Having the world at your feet sure is a wonderful feeling; exhilarating, exciting, full of trepidation and opportunity, and soon it was time to make sense of the situation and lay some plans down. The act of throwing caution to the wind and leaving a secure job with excellent prospects may seem like madness, but it was paired with a strong sense of self-belief, along with a burgeoning curiosity to find out more about myself while living a freelancers life.

The plot thickens…

After the initial rush of freedom wore off though, there came a dawning realisation (as obvious as this seems in hindsight) that I, and I alone was responsible for my income – and so began the process of finding work. My first major contract was for the company I had just left – putting together a conference for the PWC tax team. Ironically, it was their expertise I should have been calling on, even at that early stage as my naivety in business saw me not only significantly undercharge for my services, but also saw the beginning of a self-inflicted vicious cycle of poor pricing and under-prioritisation (read ‘no prioritisation’) of my tax obligations.

Don’t forget to pay the ferryman

The initial years were a heady mix of exciting opportunities and personal growth in the performance space, and to onlookers, I had ‘made it’ – spending in a way that implied I was making far more than my actual income – flying lessons, restaurants, fine wine…until finally, after repeated attempts to assist me, the IRD finally reached the end of their patience. Letters and phone-calls were followed with the very real threat to put me out of business.

The cold light of day…

The reality dawned, and it was at this time that I had to come clean to my then-new girlfriend about the state of my finances. It was not a particularly pleasant conversation – but through it all, her faith in me remained strong, and with her background in financial management, she supported me through an extremely trying period of my life as I fronted up to my obligations.

Shouldering responsibility

It is with no pride that I report there were significant arrears – but once I had committed to a re-payment plan (a daunting responsibility), the regulator showed compassion and remitted a sizeable chunk in recognition – not that it made it a great deal easier on a week-by-week basis, but the horizon had come a whole lot nearer. My commitment saw me prioritise that repayment – nothing was spent until that bill was paid each week. It was tough – but it made me tougher.

Growth mindset

After accepting the responsibility, and still working for myself I finally began to look purposefully at my business model – and realised that to grow and fulfill my obligations and to achieve my goals, there was a lot I was going to have to learn. So, learn I did – attending a certificate in small business management course, training in performance skills and improvisation, engaging mentors and joining industry bodies while voraciously reading on subjects such as business growth, creativity, innovation and more. I networked, and sought out fellow travellers on the WFA road (although I didn’t know it as that at the time) and within three years had almost tripled my income, paid my arrears and with my now-wife (yes, the very same!) had purchased our first home due to the power of the ‘pay that bill first’ regime I’d instituted at the start of the arrears process – once the money had been paid back, I simply kept the process going until a sizeable deposit had been amassed.

No man is an island

The truth is, I couldn’t have done the hard yards without the love and support of my wife, and the help of many friends and colleagues who willingly offered their expertise, techniques and ideas to assist my growth – and all at no cost. Sometimes, in the depths of challenge and adversity, we forget that we are surrounded by an abundance of positivity, and we need only ask to have it revealed. Freelancing does not mean going it alone – in a lot of ways it’s a catalyst for connecting in ways you could not possibly imagine while working for an employer.

The power of teams

Shared adversity is often a foundation for exceptional teams, and through my personal and business relationships, by extending the invitation for friends, colleagues and partners to join me in my journey, I’m grateful to have had the good fortune to be part of a continually-strengthening extended team.

New Horizons

So, with a sustainable, efficient business model and a growing client base, it dawned on me that New Zealand was really just one market on the globe where I may be of service – and so began the real focus on Working From Anywhere…

Coming up: Work is truly no longer a place – the global growth, the power of partnerships and the unexpected benefits of ‘giving back’.

Andy Willis
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Andy Willis

Andy is the founder of WFA.Life, he has a passion for unlocking freedom in peoples lives by finding, testing and sharing the tips, tools and advice to allow people to live the "Working from Anywhere" Lifestyle.
Andy spends his time away from the computer cycling or hiking up mountains or catching a wave on his SUP.
Andy Willis
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  1. Andy Willis
    Andy Willis 4 years ago

    This story just gets more interesting with every episode Greg.
    Some tough times behind what the “onlookers’ could see, I’m sure there is plenty of that going on in this world that is viewed through the rose coloured social media glasses.
    Thank you for sharing the lessons you have learnt the hard way, hopefully this will give others the opportunity to avoid the same.
    Can’t wait for the next chapter.
    Great stuff!

    • Greg Ward 4 years ago

      Cheers Andy, this one was hard to write – it’s not easy to admit your shortcomings, but ‘that which does not kill you makes you stronger’!

  2. Karen 4 years ago

    The ultimate test…coming back from behind. A reminder to us all to get over ourselves and just dig in deep when we need to.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Greg Ward 4 years ago

      Thanks Karen, yep, character building indeed 🙂

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