Sally Burtt Jones, media consultant and seaside resident
Sally Burtt-Jones had many successful years at the Guardian and Huffington Post in her twenties and early thirties after which she took some time out to re-think the way that she works. She now lives in Whitstable by the sea, often working from home and visits London for meetings. The following interview took place in 2015 when Sally was running her own consultancy business. She is now in full time employment with messaging app Viber - a consultancy client of hers for over two years.
What was the trigger point for you to make the transition from full-time big job to freelance consultancy?
I spent a long time working hard to get my career to a good place, good job title and salary. But when I got there I realised that money and job title aren’t the most important things in life. I ended up continuing to work really hard for a further eighteen months but then decided to take some time out. I then went back home to Wales to contemplate and make some big life decisions and decided that living in a big City and being in full time employment where I had to be in in an office from 9-6 every day was not for me.
At the same time, Faith from Spark Escapes introduced me to her coach, Marietta Birkholtz who over two months took me through a process called ‘What Colour is Your Parachute?’, which I fully recommend. Marietta and that system asked me many questions I’d never asked myself before e.g. how much money did I really need to earn to be happy? Where did I want to live? how much responsibility did I want at work? She really helped me hone a vision of a life that would make me happy… and it changed everything. I’ve set myself up with a lifestyle that is downsized;I bought a tiny little cottage by the seaside with a small mortgage. My strategy is to have at least one client who I can do 2-3 days a week for and know I’ll be ok financially, and if other work comes in, that's holiday money.
My motto is 'good work with good people' and if something doesn’t tick those two boxes, I’m not interested. You've utilised all the skills and lessons from your employed career for life as a consultant... Yes, I realised there was a lot about the work that I loved. I was selling big branded content ideas for newspapers and I was in it at a time when it was growing really quickly and I was one of the few people in London who knew a lot about it. I felt confident that I could move forward to freelance. I wasn’t ready to change everything but wanted to change enough to make myself happy without making myself too vulnerable.
How did you go about generating clients when you decided to go solo?
Someone said to me in my twenties that the most valuable thing you will have is your 'little black book', your network. So I took advantage of that; I met lots of people for coffees and whilst I didn’t ask directly for work, I asked people what they thought of me creating a consultancy and there was resounding yes, go for it.
I wrote a partnerships strategy for Viber which was well received and it turned into a long project together which is still running.
What was your biggest fear when you set out on your own?
I was scared of going back to full time employment in a London office five days a week and feeling trapped again; I kept that as a motivation.
Is there anything you miss from your old career?
Being out of London, I don’t see my friends as much as I used to, but they enjoy coming to visit me in Whitstable.
What do you love most about the changes you made?
For the first time in my life, I feel peaceful.
I've been away a lot for work - Israel, Delhi, Singapore - which is fantastic. Every time I get back from a trip - work or holiday - I arrive back in Whitstable and feel gratitude, I feel very lucky. And if I have a rubbish day, I can just sit by the sea and everything is put into perspective, nothing really matters that much when you see the sea and realise how big the world is.
Are you a sole trader?
At the moment, yes but an accountant has advised me I can save money if I move to a limited company.
Where do you go for inspiration?
I walk in Whitstable and enjoy the sea view, read the papers, relax. It's one of the best things about living outside of London.
I used to live in a first floor flat in Hackney without a garden and whilst I wanted to go for a walk, I couldn’t think of anywhere inspiring or peaceful to go.
What one key piece of advice would you give to someone who also wanted to change the WAY that they work?
Just go for it.
Everyone around you will support you, even people you've not seen for ages. A second thing, which I learnt through my coaching process, is to move towards things which give you a positive energy. If you meet someone you feel really energised by, see them again. Move towards things that make you feel good as life is too short to be around negativity. Be brave and just do you.
Interviewed by Faith Hill, Life Coach