It’s been 2 years now since I launched my business. My son had just turned 2, life was complicated, and I was faced with some important decisions. One thing I knew though…was that I wanted my son to be proud of me. That was non-negotiable. And there are a lot of reasons why.
My life had had a few ups and downs. I had been highly academic at school – through good fortune – but had to leave part way through my A Levels, due to family circumstances. I started work immediately and somehow fell into Sales; and I was good at it. A successful career in Recruitment followed – until I was on the wrong end of a hit and run in 2004 that changed everything. I was left with no money, no career, and a six year journey (with 17+ procedures) to get back to “me” again. For much of that time I was bedbound, in and out of hospital and in terrible, life-altering pain. You can read more about that here or here – if you want to, of course.
During that time I went through every possible emotion a human probably can. From desperation to determination (and back again, a few times) but I never, ever gave up believing life would be good again, one day. Even when I was told the future looked pretty bleak, I couldn’t just lay there hopeless. So I read. I educated myself. I pored over books and absorbed information; from useless tit-bits to books about Buddhism, and eventually, when there was nothing left on the book shelves to read…I picked up an old college text book on HTML. It was dull, and out of date, but I taught myself to code from scratch from that book. I created basic websites, and I tinkered until they looked good. It was purely a hobby, but it kept me amused.
Around the same time, I discovered this new little thing, called Twitter. It was in it’s fledgling stages and was brilliant, back then. There was a real sense of community and I found people in similar situations to my own, and started to feel less alone. I also learned about these weird little things called “blogs”, which would obviously never take off (!) and were mainly about food and recipes, back then. I decided to set one up for myself; just to vent about my injuries, my frustrations, the loss I felt, the limitations. On good days, I’d write about fashion, and I started to mention a few club nights that my old friends were hosting, or DJing at….that I’d be at if I could. It became an eclectic, odd little mix of thoughts and ideas, pain and dreams. It was anonymous, then (I called myself JJ so I could be real, without judgement) and somehow, after just a few months, back in 2008 it got noticed by some PR companies. And then some more. And then, somehow, as I started to get better and life started to improve…we started to win awards and get invited to work with some of the world’s largest brands. I was invited to judge the Johnson and Johnson Beauty Awards, I hosted events, I sat on Media panels and I was invited to be on the committee, and later the Ambassador for The London Lifestyle Awards. That little blog (Love London) I’d started from my bed became a completely unexpected success, with hundreds of thousands of views a month and a community of readers whose engagement that was more rewarding than any of the invitations or recognition we received elsewhere.
I always redesigned the site every year, to keep it fresh and interesting. I started by adapting WordPress themes, and sometimes designed them from scratch. I never took anything out of the box and took pride in the positive comments we got (this was LONG before the big money came to blogging, it’s not uncommon to see some truly stunning blog designs now! Some I’m thankful to have been a part of). Before long, blogging friends started to ask me to update their sites, and I enjoyed doing it. A lot.
Fast forward a bit, and I started to do some freelance work with my friend and colleague Steve, who ran the best social media recruitment agency in London. I helped him build the businesses online community, and we put on some events together, bringing PR, Social Media and Bloggers/Influencers together to improve their practices and understanding of each other. We loved every minute of it, and I learned so much about the digital world. I also met some of the best people I know, many of whom just so happen to be Digital superstars, and the people who had been in the industry from the outset. The Digital world, which has been my hobby and my playground, became my passion, and I knew this was my future.
Once I’d had my baby, I knew after a few months that I wanted to get back to work. I was a single Mum, I was skint, I was still suffering some long term health conditions thanks to the trauma of my accident (CFS and Fibromyalgia) and I was scared – but I knew I was not going to sit back and do nothing. So I started very small, doing some freelance social media and community work for friends. I designed my own websites, of course, and people liked them. They started asking me to design some for them, too. And I realised I LOVED IT. Whilst I knew, and loved social media, and creating communities, website design had become my core skill, my most in-demand service and the thing I was most proud of.
And so, here we are. From learning to code 10 years ago, to doing what I love EVERY DAY now, it’s been a journey full of lessons and one I’m looking forward to continuing for a very long time. I’m now proud to be combining website design with website maintenance and workshops on all of the above; there’s nothing I love more than talking to clients, getting to understand their business dreams and helping them to bring those to life.
If you’d like a chat about how we can help you, please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org – and if you have any questions about any of the above please do send me a message. My story has not been a smooth one and there have been times it’s not been easy, but as the old quote says…