Not everything you see is as it appears …
Last week I was reminded by an alert on my phone that it had been three years since I’d left my 25-year broadcasting career at the BBC in favour of going it alone and concentrating on my wedding film business.
Cue a blog post on my professional journey since then, with all the personal stuff omitted.
But then it occurred to me that the personal detail was as important, if not more relevant, in the story of how I reached where I am today. So, I’ve decided to share this in the hope that those that follow me may see that it’s not been a smooth road, nonetheless it’s been worth it.
The latest chapter in my life actually all started before that landmark moment of leaving the BBC. At the ripe old age of 42 I fell pregnant. It wasn’t planned, and I spent a few agonising weeks trying to make a grown-up decision about what to do because actually having a baby right then was not ‘convenient’.
Anyway, after taking a long hard look at my priorities, I made the decision that a third child would in fact complete the Wilson clan. But the very next day, as if to punish me for even considering anything else, I miscarried. To say I was sad is an understatement. I not only felt guilty, but I was also devastated at our loss. It wasn’t just a baby I’d lost but all the plans I’d made on how my future would unfold from that point.
My plan had been to stay at the BBC until having the baby and then, after my maternity had finished, to leave and concentrate on Story Of Your Day on what I thought would be less hours and less work than staying in a full-time reporter role at Look North.
I felt at first like my options had been taken away from me with my loss and I would be committed to continuing as I had been for the previous 18 months with two jobs … and I was knackered and so ready to leave.
*All BBC friends, colleagues and bosses who might be reading this please note, I loved my job…
I have learnt to look for the positive in every situation and the planning I had made didn’t need to put on the back-burner.
It occurred to me that actually every option remained open to me, I was ready to take this step, I just had to be braver and take action. So, I handed in my notice.
Skip to a few months later and I was waved out of the BBC by all my supportive but slightly concerned friends in the newsroom. Wishing me well with my ‘new venture’ and the best of luck ‘with my new business’.
This quietly frustrated me. Had they not realised I was already making a success of things with Story Of Your Day. I didn’t need their luck, concerns or worried conjecture.
But their intentions were good, and I was inspired by a certain quote one of my closer friends had had framed …
‘Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail’
That was exactly what I intended to do.
But there were some who didn’t think my leaving the safety net of a BBC staff job was a good idea. My number one fan, my Dad, had nothing to say on my bold move. And I mean nothing. He fell silent on me and I started to seriously doubt what I had done.
I entered the wedding industry as a full-time videographer. However, whenever someone asked me what I did for a living I would say: ”I used to work for the BBC and now I make wedding films”. Who was I kidding? Not even I, it would seem.
I soon found out that this was a pretty lonely place to be, being self-employed and working most weekends. I joined a lot of Facebook groups in the hope I would make friends and learn from those more experienced videographers.
The thing is I am a bit like Marmite and hard to read if you don’t know me. So, while I was welcomed by many, others were not so sure. I came across as confident and full of myself… in fact I felt none of that inside.
I had so many questions to ask but too scared to be ‘found out’ or look stupid. On the odd occasion I did ask technical questions I was often teased at best and ridiculed at worst, in the groups where I was looking for support.
There were established videographers, both male and female, who seemed threatened by me and I was finding it really hard to fit in.
But then I learnt about ‘Tall Poppy’… and buoyed on by my business coach and a lot of ‘woo woo’ mindset work I started to believe in myself a little more.
Branding shot… looking as glam as I can Me in action shot looking not so glamourous
I was accepting high-profile commissions and even my Dad started to come around when he could see that my business was flourishing. But like many other modern women, I was extremely good at displaying a facade of ‘doing really well’, when actually there were times I was struggling under the weight of it all.
I was spending far less time with my family and even when I did, if I couldn’t access my Inbox I felt like my head would explode.
Even when I took on a very amazing assistant I still couldn’t let go. Although I took action and denied myself access to my ‘enquiry Inbox’ handing the responsibility over but I just wasn’t comfortable with this and after a while I was back ‘in control’ again. My children, especially my eldest, were starting to be affected by my absence (not physically but spiritually) and I was feeling so guilty.
In what is an ongoing internal project for myself I started to look at ways to give myself more ‘me time’… finding things I loved doing and even finding time to pamper myself.
I also decided to turn my frustration of how women often feel “intimidated” in this industry into a positive too.
I set up the first UK-based Facebook group for women videographers, the Female Film Creatives (FFC), to inspire and empower and offer a safe supportive environment for other women in the industry. It was received very well and now has more than 200 members.
I posted about ‘FFC’ in another Facebook group and was accused of being sexist and a feminist … not something I’d considered myself to be but nonetheless the opinion of complete strangers left me feeling like I had actually done something wrong not right.
Then, in November 2016, came an opportunity for our family to move to Switzerland. Just for six months at first and it was the editing season (so wouldn’t affect me filming weddings) so while I worried about the implications this might have on the children’s education we weighed up the pros and cons and decided to go for it.
It was a quick turnaround and within six weeks we’d upped and left Yorkshire and arrived in Wengen in the Bernese Oberland. Now six months has become a permanent move.
The boys have settled well into school and I seem to have found a rhythm with both my film companies – with a nice blend between working away on amazing weddings, local corporate filming contracts and last, but by no means least, having more family time.
But let’s be honest and realistic, my life isn’t always as perfect as my Facebook posts depict. I don’t share my sad times, struggles or woes on my timeline. I’m a picture of success and of happiness to all my ‘friends’.
Although I have now, finally, started learning the language here and while I have some lovely friends… I still often feel very alone. Running my own business from a small Swiss ski resort hasn’t always been rosy. For a start, every single wedding means time away from the family… all my weddings are destination weddings and while I love doing them, I don’t really like flying and I really hate being away from my family.
It would also be lovely to think that during the snowy winter months I was skiing everyday but, in reality, I spend a lot of time filming, editing and doing admin.
BUT, through the success of Story Of Your Day, I have been able to work less and play more. And another trick I’ve adopted … to take my family away with me as much as I can.
Many great things have happened to me in the past year. Some amazing wedding commissions, being recognised and asked to represent Canon at The Photography Show on the ‘Education Stage’ – no mean feat for a woman to stand up there and talk ‘technical’ for a week.
And I’d like to see more women educating, inspiring and empowering other women and I recently asked a fellow male videographer why there weren’t any female speakers at his event he replied, and I quote: “Women don’t inspire women”. I felt, that is cr*p, but it did leave me wondering if he had a point…
I also recently faced the ‘exclusion’ and ‘sexist’ wrath again by male videographers seemingly unhappy that I am now running workshops, The Evolve Retreats, solely for females and, while I stand by my conviction of passionately empowering women in the industry, I can’t help but feel that maybe it’s not a good idea … having to defend your actions means you start to doubt them.
I face these demons often as a woman running my own business in a male-orientated industry. I’m also living in a country where it’s far more ‘normal’ for a woman to be a full-time mum and not a ‘working mum’ as I am and always have been.
So, while on the surface my recent blog shared my working success, it hasn’t come easy and there are many times I could have jacked it all in.
The people who are close to me know only too well how hard I work and how I’m always having to make compromises in my life.
I am so happy I left the BBC three years ago because my life is better now than it was then, without a doubt.
I am in control of my own destiny and while there’s always more work to be done to become happier and feel more content, striving to be successful is hard work.
Is it worth it? Hell Yes!
My tips on allowing happiness into your success…
1. Always look after yourself. Do you let your mobile phone run out of charge? No! then make sure you recharge yourself. Make sure you have regular ‘me time’ and that’s without children if you have them. I treat myself to ‘pampering’ days.
2. Take exercise. If you can start your day with exercise that’s even better as it sets you up for the day. In the summer months I go for a walk and, in the winter, I ski for a few hours before heading back to the studio to edit.
3. Stay Organised but realistic. To-do lists were actually my downfall because I wouldn’t always complete them. Now, I have a ‘Must-Do List’ with only a few tasks and the To-Do isn’t as important. In the end everything on the To-Do List will reach the Must-Do List so don’t add pressure on yourself.
4. Reward yourself. I’m not talking about just the big stuff, such as securing a fab wedding commission… Even small wins should be celebrated, like finishing an edit on time or getting your must-do list done. I often promise myself a a little treat so that I actually appreciate my hard work.
5. Make sure a holiday IS a holiday. Turn off your notifications, put your ‘out of office’ on, and take a holiday. I appreciate that’s easier said than done but it will mean you’re more able to work more efficiently afterwards.
6. Keep your options open. If you can combine work with pleasure, like taking family on a destination wedding… then just do it.
7. Outsource. Decide what you love about your job and make sure you concentrate on that. I outsource so much to my assistant, so I can concentrate on being creative, which is what I love.
8. Consider a business / life coach. Although I don’t have a coach at the moment, I did for about 18 months and this really helped me grow my business and learn what elements of it I wanted to work on.
9. Invest in yourself. Once you’ve decided where you want to grow business-wise, invest in making that happen. It’ll help you get results sooner.
10. Remember that not everything you see is as it appears. Even the best of us face struggles at some time or another, it’s just you don’t get to hear about it. So be kind to yourself as we’re in this together.
My recommended reading
The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k: – Sarah Knight
Get Your Sh*t Together – Sarah Knight (accompanying journal also available)
A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled – Ruby Wax
You Are A Badass – Jen Sincero