anyway.  

But it was out of that job loss that my new career path emerged. I sent my first newsletter exactly a week after I was let go. In it, I wrote: 

While I take stock of what happened, I’m going to give self-employment a go. It’s only been a week, but so far I’m having a lovely time. 

I sent that first email to 51 people, asking them to opt-in and sign up for my new newsletter, a place for me to “chart my journey”. The sell was even vaguer: “I'm going to share what I've been up to, and what I've been distracting myself with on the internet.” To think there are now nearly 10,000 of you on this list makes me so proud of what I’ve achieved in these last three years. 

As I’ve been reflecting on this time, I’ve realised that I’ve officially become my longest employer. I’ve not been with any of the previous companies I’d worked at for more than three years. I’ve held onto my self for longer than anyone else has.

I still think about the loss of my job, though. In the picture book version of my life that plays in my head, that day marks a crossroad. There’s a parallel version of my life where I’m still an employee, still working in a media job. Am I happy? Am I fulfilled? Maybe, maybe not. I’ll never know.  

All I know is that today, three years later, I’m still having a lovely time.

This is the online version of The Professional Freelancer, a reader-funded publication and community for people who want to be happy and successful working for themselves. If you sign up with your email, you’ll receive weekly posts like these, PLUS work opportunities and curated links that will make your working life better