3 min read
08 Jun


Flipping heck, 25 years to be doing one thing for money is a long time. It’s been the backdrop to a transformation from a shy, unassertive twenty-one-year-old to a confident, grey-haired business owner who is nobody’s fool. 

There are loads of ways that I could have approached this, but if you’ve read my stuff before you’ll probably guess that the obvious route would not be the one I opted for. If you’re expecting a treatise on marketing analytics, this is not it. 

To have done that would go against the grain of what I’ve tried hard to achieve in the last few years; shifting paid work away from centre stage to make room for a much more rounded and balanced life. So instead, I’ve summarised that journey. 

Act I – 1999 – 2006.   

I started my career at ohal (now Gain Theory) because they were the first company to offer me a trainee position following a bunch of rejections. I really needed a position so that I could start paying off my student loan. 

This stint still takes the prize for the longest that I have ever stayed with one firm. I don’t count my current business, which is now catching up, because I flex my workload and type of engagements in a way that’s impossible as an employee. 

The technical training I received was and still is some of the best in the business and it set me up splendidly, although with hindsight when I left, I was still very naïve about the industry at large and especially client stakeholder needs. 

I really appreciated the opportunities to travel the world and at the time enjoyed the social scene, too frequently as is often the case in your twenties. By far the best thing though was being introduced to my now-husband by my then-boss. 

Location: London. 1 flat purchased

Act II – 2007 – 2016. 

Ironically, some of my decision to leave was prompted by new-found confidence that company-funded life coaching had brought out in me. I stepped down in job title into a position that would broaden my technical skill base. I didn’t settle. 

For the next nine years the longest that I stayed in any role was 2.5 years although I did boomerang with the same firm a few years apart. There was progression. For one, having tried something different I went back to MMM. 

Despite being titled Associate Director when I left ohal, it was really these roles where I gained the appropriate functional experience to really deserve the manager and director positions that I worked. The only “gap” was client-side. 

The other reason I saw no issue with hopping about was because as a side-hustle I spent 2007 – 2013 studying part-time for a bachelor’s in psychology. That was my labour of love. Rolling seamlessly into wedding planning for November 2014. 

I plugged the client-side hole by taking a head of department role. I hated the commute, culture and didn’t fit in. I was too “agency” to gel and was resentful of the intrusion of work into free time. My bullshit tolerance had lowered considerably. 

Location: London. 1 house bought; 2 flats sold (finally… 3 mortgages briefly eek!)      

Act III – 2017 to present. 

In early 2017 our evening holiday chats were dominated by (my) work. I lasted one day back before I resigned with nothing to go to. I was done (in); embryonic plans were afoot to get our owned-outright house on the market and head north. 

I launched myself into Project Move. The logistics of house-hunting 150 miles away are not easy and it took some planning. The move itself was less than smooth and took over 6 months to complete. We just snuck in 2017s dying days. 

I said yes to a couple of short-term MMM contracts while we waited for broken housing chains to reform. And that is ultimately why I started my business in 2018, even though I had every intention of quitting marketing analytics for good. 

A business that I have supported myself financially and intellectually with for over six years. Carving out a living doing things, in locations (ideally remote) at times that suit the rest of my life. I’ve tweaked these as my needs have changed. 

I’m getting increasingly selective as I get older and refer on opportunities that I turn down if I can. It’s only in the last 3 years that I’ve become established enough as a freelancer to be in this position. And assured enough to sell just one service. 

My success as an independent gun for hire comes from my eighteen years in employed roles. I’ve often worked in the positions of the people who engage my services. I understand their internal or client-side pressure points. Felt their pain. 

Or if I am engaging with a client direct, I am likely to have done analysis in their industry or in one with parallels. Because I can foresee pitfalls, I cost realistically and not to win. That’s too much for some companies and that’s OK my me. 

I’ve written about aspects of my life outside work in various other blog posts. In a nutshell, since we’ve moved: I started volunteering, became healthier, got hammered by perimenopause, got fit, ran a marathon. You’re bang up to date! 

Location: Nottinghamshire. 1 house sold; 1 house bought. 1 cat moved himself in.

Wrapping it up 

It’s unlikely that I’ll continue 25 years more. It is more feasible as a freelancer than it is as an employee in marketing and advertising, where in my opinion ageism is rife. Experience is too expensive for ever-slimmer agency margins year on year. 

I envisage dialling down paid consulting and cranking up volunteering in the next five to ten years on a gradual basis. Perhaps also resuming study, a master’s in criminology is on my bucket list but competes with run events that aren’t cheap. 

The reality is that the course of those next years is most likely to be influenced by parental health, or even our own. Flexibility and adaptability will be necessary and I'm prepared. 

© Jo Gordon Consulting Ltd 2024

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