Trigger warning: This piece contains mentions of suicide.
Bustle UK has switched up its regular money series How I Made It Work, to better reflect the uncertain financial times caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of women who've achieved financial stability discussing the lessons they've learnt, each piece focuses on a woman who has had her financial situation transformed by the coronavirus outbreak in the UK. They'll share what their new normal looks like and how (if at all) they're making it work.
This time, HIMIW hears from Amy Williams, founder of Bloom Communications, which helps women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses by getting them featured in the media. The coronavirus pandemic halved Williams' income overnight, putting pressure on her hard-won mental wellbeing. She decided to change the way she works to prioritise her mental health, creating more of a niche for her communications work and incorporating dog walks and meditation into her daily routine.
Occupation: PR strategist
What was your working life like before the coronavirus pandemic?
I started my own business in July 2019 after experiencing a mental breakdown which led me to quit my stressful job in a busy PR agency in Birmingham. I’ve worked from home on my own since then so I was already feeling fairly isolated before lockdown — but fortunately my crazy dog Dennis helps to keep things interesting.
How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your working life?
The outbreak has shown me that self-care practices are absolutely crucial for running a successful business and weathering the storm. I live with OCD and anxiety in response to severe trauma in my teens and while I’ve made great progress in therapy, the pandemic has been particularly challenging for me and so many others who struggle with their mental health.
The growth that my business had been experiencing suddenly seemed to dry up and anxious clients cut down the level of support they wanted, almost halving my income in what felt like an overnight change.
In that respect, my former model of working (as much and as hard as possible) just didn’t cut it anymore. Now, instead of rising at the crack of dawn and heading to my desk, my working day is peppered with dog walks, gentle workouts, meditation and healthy food to keep my mood and health in check.
How has the pandemic changed your financial situation?
Initially, things were looking quite grim. The growth that my business had been experiencing suddenly seemed to dry up and anxious clients cut down the level of support they wanted, almost halving my income in what felt like an overnight change.
As well as our mortgage and bills, I have a fairly hefty financial commitment to my therapy sessions which have been transformative in my mental health and quality of life. This meant I put huge pressure on myself as I was filled with nerve-wracking "what ifs" at the thought of possibly pausing that support. I’d already fought back from being suicidal and at rock bottom — so the prospect of this was absolutely terrifying.
Has the government made financial support available to people in your situation?
My industry was able to benefit from government help, however unfortunately I was one of the many self-employed to fall through the net as I’m currently in the process of submitting my first tax return. It was very much down to me to make things work.
Do you feel government measures have been sufficient for people in your situation?
In many ways, I think the government has done the best they can in a really tough situation but I do feel like they could have done more to protect those of us that did fall through the cracks. I’m extremely fortunate to live with my partner and have the financial flexibility that comes with that — but I often wonder what I would have done if I were one of the many who were simply told to go and join the back of the long queue for Universal Credit.
How are you managing the change in financial circumstances?
Aside from relying on my partner for support when managing the change in the early months of lockdown, the outbreak has forced me to be more creative and dynamic when it comes to problem solving for my clients.
Before the pandemic, I was offering generalist digital marketing services and staying in my comfort zone but when the work dried up extremely quickly I realised I needed to re-position myself in the marketplace in order to stand out and remove myself from the bidding war of offering my services for the lowest price just to keep jobs coming through the door.
Freelancer loneliness is also affecting me now more than ever and it’s opening my eyes to potential opportunities later down the line for collaboration with other entrepreneurs.
My decision to pivot back into offering exclusively PR services has been transformative for my business. I’ve seen huge audience growth and lead generation and I’m super excited about what’s to come. It feels a far cry from where I started out in lockdown but it’s been such a worthwhile process.
What would help you feel more secure financially during the pandemic?
More thought and care into how the government can support those of us who didn’t qualify for the initial financial support schemes would have been fantastic — but we are where we are.
How do you feel the pandemic will affect your working life more long term?
After being pushed to approach my client services in a different way, I’m feeling very confident about the future and I know that my new direction will continue to have a really positive effect on my business.
Freelancer loneliness is also affecting me now more than ever and it’s opening my eyes to potential opportunities later down the line for collaboration with other entrepreneurs that I perhaps wouldn’t have considered before. It's all very exciting.
Do you think your experiences during the coronavirus pandemic will change your approach to your working life?
My experience during the pandemic has shown me that I’m more versatile and resilient than I thought I was. This new confidence is definitely something that I’ll carry with me as the business grows and I face new challenges during my therapy journey.
I'm also committed to continuing my mindful practices and prioritising self-care throughout my week — the positive impact this has had on my life both in my capacity as a business owner and in my personal life is immeasurable and I’d highly recommend it to anyone.
Do you think your experiences during the pandemic will have an impact on your relationship with money?
I’ll come away from this experience with a much stronger belief in my ability to create opportunities to make money. I know now that I can adapt to whatever’s thrown at me and come through the other side and I’m excited to see what the future holds.
If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or email email@example.com. You can also call the mental health charity Mind on 0300 123 3393.