“I think I am done.”
My remark was met with two pairs of widening eyes belonging to my managers.
“Yeah, I think I am done.”
“What do you mean done?”
“I think I don’t want to work here anymore.”
It was not a spontaneous move. This was a long time coming. This was the result of 3-and-a-half years in my job as a marketing executive, looking after the EMEA market for part of my company assets. Along the way I had visited 23 countries with work, had spent triple that number on planes and had worked well outside the hours that were necessary of me. Whilst I appreciate it was an incredible experience, it had also resulted in a complete burn out, a broken relationship and some serious self-doubt about what I wanted to do in life. But in that moment, I knew that I, Ally Toullec, 28 at the time, with all my teeth and not much of a clue, decided to act on something I had been thinking about for a while; starting my online business. This was 23rd May 2017.
Fast forward to today, where I write this very post from my lovely little room in Canggu, Bali; overlooking a manicured lawn and pool, right after having brunch with other ‘digital nomads’ in a very Instagram worthy place. After said brunch I’ll be jumping on my scooter to film with yet another nomad. Easy like a Monday morning. How lucky am I?
Well, to be perfectly honest, luck has little to do with it. When I started my business last year I had quite frankly no idea what I was doing (not that I really do now). I knew my craft but very little of the responsibilities of being one’s own digital boss. I settled myself in a little Cornish coastal town and started setting up shop. That’s where the road started to get a little bumpy.
The first problem I encountered was time. Time for me is mainly regulated by the tides, wind and waves. You see I love surfing and was suddenly left with a lot of time and a beach within 5 minutes’ walk away. Which is very tempting when you don’t really have clients yet. To put it simply, I did not do too well with the time/work balance. The problem is, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid (who would have thought?) and that greatly affected my bank account, leading to some serious anxiety and mental health questionings:
Was I good enough to do this? Hard working or motivated enough? This started to attack me at my core. I had caused all of this myself and was left feeling defeated and scared.
However, all of this gave me time to think. And what I was thinking was that I wanted to do a ski season.
Having a goal woke something up in me. I needed to keep treading water if I did not want to sink, so I looked online for businesses I could work with in a little French ski town which I knew already quite well: Morzine. That’s where luck struck and my first work contact ended up being with the most well-connected person in town. Within a few weeks, I had moved to the mountains and finally started bringing in some money thanks to my new friend. The winter was looking good!
And what a winter it was! I learned to ski and snowboard but most importantly I landed some really nice clients which allowed me to travel to different resorts and even spend a week-long stint in Tenerife with another one. Even better, ‘Most Well-Connected Person’ and I ended up running the town film festival, making it bigger than it had ever been in 10 years. It was an incredible experience, I learned a lot and we even entered a film which not only won the public vote but went viral at 80K+ views.
I thought I was all nicely settled, especially living with two people running their own business too. In my eyes, I had made it! A lovely work/play balance, some cash in the bank and the prospect of opening a co-working space!
Well, that’s where the curse hit. You see this Most Well-Connected Person and I ended up being more than just friends, and for a while mixing up work, living arrangements and my love life was great! However, it was all over within one phone call and I was suddenly left with a bruised ego, an empty flat, a debt that was never going to be paid to me and my co-working space gone! Which left me in serious doubts about my life in general.
This is why, now, in reflection, I love being my own boss. If I was in an office and had a thing with a co-worker or a manager and it were to go sour, it could result in being both really painful and downright detrimental to my career. But as a remote worker, I do not need to be tied down to one place. So, I packed my life away in boxes again, stored it all in a friend’s basement and headed for the airport. Bali is always the answer!
I didn’t arrive in Bali too long ago and I have already managed to find new clients here. I have a guide to write on Bali for a new app and a business meeting in the next couple of days with a new prospective client. In the meantime, I am busy redoing my website, growing my social media channels and just enjoying life.
My point is, yes, running an online business sounds like a very trendy, millennial thing to do. You can make fun all you want of the people taking pictures of their food in cafés with their MacBook’s open and phones glued to their hands. But trust me, the amount of hours, stress, and breakdowns along the way can make it a really tough job. However, I look at my day, that starts with a surf and breakfast with friends. This is then followed by a solid session of remote working, that is essential to keep up my way of life, giving me the luxury to move around to new locations when I choose, deciding my own hours. When I’m able to catch the sunset on the beach, it’s at this point that I know that it’s all been worth it and live with the hope that I never have to say “I think I’m done” ever again.
Find Ally on her online platform Oclan Marketing here
Follow Ally on Instagram here @allytoullec