I was thankful when I turned the calendar this month to reveal May, aside from disliking the cat's hat in the April's picture from my 'Cats in Hats' calendar (an annual Christmas present from my cat Ledley) I felt a change in month represented a new beginning. I always find May to be a nice month in England, the days are much brighter and people seem much more optimistic as summer is around the corner. There are also two bank holiday weekends to look forward to which makes life seem a whole lot better.
I feel like I've come through quite a struggle in March and April. My mother-in-law passed away from an aggressive terminal cancer early March after only being diagnosed as terminal a few weeks previous. We are so lucky in England to have hospices that we have, the staff that work there are truly incredible people. But after an experience like this, you really just chug along and move from one day to the next in a bit of a fog, trying to find a little bit of joy in each day to erase some of the bleakness. I have great wisdom points in experiencing the death of somebody close, but have found it very difficult to watch somebody I love so much having to grieve the loss of his mother.
Perhaps that would have been enough to contend with for the past few months, but you know how it works, if one thing goes wrong...many go wrong. And business was very slow for March and April. I was beginning to worry that maybe I would have to move onto something else. This is the curse of the freelancer, this anxiety, and this train of thought is very common when things go quiet for many of us. We all know from past experience, things tend to come good again and we ought to just take advantage and get things done we've been putting off when for once, we have the time. But we generally find ourselves obsessing over how much money is or is not going to come in and we end up spending most of our time just freaking out!
I had to be proactive about things and so decided to spend a big whack of money on advertising. This can be a crap shoot, am I throwing good money after bad? But thankfully it did pay off. One client referred me to three others (Thank you! These were small projects but they gave me something to get up for every day) And then I generated four other clients which took away the worry. A book project I had signed for had been stalled for months, and that suddenly is back on track. It also looks like I will be working on another large book project for a new ghostwriter client which is quite exciting. And happily, many of my academic clients are coming out of the woodwork again this month. I have had seven enquiries in the first two days of the month, I truly don't even think I met this number for the whole of April! I have spoken with other freelancers and they all say it has been quiet for them too. I speculate, Year End, Uncertainty of Brexit, and Easter Holidays...
Aside from worrying about my future and what I was or wasn't doing with my life, I did manage to get a few things done that I never would have had the time for, this is a bonus for sure. I thought my website was looking a bit dated, so I did a total overhaul. Wow, that was a project and a half in the end! I think it ended up taking me ten hours in total, I kept making stupid mistakes. And Google wasn't happy with the way it displayed on some mobile phones, so I ended having to redesign from scratch. But I'm so happy with it now that it's finished. I added some new pages that I'd had on a 'To Do' post-it note for about a year, a page specifically dedicated to podcasts and a page to sign up to the Trusty Transcriptionists newsletter (be still your beating heart, huh?)
I also managed to get some writing done, like properly. I half finished a short story which combines Artificial Intelligence (something I've been obsessively reading about lately) and love (something I try to avoid reading about entirely!) I even entered a couple of poetry competitions, which I'd been meaning to do for ages but just never took the time to do so. And finally, I think I've figured out a direction I'd like my business to branch off into which ties in to the service I provide (or at least provides a service required by many of the clients I already have) The happy news, it is something that 'Will a Robot Take Over my Job' claims is only at a 6% risk. (Have you checked out this website? It is interesting if not very disconcerting!) So I'm looking forward to taking a course in the summer, getting skilled up, hopefully passing and then launching a new branch to the business in the autumn/winter time.
I'm feeling quite optimistic about things in general, which I think is the crux of this message. Sometimes life can seem quite daunting, scary, lonely and even hopeless but we must try to remember that a new day will eventually come. And sometimes it takes weeks or even months to feel like that 'new day' has dawned, but it eventually does. And it's important to talk to a few people you trust when you're going through the down times, or there are organisations that you can speak to. We all need to feel supported and to feel loved. We are social creatures, we really are not meant to be just existing alone or virtually. Although I am extremely lucky to have a really good network of proper close friends, and a husband who has unwaveringly supported me for close to 25 years now, I find that when things get rough, it's difficult to reach out. But these are the times when you have to bare your soul a little and seek a bit of emotional support. It's also about learning who can and cannot be present for you emotionally when you're going through a tough time. Some people are overloaded in their own lives and simply don't have the capacity to take anything else on. This is a very painful life lesson and a lot of time can be wasted wondering what you did wrong. There's that classic Seinfeld episode with George Constanza and the 'It's not you, it's me' routine. But do you know what? Sometimes it really isn't you.
I close with a photo from last week, of a peony flower in my garden. I planted these two years ago (I am very new to this whole gardening lark)and I am astounded each year when something actually blooms, and the beauty of these flowers truly does take my breath away. It really is the little things that bring the greatest joy.