6 months ago, when I stepped out of my comfort zone and started my own business I knew I was going to experience many a challenge and learning curve. My recent learnings have been adaptability and working outdoors in the winter months – chill blains and all!
I think I can safely say that my working week has variety in a way that not many jobs have. Well you could say variety or just plain weird. Take today for example, I started off with a decluttering project where I was sorting through a client’s walk in wardrobe and deciding what ballgowns she wanted to keep or donate to charity. In a blink of an eye I was out in the elements dressed in thermals wielding a paintbrush and restoring a wrought iron gate to its former glory.
What do I prefer? Actually, I enjoy all aspects of creating a ‘Happy Home’ for people. The combination of working with clients to plan how we can improve their house to increase its selling potential, designing gardens and decorating projects is allowing me to use my brain power, social skills plus plain brute force and muscle power! The only thing is that I could have done with a few more indoor jobs during the winter months.
I don’t think I have ever been so obsessed with the weather forecast before I started my business. Approximately 60% of my work is currently outdoor work which has caused a few challenges and frozen fingers in the past months.
I am a ‘glass half full’ person so I like visualise that the weather is miraculously going be bright and sunny everyday where in reality I am scraping the ice off my car windscreen with the hope that it will warm up soon and my paint won’t be frozen. I hate to miss a day’s work due to weather, it is part and parcel of working for myself and the mortgage needs to be paid regardless the weather so it’s a case of ‘man up’ and face the elements.
Not to give up easily I make sure for my working day I am fully prepared for any weather condition which means packing most of my wardrobe into the car. Do you need a coat of any type? Boots for any terrain? I can also offer you a range of gardening equipment, paint, cleaning products and Haribos (actually they are mine and I don’t share) Please do come and have a browse from now slightly battered car/office
I can start the day looking presentable if I am doing client consultations as first impressions count but slowly go downhill during the day if I have outdoor jobs often returning home with a strong resemblance to a bag lady or Benny from Crossroads (only my generation will remember him!) – like Benny, my hat can stay firmly on ALL day! Recently I took a break from gardening to get a sandwich in Sainsbury’s. I was preparing to say to the Big Issue selling gentleman ‘no thank you’. I was slightly surprised that after he looked at me he did not even ask me if I would like a copy. Then I looked at my reflection in the window and realised why!
Please do not think I have let myself go though – make up is a must at all times, mainly to cover the red nose and lips blue from the cold. I pride myself on getting a reputation for being the most glamorous painter/decorator in Marlow and surrounding areas – I can only dream!
One of my recent (and still ongoing – and on and on and on!) jobs is to restore and repaint wrought iron railings and gates. I love this type of work and go into a hypnotic zone when I am doing a painting job. Next time I do a job like this I will ensure it’s a tad warmer as although I am used to working outside I do not think I have experienced how cold I could get. Gardening is great as your moving but when the only movement going on is your painting hand your circulation virtually stops and hands, feet and nose threaten to fall off. 10 mins painting and 3 mins jumping jacks helps, much to the entertainment of general members of the public walking past the house. Comments like ‘ my dear, that is not a job for a lady to do’ and similar only spur me on to prove them wrong.
There have been times during this job that I did feel like crying due to the cold then I remember I could be in a stuffy office, going to a pre-meeting before the main meeting to talk about something that needs a separate meeting and brainstorming 'Blue Sky' ideas that never come to fruition. Don’t get me started on quarterly performance management reviews! After these thoughts the cold seems very bearable and I stick on my headphones and Desert Island Discs and get cracking.
The secret in trying to retain heat when working outdoors is layers and don’t stop layering until you start to find it hard to move your limbs. Three pairs of gloves are the limit for me.
Chau, my other half did look on a little incredulously recently when he saw me drying and putting on my top half of my clothes while sitting in a still full bath. I thought it was quite ingenious and my way of preserving the heat in my now vaguely warm body. You will be glad to know I had taken my hat off.
One of my other recent learnings - even if a client says that they are going to be out all day do not assume this is true. I found this out when I had completed my job in their house and then decided to get changed different outfit for the next job. I decided to get changed in the lounge. Half dressed in vest and tights who walks into the lounge after finishing early from work? Yes, the gentleman who lives there. Awkward? Oh, yes, I just thank the Lord it was not a few seconds earlier minus my vest...! You will be glad to know that I do still work for him and remained fully clothed at all times.
For now, my hat remains firmly on my head and thermals always at hand. Spring and that lovely tan I will get from gardening is hopefully just a few months away!