Why I Gave Up My Business For A “Real Job”

Changing jobs in general is hard enough, but putting it out there publicly on your social media channels brings with it a raft of questions.

It comes with even more baggage when you’ve owned your own business.

Last week marked just over 2 years since I left the 9-5 world to go freelance. Since then I’d been a big promoter of making your own opportunities, being your own boss and (if the employment market is rubbish where you are) creating your own job.

So I felt I owed it to blog readers to explain why I gave all that up to work for someone else…


Freelance is a Lonely Life

This is nothing new. The internet is full of articles explaining the issue and offering advice on how to overcome it.

To be honest, back in Ireland, it wasn’t too much of a problem for me. I had a lot of industry friends that I’d built up over years of networking, so loneliness wasn’t something I experienced.

But then I moved to a new country.

And while I moved with a Kiwi native and we have family here, working from home was extremely isolating.

I’d go as far as to say it holds you back from integrating as quickly as you could into your new life. Those emigrants who have walked into an employer role describe a much easier time of settling in on the other side of the world than what I experienced.

However freelancing gave me the freedom to be at home until my son was settled in school. It paid the bills while we found our feet.

And I eventually uncovered others in the city who were doing the same through a cool co-working/shared office space called Petridish.


I considered renting a desk there and continuing my business to overcome the loneliness. I was, after all, starting to get local work contracts. And my remote work was increasing too, with a new client from California.

But loneliness wasn’t the only challenge to continuing my freelancing business…


Better Wages in New Zealand

One of the most stark differences between working in New Zealand and Northern Ireland is the fact that employees are much better paid here!

In its most crude mathematical sum, take whatever you’re paid in Northern Ireland – add a quarter on to it – and that’s likely what you’ll earn here.

So freelancing or starting your own consultancy in NI is a pretty attractive option, because you can easily compete with those NI salary levels. Plus you get a lot of tax benefits (including a substantial tax-free base salary). You don’t have to pay for your healthcare either.

But you’d need to be doing a hell of a lot of freelance hours, or charging a massive hourly rate, to compete with an NZ salary!

So I considered that it might be time to get a job. But there’s more to work than a benefits package…


Work Life Balance in New Zealand

The other big draw to working for someone else in NZ is that they have a totally different mindset to work here.

This may differ up in “the big smoke” but in Dunedin at least pretty much everyone I’ve met loves their job. And I mean everyone.

I think a big part of it is the focus they’ve put on flexibility and work-life balance. Something the UK is years behind on.

People don’t spend their weekends stressed, they spend them with their families.

Then you interview with companies and they take time explaining their culture to you. Expressing how it’s important that their people are happy and enjoying their work.

Plus there’s the reality that the weather is consistently better here.


It may seem trivial, but I know part of the hardship of working in Northern Ireland is that your time off can be pretty miserable if the sun only shone for a few hours on Tuesday while you were stuck in the office.

If I can come home from work and still enjoy a BBQ dinner in the sun with my family, then I’m less likely to resent being in an office 8 hours a day.


My New Job

I applied to a few jobs and was pleasantly surprised to be offered interviews to them all. Some I was confident I could do with my eyes closed.

But when it comes to giving up a business you’ve built with regular clients and a huge amount of flexibility, you need to wait for something that really interests you.

I found it in a cool mobile games development company where I am now Marketing Lead.

Walking into their office fulfilled every small-child fantasy I ever had about designing games, illustrating characters and proudly displaying a sci-fi plushy toy on my work desk…

It’s a company doing really innovative things in a fast-growing space. Their team culture is like nothing I’ve ever witnessed, on either side of the world!

That’s quite an infectious atmosphere to walk into.

This role won’t be a walk in the park, though. It will challenge me to learn a whole new industry and skill set. Replacing Search Engine Optimisation with App Store Optimisation. Swapping PR Strategy for Push Notification Strategy.

Every single metric is measured and I’ll be able to tell the affect of every piece of work I do.

I’m both terrified and excited in equal measure!

In my experience those opportunities are usually the ones worth taking. Everything I’ve done worthwhile in my career has been a risk that has initially scared me.

However I’ll always be very grateful for the experience out on my own; what I learned, the people I met and the freedom it brought me.

And if I was still young, able to travel and live/work in cheaper countries, then absolutely I would have continued freelancing as a way to fund it flexibly.

There’s a time and a place for everything. Routine is the killer of creativity…


I could go on, but I’m a firm believer in living more inspirational posts than you share on social media.

So now it’s time for the next adventure…