My guest on the blog today tackles the mindset of the self-employed through her debut book, Falling Off The Ladder, out now. We chat about turning her life around, the value of accountability, and shitty first drafts in this author interview.
Allow me to introduce Helen Hill.
Helen Hill is a self-employed Digital Learning and Content Designer at Unlikely Genius Ltd., working as a freelancer and contractor for clients in the UK and Europe, with a focus on medicine and health, sustainability and personal development.
During the squiggliest of careers, she ran her design business as a side hobby for 10 years, before launching herself into full-time self-employment in 2018. She built a thriving business in under two years, saving her sanity and health in the process and has never looked back.
Helen keeps getting herself shortlisted for awards such as Digital Women ‘Freelancer of the Year’, ‘Digital Woman of the Year’, and IPSE ‘Outstanding Freelancer’ and is still nervously awaiting the verdict at time of print. She also appears on the Digital Women ‘Top 40 Digital Women to Watch list’ and won the ‘2020 Article of the Year’ award for her series of contributions to the industry journal Communicator.
She is also a co-founder of Be The Future – a project aimed at helping families to raise the heroic eco-leaders of the future through sharing realistic tips and embracing positivity, storytelling and humour. No doom and gloom here thank you.
Helen lives in semi-rural West Yorkshire with the long-suffering Graham and two extremely fluffy, diva rabbits Tiffin and Strudel.
Tell us a little about yourself. (How did you get started writing? What do you do when you’re not writing?)
Even though I write daily for my job as a learning designer, up until recently I was terrified of calling myself a writer, because writers use big flouncy words, right? And I had no training or qualifications in writing. I certainly don’t write like a classical author. Then I discovered content design which is about writing in plain language and realised that there was actually a writing community in which my style fit perfectly.
When I launched myself into full time self-employment I started to blog weekly as part of #write52 on Twitter and build my confidence until I was also writing for an industry journal, for which I even won an award. I started to realise that if I wrote about topics I was really passionate about, and took the pressure off myself to write a certain way, then I actually really enjoyed writing and started to believe in my writing ability.
When I’m not writing I am a book hoarder, digital illustrator and craft addict. In particular I love crochet and weaving – being perpetually restless, they are the only things other than reading that can make me sit still and stop working. I also dabble with making resin jewellery and whittling.
Is this your first book? How many books have you written prior (if any?)
Yes it is – my first complete one anyway. I started to write two others first before realising they were not what I wanted to write about, but what I felt I should write about. Once I started the book that was dying to get out, it just flowed. I may release the other two eventually but for now, I am much happier with the direction I have taken.
I also have some children’s books in development – but I am the designer/illustrator for those, not the writer.
What genre is it, and what is it about?
Falling off the ladder is a business book specifically focusing on the mindset of the self employed and how to break off the shackles of working for others, especially when coming from toxic workplaces. It is based on my experiences, and the stories of 9 other contributors. It is part memoir, part self-help and part journal, with activities at the end of every chapter to help you take action.
What or who inspired you to write this book?
I was seeing that a lot of freelancers in my community were struggling to break free of the shackles of employment and realise they could now take charge, and I had struggled with that myself initially. Combine that with suddenly realising I had turned my life around from being an anxiety-ridden wreck to a semi-confident successful business owner in under two years and I realised I had something to share. Other freelancers had started asking my advice about numerous topics and the book started to form together in my mind. I never thought it would become what it has though! I honestly thought I’d give up or be too afraid to ever publish it.
I also signed up to a mentorship programme – Author INKubator – with Erin Chamberlain and she has gently kicked my butt into action and helped me form this book into what it is today. It definitely helps the option paralysis I regularly feel to have had someone guide me through the stages and explain the routes available, the terminology, and the process.
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
Writing accountability groups are a great way to build a writing habit. Joining Write Now was definitely a key point for forming a writing habit and giving the book dedicated time, rather than it being pushed to the bottom of the to-do list.
Also, write the book you want to write rather than the one you feel you should – the former is a sure fire way to take the enjoyment out of the process and stunt your creativity.
What do you enjoy most about writing and why?
I have found writing this book incredibly cathartic and it has helped me to both move on from past experiences and deal with difficult personal circumstances this year. The fact that I can take these negative (or horrendous) experiences to help and inspire others in their journey feels incredibly powerful. Plus I love being able to help others find their way and see their joy when things hit home.
List three interesting facts about yourself.
I’m a very amateur archer and used to be a champion discus thrower.
I collect creative hobbies like I have all the time (and storage) in the world.
I have two lionhead rabbits called Tiffin and Strudel who are my babies, and my boss. They are totally pampered divas and spend all my money.
What is your least favourite part of the publishing/writing process?
I think for me it was sending my first shitty draft to beta readers – I didn’t feel it was anywhere near where it should be before someone looked at it. But that’s the point really – find the issues before you’ve perfected it. It was a terrifying part of the process, especially as the book contains my story so it felt very personal and exposing.
What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
If you read the book, please leave a review – these are so important to new authors.
Order through a bookstore – this helps stores to see interest in a title and potentially stock it (and/or say yes to author signings) and I want to help support local bookstores. ❤
Follow me on Instagram and interact with/share my posts.
What is your next project?
I accidentally wrote two books in one whilst writing Falling Off the Ladder. I realised in the editing process that I had done so and separated the final part out into a second book. So I shall be continuing with that – picking up the self employment journey further down the line where the challenge is to now reach the ‘next level’.
Plus I have some children’s books with my Be The Future co-founder Sally, which she has written and I’m illustrating. I can’t wait to get those to publication. I’ve always dreamed of illustrating a children’s book – but the fear has transferred to that project now 😆
Connect with Helen
The website I keep breaking: UnlikelyGenius
And find out more about the book at:
My AUTHOR website (I get to call myself one of those now, woo!)
Falling Off The Ladder is a mindset manual for those who don’t fit the one-size-fits-all workplace culture, who have been pushed out or treated like they are broken, and now want to succeed in self-employment.
In this book, Helen Hill owner of UnlikelyGenius™ Ltd, shares the story of her squiggly career and leap from meltdown inducing employment to thriving in running her own business. She shares tried and tested advice, short activities to help you master the self-employment mindset, and guides you in how to move on from the beliefs and behaviours that are holding you back to create a work-life that works for you.
Falling off the Ladder will challenge you to build your confidence, embrace the freedom and joy in finally being allowed to be yourself and be the ruler of your own empire, with no hustling, ‘preneuring or 5 am gym starts in sight. Though there will be bunnies.
BUY a copy of Falling Off The Ladder.