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Life in lockdown: the transformation people are making

By Alex Holder

Alex is a journalist and author, who writes for The Guardian, The Telegraph, GraziaRefinery29 and Elle among others. Her book, Open Up - Why Talking About Money Will Change Your Life, was released this year. Here’s what she had to say, we hope you enjoy it as much as we did. 

Time to read: 7 minutes

Pivoting, Changing and Adapting: how lockdown brought out my inner entrepreneur. Three people reinventing their jobs share their story

When Covid-19 pulled the hand-break on 2020 whole industries took a reckoning. Many people, from personal trainers and hairdressers to cleaners and models, have had to rethink their line of work. Not that rethinking is easy, many of us are already in a state of overwhelm just surviving lockdown, but for some, a break in normal routine and sheer necessity has seen them pivoting their work to new, exciting places.

Lockdown might have been the curveball no one expected, but this sudden change in circumstances has brought out the innovative side in many self-employed people and small business owners. ‘Sometimes we need a pause to action change,’ Dr Emma Hepburn, a clinical psychologist and mental health advocate explains. ‘This is the perfect moment to reflect on what you want from life, and importantly what you have the control to effect.’

Of course nobody truly knows what the future looks like, but whether you’ve got crafty while furloughed or finally found a few hours a week to donate to charity, here are stories of everyday people who followed their instinct quickly, transformed their working day and started something new:

From Live Musician to Singing Personalised Happy Birthday Messages

Before the pandemic, pianist and vocalist Sam was busy playing gigs and corporate events and as a session musician in recording studios. ‘Very quickly all three avenues of income stopped. When I realised what this would mean for live music I felt angry and I guess it was like going through the seven stages of grief.’ At first it was just his work in April cancelled, but then May, June and July’s calendars were quickly wiped clean too. ‘It was hard, I had to admit that my work is one way I stay sane. Then one day I got a phone call from an old colleague with an idea that musicians could perform personalised songs as ways to connect people during the stay at home orders and raise money for the NHS.’ Sam went from recording with artists like Adele to performing Happy Birthday messages for Tottenham fans and playing on video call parties. ‘I’ve been surprised at how impactful the videos have been, not just on the recipients, but on me. I’ve enjoyed all the little stories I’ve been a part of, from singing a song for someone’s mum who is in a care home and can’t receive visitors to writing a lullaby for a new baby the god-parent can’t yet meet.’

From Wedding Caterer to Food Delivery Service

‘My first event was cancelled when I was already on site setting up the kitchen. Over the next seven days I lost £18,000 worth of business.’ Sarah, who runs a bespoke catering company in Manchester has changed up her business from catering for film sets and weddings to setting up a home cooked delivery service in her local area. ‘As all my big gigs of the summer started cancelling, I felt numb at first, but then I had to pull myself together and think about the new demands emerging.’ For the last two months Sarah has turned her kitchen to a home delivery service, ‘It’s not been entirely easy, there is lots of competition and the market is becoming saturated with more restaurants joining in with delivery services. I felt like I was starting my career again – delivering door-to-door is how I started - but making affordable healthy food for people I know appreciate it makes me feel good.’

Yoga Teacher to Teaching via Video

‘We took the lead to close the space before other yoga studios.’ Says Naomi founder of a yoga community space in East London. ‘Very quickly I started teaching classes over video call, I am not that techy, but I felt a responsibility to the staff and the people we teach. Ironically I wrote a book last year all about getting people to step away from their laptops and phones, but I’ve learned that it is possible to nourish people through the screen.’ This business remodelling, however unexpected, has opened up Naomi to the possibilities of her business. ‘I’m definitely thinking, ‘maybe I don’t need to be in London. I’m questioning ‘what is important to me?’. Also it’s allowing me to add in a pro-bono side to my offering and teach yoga for free to so many more people. This was something I always wanted to do but having a small space with high rents, it wasn’t always possible. Also, seeing people at home with their seven kids climbing over them as they practice makes me so happy, one positive of video yoga is getting the little insights into other peoples lives.’

From Hosting Events to Online Coach

As well as working at the top end of the communications industry, Elizabeth founded a platform that supports women in building their careers. Whilst she’s still working hard at home, having her social life curtailed means she’s had the time in lock-down to really think about what she wants from her side project. ‘I work full time in a demanding job and have been unsure about what to do with the platform. There was a time when I thought about giving it up, but it’s amassed 15k followers so it seemed a shame to let it go. Events were one of the main components, yet even before Covid they were taking up so much energy. Thankfully lock-down has given me a moment to ask ‘Why did I start the platform in the first place?’ Ultimately I want to help empower other women, and there are loads of ways of doing that that don’t require live events or constant content creation. I’ve pivoted to creating workbooks and online courses that can scale-up even in lock-down. I feel like I’ve been able to future proof which is very satisfying.’

So if you’re feeling a little adrift with work, or finding yourself confused or stressed about what the future holds, take a deep breath and follow Dr Hepburn’s advise, ‘Understand there are going to be setbacks - don’t beat yourself up if you don’t achieve everything you want to this week or if your work is not going to plan. Be flexible, be prepared to reset your goals and be kind to yourself.’


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