Liz Thomas - Full-time Financial Controller to tango-dancing Freelance Consultant with regular breaks

“I am one of life’s natural planners so spending that time working out what was important to me and what exactly I wanted out of life made the change possible.  Then it’s possible to start planning." 
"If I were to do it all again, I would invest in coaching right at the beginning. It took time to get real clarity on what was important to me.  To have that at the beginning would have definitely helped.” 

Previous Career Overview

Liz worked her way up to Financial Controller within various international companies. She enjoyed her career but began to feel that she wanted more. 

Trigger for change?

The arrival of a big birthday, her first grandchild and her separation from her partner initiated a total re-think of Liz’ long term career goals.  Historically Liz had always been aiming for a Finance Director role and after having the opportunity to deputise for the FD in her business, she knew she could do it.  That said, the experience also gave her insights into some of the downsides to her goal – long hours, added stress and inflexibility.  She had a choice. She either kept working full-time towards her goal of FD with full understanding of the monetary upsides but lifestyle down-sides OR she could take a risk and stay at her level (a level where she was very accomplished) but design her work life in a way that fit with her other life goals.

First steps?

Liz’ first steps were unlike any others.  She initially negotiated a 3 month sabbatical and booked not one but three holidays of a lifetime! One month in Crete, a month in Scotland on an intensive tango course with Jenny and Ricardo Oria “the best tango teachers in UK” (http://www.oriatango.com) and a month in Argentina. One of Liz’ life goals was to celebrate her 50th birthday by dancing Argentine Tango in Buenos Aires.

Prior to taking the sabbatical, another opportunity came up to spend the previous month touring round Europe on a motorcycle with her new partner. Liz thought through her options and realised that she couldn’t take that opportunity as well as the sabbatical and that those three months would be her only holiday that year.  She’d been bitten by the travel bug and wanted much more of it in her life.  That appeared to be the straw that broke the camel’s back and Liz resigned fully, allowing her to leave in time to take the full four months of travelling.  She decided that afterwards, she would create her own business as a professional contractor where she would use the time between contracts to travel to amazing locations, dance and enjoy time spent with her grandchild. 

What Liz discovered?

Whilst the prospect of running out of money from being out of a full-time secure role was a little scary, it wasn’t as unappealing as working full-time for another couple of decades.  Liz has worked around this by working hard in the beginning to make sure that she has enough of a financial cushion to feel secure.

Liz feels really energised by her learnings recently. “Over the last year, I have learned bucket loads”.

Would she do anything differently?

"If I were to do it all again, I would invest in coaching right at the beginning. It took time to get real clarity on what was important to me.  To have that at the beginning would have definitely helped.”

Liz became crystal clear on her life priorities “You have to be really honest with yourself.  I realised that whilst I wanted the salary and benefits of the FD job, I really didn’t want the job and all that came with it.  I realised that I wanted to spend more time with my children and grandchild.  I also wanted to spend much more time travelling.”

“In the world of contracting, you have to know what you are good at and be happy to keep doing that. That insight has been key.”

“I am one of life’s natural planners so spending that time working out what was important to me and what exactly I wanted out of life made the change possible.  Then it’s possible to start planning.  There will be lots of different ways to get what you want out of life but planning is really important as then it becomes a choice on how you get there as you will fully understand the pros and cons of your choice.  I think it’s very important to plan – but not to set that plan in stone. Things happen when they happen, not necessarily when you want them to.”

“Networking is more important now that it ever was so investing time in creating long-term relationships is a priority for anyone wanting to be a professional contractor.  That doesn’t seem so important when you are in a permanent role as you are not changing jobs so often.”

Without the safety net of a full-time career Liz suggested that she has to be creative and strives to introduce new elements to her work that can both sustain her in the long-term and offer different lines of revenue.   For example, “I have set up a financial modelling course to help small businesses with planning and administration and I have invested in coaching training.” 

How it feels on the days when Liz knows that she has made the right decision?

“I feel very, very happy.  When I meet up with people who haven’t seen me for a long time, they always comment on how well I look.  I am sleeping very well and investing time in me and my family.  I have a lovely relationship with my grand-children (there are two now) because I look after them regularly, which would have been impossible in a full-time role.  And I get to do work that I love and am good at.  Life is great.”

Regrets?

”None”