I’ve been living outside of London, in a nook of the Hampshire countryside, for the past six years.
Like so many people who’ve made the move I was ready for a change of pace. Something a little slower, less pressured and which felt altogether more balanced.
Though I should say that at my then-age of 24 (a fair bit younger than the age many people leave the city at), I wasn’t looking for something totally Grace & Frankie, ha!
The pressure of city life wasn’t working for me, and I am so glad I made the choice to leave. Yet I still remember how worried I was about the impact the move would have on my career.
Would it be possible to blog full-time once I left London? Would the drive and energy I felt in the city translate? What would my work/life balance really look like?
Now with the benefit of six years living outside of London behind me, I feel like I’m in a good position to reflect on how making the move has impacted my career thus far. The highs, the lows, and how I safeguard myself against some of the challenges that inevitably crop up.
I hope that my experience can help you if you’re thinking about living outside of London (or your equivalent city) too.
Spoiler: I’ve loved it!
The Impact Living Outside of London
Has Had on my Blog & Career
(And How I Safeguard Myself Against Challenges)
~ LIVING OUTSIDE OF LONDON: THE BENEFITS ~
1 – Smaller fixed costs = less pressure when starting and growing a business
Moving out of London reduced my biggest fixed cost – rent – by around 80%.
Leaving London gave me the financial bandwidth I needed to start and grow my blogging business.
Since I wasn’t stressed out by money all the time, I also had more headspace which I used to learn, plan and create.
Lower fixed costs helped in the beginning of my career, and they’ve helped me to grow my business too. I’ve been able to re-invest when I’ve needed to, and to eek out lean times.
My costs have gone up significantly since I first moved out of London (new flat, additional responsibilities etc), but I never would have got my foot in the door, and built the foundation I’ve used to work up from, had I not moved out of the city.
2 – A Good Work/Life Balance
When people think about leaving the city, often it’s in pursuit of a better lifestyle.
Cities are undeniably hectic, and that can cause anxiety and stress.
It’s true that day to day life here in Hampshire is peaceful. We are surrounded by countryside, there is greenery everywhere and the pace of things is slower.
That being said, I’m grateful to live in a town which, though small, is bustling with plenty of great shops, cafes and pubs.
Being young and sociable, it’s still important to me to live somewhere with energy.
When I head up to London for work (which I do a handful of times a month), I enjoy the contrast between the city and country. It’s a joy to embrace the energy of London, and to then exhale on my train journey home.
A mix of both works perfectly for me.
Too much of one or the other would leave me feeling depleted in some way.
3 – Space For A (Really Nice!) Home Office
It’s highly unlikely that Oli and I would be able to afford a similar flat to the one we live in now, in London.
Working from home all day every day, I’m impacted hugely by my immediate environment.
Luckily I have a home office setup here that makes starting every work day a joy. Even if I do have working on my accounts ahead of me . . . ha!
If I want to move around the flat to work, I can do so too – there’s plenty of space for me to perch in different areas.
It’s true that you can create a home office nook almost anywhere (I love this tour of Taylor Sterling’s ‘landing office’) but every day I’m excited to settle in to work at my desk. And every evening I’m happy to be able to close the door on my work day.
It helps with that overall balance thing!
4 – I Write About What I Know
When I lived in the city I felt like I needed to write a blog about subjects which were popular, to attend Fashion Week and to wear new clothes all. the. time.
When I made the decision to leave London it acted as a catalyst for me to shift my content and embrace new categories which felt more ‘me’.
It was my own experience of pursuing a happier and healthier life, that led me to share more about lifestyle choices here on the blog.
Doing so opened up content categories I LOVE writing about, like wellbeing and productivity. It’s not to say that I wouldn’t have got there in the end had I stayed in London, but my first hand experience of a big lifestyle change helped to nudge me in that direction a little sooner.
5 – Local Connections
Though London is a hub for many things, there is SO much going on outside of Zone 6 too! In my experience, there are plenty of work opportunities outside of the city.
Over the past six years I’ve got to know some wonderful local businesses, and I’ve worked with regional outposts of big brands too.
I’ve also connected with a thriving small business community, which I LOVE, and have been hosting workshops in Hampshire for the past few years.
The workshops and local consultancy have helped me to diversify my income stream, which in turn has helped me out when blogging work is slow.
Plus, though this isn’t specific to living outside of the city, there’s a thriving online community for entrepreneurs and creatives that you can tap in to from anywhere.
~ LIVING OUTSIDE OF LONDON: THE CHALLENGES ~
1 – Feeling ‘Out of the Loop’
There have been occasions when I’ve felt ‘out of the loop’ in one way or another.
When I do, I know it’s time for me to change gears and do the following:
Set Up Meetings & RSVP “YES!” To Events
If I’m feeling out of the loop, oftentimes it’s because I haven’t been spending much time in the city.
I try to stay in regular contact with brands I work with frequently, and set up coffee dates with others I want to get to know.
It takes time and effort, but it’s worth it.
I see a direct correlation between how much energy I put into meeting with brands, and how much business I secure. You never want to feel like you are getting overlooked for work opportunities just because of your geographic location, so my advice is to stay front of mind for clients as much as possible. There are lots of ways you can stay in touch when you can’t make it in to the city, but from time to time it’s worthwhile setting up face to face meetings.
It’s true too that I often have a renewed sense of energy when I’ve been in London for a day or two! Those city vibes can be gooooood!
Suggest coffee with fellow bloggers and industry peers
Building a network of industry friends is important. Without default colleagues (via an office environment), you have to build your own network.
It’s REALLY nice to know familiar faces when you head to an event, or go away on a press trip.
Plus there are real connections to be made, both socially and professionally.
If you’re feeling out of the loop, reaching out to your industry friends can scoot you right back into the centre of it all.
You can compare notes, exchange work anecdotes and generally share where you’re at.
It’s also AOK to share that you’re struggling. I so appreciate the mentoring role some of my peers have taken on for me over the years.
2 – Commuting
If you leave London (or your equivalent) to live elsewhere, you may have to commute. And that’s a big consideration.
Whether it’s a handful of times a month – like me – or every day, commuting can be a challenge.
Here’s how I safeguard against commuter fatigue:
Be Realistic About Your Energy Levels
Commuting is tough. Be realistic about what YOU need to keep your energy levels up.
Perhaps that means no drinking during the week, meal-prepping at the weekend, going to bed early . . . whatever it is, do some research into YOU and how/when you feel best.
I try to get a good night’s sleep before I head into the city.
I pack my bag the night before, and generally have myself ready to go with as little fuss as possible in the morning.
A buffer the day after I’ve been up to London is also helpful – I try to have a quiet morning catching up on emails and taking it a little slower.
Catch an earlier train than you need to
Trains in the UK are often delayed for one reason or another.
When I’m planning a day in London I like to catch an earlier train than technically I ‘need’ to. This allows me a cushion of time should anything go awry on the journey up.
If I arrive early I’ll head to a cafe near my meeting and catch up on some work. It’s always better to have too much time on your hands, than not enough. Plus, who wants that panicky sweat of “I’m-late-for-my-meeting” when you could have a PSL instead?! Ha!
Buy a railcard
I have a 26-30 Railcard and it makes a HUGE financial difference to my monthly travel costs. I save 1/3 on every train ticket I buy.
Commuter routes are often expensive – making a Railcard an even smarter investment. Take the plunge and purchase one, you’ll earn your money back in no time.
Reclaim your commute
An hour on the train is the perfect opportunity for some ‘you time’ – whatever that looks like.
Often on the way in to London I’ll do some work, be it replying to Instagram comments or emails.
On the way back I tend to have some downtime. I’ll watch a show or read a book.
Your commute can be a really positive thing – it’s an opportunity to gear up and then slow down – a buffer you don’t necessarily have when you work from home.
How can you use your commute to your advantage?
Plan Appointments in One Area
Zig-zagging across the city can be draining. Plus it’s not time efficient (and you know how much I like time efficiency ha!).
When I’m planning a work day up in London, I try to organise my appointments and meetings to be in the same area, or in areas which are easy to get between.
I use the City Mapper app to check the distance between addresses. Any longer than 30 mins and I’ll try and rearrange one of the locations.
A bonus of guiding the day is that you can often suggest places you love to visit!
Here’s a list of some great meeting spots in London, via my friend Jess of TwentySixStyle (who also commutes in to the city!).
3 – Missing the City
Much though I love living where I do now, there are still times that I miss living in London.
London is a magical city!
Plus, on a pratical note – I really miss the ease of getting to events and appointments!
Nowadays, here’s how I make sure I get my London fix, for both work and play:
Plan A Work Trip In Areas I Love Exploring
As I mentioned above, I like to plan my London work days as efficiently as possible. And often this means sticking to one general area for meetings and appointments. Working in the industry that I do, most of the companies I work with want to meet fairly centrally – which is great since I love pottering around London!
If I can, I’ll walk between appointments. I may stop in at a store or coffee shop I like too.
There are so many little snippets of time you can grab on to, to make your day in the city that bit lovelier. I always come back from a day in the city feeling creatively recharged.
Plan A Non-Work Trip
Much though I’m in London for work often enough, it’s not the same as planning a trip into the city just for FUN!
A handful of times a year I’ll organise to get-together with friends, or head up with Oli, just to go to a nice place to eat and to potter about.
One of my favourite areas to while aways hours in London is Westbourne Grove, which is close by to where I used to live and work.
We will pop in to Granger & Co for brunch, peruse the shops on Westbourne Grove and wander down Portobello Road.
One of my all-time favourite London itineraries!
If you are living somewhere, be it in a city or elsewhere, which isn’t currently working for you, I encourage you to think about other options.
In so many ways leaving London when I was 24, right at the beginning of my blogging career, was perceived as the ‘wrong choice’ by other people. But it’s proven again and again to be the best choice for me, and consequently for my career.
I truly believe that you’ll thrive when you prioritise yourself first, and if that means taking a path you weren’t expecting, then so be it.
For me, leaving London has led to:
- A better work/life balance
- The financial bandwidth I needed to start and scale a business
- A supportive local community of friends
- A home and home office I truly love
- Space for me to build the lifestyle I want to lead, and consequently share about here on the blog.
Where do you want to live, to live your best life?
Wherever that is, I also believe, will aid you in your career.
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have you made a big move? Do you struggle with balancing your lifestyle choices and career ambitions?
Love, Monica x