If you’ve often wondered how other people structure their freelancing lives and what on earth got them into running their own business in the first place, you’re in the right place for a good old snoop around.
This Friday, Rachel Hawes of Fusion Studio gives us her insight into the balancing act of freelancing and keeping a work-life balance. She talks about turning a passion into a business and how to network in the right places for a niche business.
So, first of all, give us a mini bio and tell us something we won’t know about you!
I’m Rachel, a massage therapist, yoga & Pilates teacher and owner of Fusion Studio on Sturton Street in Cambridge. I run small group classes, one-to-one sessions and practice a variety of massage and bodywork techniques and my superpower is relieving folk of stress, tension and anxiety. My aim is to help people live pain-free by helping them find efficient movement.
I suffered from ME/CFS through my 20s and one of my passions is to help people with this chronic condition. You can read more about how I can help with this here.
Everyone knows how much I love Dave Grohl, but a lesser known fact is my obsession with the Fast & Furious movies (I know!)…
How long have you been running your business and what got you started?
I started teaching yoga in 2004 as an apprentice in Astanga Mysore style (I celebrate my 10 year anniversary this September!). I’d been practicing right through my 20s and it had helped me with stress, chronic fatigue and a back problem I had had since I was a teenager. I didn’t exactly set out to teach but somehow got persuaded to take on an apprenticeship and it went on from there. I started formal yoga teacher training in 2005 at the Life Centre (now known as YogaCampus), graduating in 2007 and trained in various massage therapy techniques during 2009 and 2010, finally training as a Pilates teacher with Polestar in 2012.
To this day I couldn’t honestly tell you what got me started, it all seemed to just happen. Until 2008 I worked in corporate law and in the back of my head I always thought “there must be more to life than this”. I found my “more to life” on a worn out pink yoga mat!
Did you launch straight into your business idea or did you spend time planning, training or even worrying before you got kicking?
I started off teaching 2 evening classes a week at a health centre in SW London (where I was living at the time), I was still working full time in corporate law and it was often a rush to get back in time to teach the class. I missed more than a few meals back in those days and, in hindsight, it was extremely stressful. That said I would advise anyone to let their business grow organically. Don’t for a minute think you can give up a corporate job and make a living teaching yoga straight away (unless you have a lot of savings, which I didn’t!).
After a couple of years my client base was growing and I was teaching 4 nights a week and Saturday mornings. Combine that with a full time job and I had very little time for me! So in March 2008 I left the legal profession and haven’t looked back since. I took a part time job locally and allowed my business to grow organically.
In 2009 we moved to Cambridge and I had to start all over again! Again, I took a part time office job and let the wheels of my business get turning again. I started renting space at Bodywise Studio in Gwydir Street, which was brilliant. I got so much support from the other therapists and teachers. In 2010, for the first time ever my business became my sole source of income. And then in 2013 I took the plunge and opened Fusion Studio. We are now open six days a week and as well as yoga, Pilates & massage we offer Shiatsu, Reflexology, Reiki and Osteopathy.
Tell us about your typical working day – Are you an early bird or do you tend to work throughout the night?
Ha! Neither really. I’m a middle of the day sort of person. When I’m at the studio (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday) , I work from 11-7 and Wednesdays are my admin day. I try really hard not to work outside these hours so I have time to spend with my partner, to work on non-business related projects, to read (I’m a huge bookworm) or, most importantly, to work on my own yoga & Pilates practice.
What’s your biggest challenge as a freelancer?
Not overworking. I bet we all say that don’t we?! Also to try to not worry about money, and to just trust that everything will be OK.
And what’s the best element of being your own boss?
Creating my own timetable. I was never very good at getting to the office for 9am!
How do you manage a good work/life balance (or do you struggle with this at all)?
I struggle like everyone. Being a yoga teacher doesn’t automatically give you a free pass at Nirvana, sadly! I’ve worked really hard over the years to find a good work/life balance. I’d say most of the time I have it, but said I still have a tendency to squeeze in just one more client every now and then, particularly if I let money worries take over!
Where do you work from and do you co-work at all?
I work from the Studio four days a week and at home on Wednesdays (Wednesdays are admin days, I don’t see clients at home at all).
Do you allow yourself a regular break for coffee, exercise or lunch?
Yes, I’m really strict with myself about this. My job is extremely physical so I need to make sure I’m well fed and hydrated all the time or I cannot focus on my clients. I have an hour for lunch every day and take at least a 15 minute break between clients. I exercise in the morning before I go to work but always try and do a few stretches during the working day as well.
Some readers might be interested in my “Yoga at your desk” video.
Are there any apps/tools/gadgets/people that you just couldn’t work without?
We would love to hear your thoughts on “networking” – do you go to any regular events or meet ups to meet other freelancers?
Oh dear. I’m not very good at this really. When I first moved to Cambridge I got in touch with other yoga teachers and studio owners, some of whom have become friends over the years. Likewise other teachers and therapists have got in touch with me as I’ve become more established. I have a fab little team at the studio these days and am still in touch with Ruth, the owner of Bodywise Studio, who is a great source of inspiration and support! I see my yoga teacher & massage mentor a few times a year (they live in London) and know I always have someone to ask the important questions.
I must confess though that I have never been to a networking event and cannot think of many things I’d rather do less!
I think it’s important to know other people in the profession, but for the kind of work I do I’m not sure how helpful networking events are. I guess it depends on whether you are an introvert or extrovert by nature (it won’t surprise you to know I’m an introvert!)
I think I do all my networking on Twitter (which is how I “met” Jo, we still haven’t met in real life. I saw her in Hot Numbers once but was too shy to say hello!!)
What essential advice would you give to anyone thinking of becoming a freelancer?
Don’t rush. Anything worth doing is worth doing well so let your business develop organically. If that means giving up your evenings to work on your blog, or spending your weekends training in your chosen profession then so be it. Make sure you know you have a minimum amount of money coming in that covers the essentials (rent/mortgage, bills, food etc) and try to make time for yourself, even if it’s just getting to the occasional yoga class or taking yourself out for a book shop browse or a cuppa tea.
Life isn’t all work, even if the work you do is your passion.
Anything else you would like to add or share?
If you don’t already, I highly recommend you follow my dear friend Corrina’s blog (her sister Rosanna teaches yoga at Fusion Studio). Corrina blogs about starting up a business, what to charge and how to stay focussed as well as running courses, coaching sessions and networking events
Where can we find you online (and off!)?
19A Sturton Street
Cambridge CB1 2SN
t: 07985 779892
New yoga & Pilates classes start September 2014
Images – With thanks to Andy Pickup
Thanks so much Rachel for taking part in our Freelancer Friday series, if you would like to put yourself (or somebody else worthy of being featured) forward, let’s talk!