Welcome to How I Made It Work — Bustle UK's financial series which aims to demystify money and the process of achieving financial stability. This time, HIMIW hears from a 33-year-old podcaster and freelance graphic designer in North London who explains how taking time off work to start a family taught her that earning money is central to her identity.
Location: North London
General job description: Podcaster and freelance Graphic Designer
What is your current salary? How long have you been earning this amount?
I earned less than £10k last year, but that’s because I was on maternity leave for six months. I’ve been freelance for over seven years and historically had an annual salary of around £35,000 but thanks to two pre-school kids at a private nursery and only working a couple of days a week, my income has been — at an absolute best — £20,000 since we started a family five years ago.
Do you receive regular financial help from friends, family, or a partner? How do you think this has impacted your relationship with money?
I guess you could say I receive "help" in that my husband works full-time so he covers a much larger proportion of our outgoings, but my contribution to the family pot is relative to the days I am able to do paid work each week. Significantly though, my husband was the sole earner while I took time away from work to have our two kids, which was very challenging for me as it meant giving up my financial independence. I know it’s different for everybody, but five years into being a mum and I now realise that working — and earning my own money — is core to my identity and my sense of self-worth.
How would you describe your relationship to money?
Messy. But getting better. Historically I’ve taken a pretty haphazard approach. I was the kind of person who had a vague idea of what was going in and out but never really had the confidence to check my bank balance. These days I’m much more confident when it comes to talking about, asking for and managing my money, but it is a constant learning curve.
Do you believe you are currently in a stable position financially?
Yes and no. I wouldn’t say I feel stable exactly, but I feel much more in control of my finances.
How did you achieve stability?
Firstly, I took the decision earlier this year to drastically increase my freelance rates — this has had a huge impact on my bank balance. I’ve also introduced a deposit system with my clients which has revolutionised my cash flow. And I’ve managed to save money for the pretty much the first time ever thanks to an app called Plum which automatically squirrels money away depending on what’s in my bank account at the time. It’s been an absolute game-changer for me as a freelancer with an unpredictable income.
What would help you feel more financially stable?
Finally paying off some lingering credit card debt and really starting to build up a significant, ongoing savings pot is the absolute dream for me — that’s what I’m working towards.
Has a position of financial stability been the case for most of your life, a few years, or is it a very recent thing?
Feeling more in control has been a relatively recent thing. I’ve made these changes in the past year or so.
Do you own any properties (and how many)?
Yes, I own a flat with my husband.
How did you come to own the property?
This is the second flat we’ve bought which we secured thanks to money we gained by selling our first place.
Did you have any help from partners or family members to put down a deposit or pay the mortgage?
Yes, we bought our first flat thanks to a combination of money from my parents, my husband’s parents, and some savings. Money from family was the only way we could afford a deposit in London.
What does financial stability look like to you?
Having enough of a buffer in my account/savings to make the feast or famine nature of freelance life a little less stressful. And feeling able to buy the odd new thing for me or the kids without having to think about whether or not I have enough money in my account first.
What advice would you give to young women who are worried about achieving financial stability?
In an Instagram-obsessed world it’s easy to think that everybody else has all the money, the best property, and the nicest things seemingly overnight. But building up financial stability takes time, so keep going and be patient. Try not to compare where you’re at with others — you don’t know anything about their financial circumstances.
What one piece of advice would you give to young women who want to improve their relationship to money?
Money isn’t just a nice, added extra you should be grateful for. However much you might love your job or find it fulfilling — your time, knowledge, and skills are worth a hell of a lot more than you think. Don’t be afraid to push for the money you deserve.