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 38-year-old marketing director in Brighton who doubled her income by starting her own business and believes that starting as soon as possible is the key to financial independence.
Occupation: Online marketing director
What is your current salary and long have you been earning this amount?
Running a business with my husband for the last two years has meant that my salary has been variable. However, the business is getting stronger and, each month, I’m able to pay myself more — it’s now up to around £3,000 a month. This is double what I earned as an employee and, with two children aged five and eight, being able to work from any location and choose my own hours is a massive bonus. But, beyond those practical things, I adore being the captain of my own ship. If something is going well, ideally being both fun and somehow profitable, I can dial it up. If an activity is sapping energy and not working, I can ditch it. Why wouldn’t you want to live that way?
Do you receive regular financial help from friends, family, or a partner? How do you think this has impacted your relationship with money?
I don’t receive regular financial help although, in the early days of our business, my in-laws provided top-ups for what the business was making, of about £1,000 a month. These days, that’s not happening anymore. Having help from family members has made me all the more determined to be financially independent in the long run. I’m grateful to have received a helping hand, but the feeling of "growing up" and becoming self-sufficient as a business owner is incredibly valuable to me.
How would you describe your relationship to money?
I’m a spender. I’ve always loved shopping and having shiny, new things. But lately I’ve realised that’s not a particularly healthy way to live my life and I’ve started to question where my impulse to shop really comes from. I studied social anthropology at university and I’m fascinated by artistry, creative novelty, and insights into how people live. I’ve realised I can get the same rush from going to a car boot sale, or snooping around a charity shop, plus there’s the possibility of discovering something unique, which wouldn’t be available on the high street. And I’m starting to learn from people in the FIRE movement — Financial Independence, Retire Early — that simply being sensible with money can lead to big returns and a stable future for myself and my family. I’m in the process of turning my relationship to money upside down and I wish I’d done this earlier!
Do you believe you feel you are currently in a stable position financially?
I do see myself as stable, financially. I don’t ever worry that we’ll be in trouble. I think this is because I believe in our business, I trust in my ability to learn, grow and help others and I’m constantly picking up strategies and tips from the people who have built their own businesses successfully. I carefully control what I let into my mind and there are a number of individuals I look up to and learn from. One of the people I respect is leadership expert Caspar Craven, who sailed around the world with his young family and whose book Where the Magic Happens details that incredible journey. Caspar also shows how you can combine work life with family life though shared goals and values. Another is Alan Donegan, whose blog gives insights into how to start a business you love as well as how to become financially independent as a result of that business.
I control what goes into my mind and I double down on the people I respect in business.
How did you achieve stability?
To me, financial stability comes from stability in my working life. It’s come from creating a business which involves doing things I love and would choose to do anyway, but which also provides value for others that they’re willing to pay for. This means there’s a natural flow of income from people who are willing to pay for our services, and there’s no reason for me not to provide those services. It’s win-win.
In addition to this reasonably secure source of income, I make the most of things that are high quality and very low cost, or free. In the digital age, there’s really no limit to what you can learn, from all the best minds of our generation absolutely free. I control what goes into my mind and I double down on the people I respect in business, learning top business brains via places like the TED Interview podcast and Freakonomics Radio. I also read endless books on business and psychology. I’ve loved Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, Be More Pirate by Sam Conniff Allende and Sophie Devonshire’s Superfast, Lead at Speed. Once someone’s advice appeals to me, be it billionaire investor Ray Dalio or an impressive, female entrepreneur like Christine Telyan, I focus carefully on what they have to say and try and see how I can implement certain things into my own way of life, and my own business.
Has feeling financial stable been the case for most of your life, a few years, or is it a very recent thing?
I’ve always felt financially stable, in spite of my love of shopping. I think this comes from a feeling of resilience and a lack of concern over things changing. The situations I’ve found myself in throughout my life might have made others uneasy: I have quit jobs without having another one to go to, for example. But I believe that there are unlimited opportunities in life and I’ve always found a new one easily. It’s repetition, stagnation, atrophy of the brain that make me feel uneasy — the feeling that I’m not learning is pretty much unbearable.
Do you own any properties ?
My husband and I own the three-bedroom house I live in on the edge of Brighton, it’s worth about £500,000 and we have a mortgage for about one third of that, which we intend to pay off in the next five years. I bought the property with my husband five years ago — we moved from Birmingham to be by the sea. But Brighton is also where I grew up, I see it as my spiritual home and it’s a delight to be bringing up my children here.
Did you have any help from partners or family members to put down a deposit or pay the mortgage?
We didn’t have help at the time, although the original pot of money came from an inheritance when my mother died, when I was in my 20s. That was a challenging time for me as my mother was a deeply inspirational person, to me as well as to many, many others, and she was the centre of my world in many ways. I’m very glad that I put the money straight into property. This was always her main financial advice to me and it’s definitely paid off in terms of creating a stable financial existence up to this point in my life. But it’s not the whole story for me. From what I’m learning now, I believe creating financial independence is going to be possible and that’s a huge and exciting goal.
Achieving financial independence will give you a delicious kind of freedom.
What does financial stability look like to you?
For me, any kind of stability has to be tempered with excitement, adventure and new opportunities, so financial stability just looks like a scenario where I’m not limited in my choices by a lack of funds.
What advice would you give to young women who are worried about achieving financial stability?
Thinking critically about your finances early is a good instinct to have. Achieving financial stability — even better — financial independence, will give you a delicious kind of freedom. But it’s very, very difficult to do anything if you’re only led by something like worry, guilt or negative emotions. So, find ways to make looking after your finances fun, perhaps like a game you can win, rather than thinking of it as a worry.
If you want to start your own business and become financially stable that way — the two are not mutually exclusive — you might be held back by the perceived financial burdens. But there are so many ways to start a business for free and just test things to see if they work. You can get so many things for free that weren’t available twenty years ago – a lesson I learned at a free course with PopUp Business School. If you want to try something without too much effort, you can simply go to UENI for a free site, go through PopUp’s step by step video guide — or attend one of their free, two week courses if you have the opportunity — and try out your business idea on the back of what you’ve learned. Just make sure you do it debt-free and in a way that makes the process and the daily activities involved with your business fun.
What one piece of advice would you give to young women who want to improve their relationship to money?
Start looking into the FIRE — Financial Independence, Retire Early — movement, now. If I had learned these principles in my 20s, I would have been far cleverer with the money I earned all these years. The earlier you start to do the right things with your money, the faster you can achieve financial independence and really call yourself "free."