Working your way

Sometimes life is about taking leaps, Dee Jas walks us through his experience of leaving the corporate world behind and entering the freelancer world. He discusses the impact this has had on his mental wellbeing, and the art of letting go of a lifestyle that doesn’t work for you.

Let’s meet Dee…

Dee Jas, Founder, Colourfull

Dee Jas, Founder, Colourfull

I've been lucky to work for some of the biggest brands that exist in the world today (BBC, Santander and TfL to name a few), and without the career experiences I've had along the way, I wouldn't be in the position I'm in now.

There are so many perks to working for an organisation, aside from having a level of security where your next pay check will come from! You often get to work with other brilliant people you learn from and an exposure to a range of business problems you never imagined. The flipside is that along with the fun stuff, a role in-house also requires you to do things you may not enjoy as much. And, let's not forget all the organisational politics that you have to manage which increases the higher you climb. At times, I definitely found myself doing less of the work I truly enjoyed and more time managing around politics.

I loved my last role as People Director at Girl Effect. Our mission was so strong, to empower girls and young women. And it took me back to my core values, namely to create positive social change in the world. So I decided to talk a leap!

Anais Nin says 'life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage' and this has been my mantra! It led me to creating colourfull by using my courage credits and focusing on a specific area that I deeply cared about and could talk to authentically (namely building inclusive cultures and supporting the inclusion of BAME and/or LGBTQ people at work, as well as using the power of media/storytelling to shift attitudes and inspire others). What's been most surprising is how my whole life has changed since deciding to go solo! And for the better.

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage
— Anais Nin

Of course you have to keep an eye on your income and securing work (the power of referrals/word of mouth and doing a great job cannot be underestimated) but the positives firmly outweigh the negatives. I have the freedom to truly work flexibly, how I want and where I want. I get to take on interesting/challenging assignments based on my values and my energy is directed to doing work that taps into my purpose and creativity. I get to skip the office politics and am valued for my expertise first and foremost. I generally feel more fulfilled and happy.

The knock effect has been in my personal life. I remember running a 100 miles per hour in my previous roles, often exhausted and looking at my tasks as a never ending piece of string. Now, I've found the right pace and the biggest difference is my ability to truly listen to others and be present. It sounds a bit ‘woo-woo’ but having a better balance in my life means I'm able to show up for my loved ones and care for myself along the way too! My brother gets married in August and it's been awesome having the time to really get involved and support him as we prepare for the big day!

All of this adds up to a nicer me. I wasn't a complete monster before, but I've always been driven and could be perceived as relentless. But the combination of creating my own 'thing' that allows me to do work that I truly care about (and excel at, if I say so myself) plus having the time to connect with people has left me energised and inspires me to show up at my best, whether it's at work or my personal life.

I'd never say never to another in-house role, but it would have to be a belter i.e. truly connect with my values, offer flexibility and champion inclusivity. And to be frank, there's not many out there - yet!

I hope this dispels some of the myths people may have around starting your own business/being self employed. Of course there are risks that need to be considered, but the biggest (unexpected) benefit has been my mental fitness and well-being. Which is priceless!