I'm bored with my remote online job, in a town. Should I move to a city?
April 26, 2013 1:40 AM   Subscribe

I am wondering whether to move from a small town to a big city to boost my career. My partner has been offered a job in London, but is on the fence, 50/50, and is looking to me for the swing vote.

Her salary, after London costs, would be about the same as it is now. So it's really down to me.

I am currently running a small online business in the coastal town of London, (Brighton). It's easy, pays well, I only have to work one or two days a week, but I don't feel motivated to grow it at all and I do worry about not investing in a career path at all. I am 33 so don't know what else i could/woud do. It just seems crazy to run an online business from central London that I could run anywhere. On the other hand, I do like the idea of looking for new kinds of work and perhaps being on the ground in the city would accelerate that process.

The only jobs I seem qualified for after running a small online business for 6 years, are marketing/sales type roles. Most digital roles indicate they prefer 'fresh' candidates. I get a feeling that if I was 'on the ground' I might have access to more unusual roles. But I'm rubbish with networking.

I like my town, but it's very laid back, and most people here focus more on the life side of the work/life balance. But that rubs off on me I think. IS it crazy to think that being surrounded by busy driven focused people, will make me more focused and driven?

Another thing I worry about, is that I have tried moving to the city twice for a couple of weeks or so, but both times hurried back to the coast with my tail between my legs after being uninspired by the immediate options. But I'm thinking if I commit to a 6 month contract I'd have no choice but to explore more options, as it would very expensive to live and whilst I can probably afford to cover the rent for 6 months, the pressure would be productive I hope.

But why put myself through the stress, when I can just commute up in 50 minutes? Perhaps the stress is the point, though. Perhaps stress brings out the best in people?
posted by molloy to Work & Money (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: edit: I am currently running a small online business in the coastal town of Brighton, (50 mins on the train to London).
posted by molloy at 1:41 AM on April 26, 2013

I would go. Keep running your online business one or two days a week and spend the other five or six days a week investigating the wonders of London and maybe participating in a very interesting second job/hobby/art. And if I were even half thinking of changing my career, I would go to London to increase my professional and educational options.
posted by pracowity at 2:47 AM on April 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am also currently in Brighton and working from home, and moving to London would me my idea of hell. Where would you be able to move in London? Many of my London friends don't have much shorter commutes than Brightoners do (tho, granted, once we get into Victoria we usually also have to catch a tube or bus somewhere).

Also, what's your lifestyle like? It is entirely possible to live an entirely insular life in London, never going further than the local Sainsbury's of your little suburb, and totally forgetting you're living in one of the major big cities worldwide.

I'm also a bit unsure how exactly you expect being in London to improve your job search if you're rubbish at networking. You'll have to go out there either way. Doesn't Brighton have a bustling new media community? Why don't you go to one of the many meetups/gatherings they regularly do? (I can't find it right now, but one of the guys I follow on Twitter tweets about one regularly. There's also some on Meetup.com.)

Ok, I'm probably rubbish at this cuz OMG do I hate London. We could totally go for a coffee tho if you're bored! (tho not right now cuz I have a deadline)

PS Also, tho I guess that's harder if you're in a relationship, but if you're able to work from anywhere, you should really move somewhere cheaper rather than somewhere even more expensive. Like Italy. That's what I've been considering lately.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 2:56 AM on April 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Addendum: You asked the exact same question in February. Did you not like the answers you got then? *cough*
posted by ClarissaWAM at 2:58 AM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ok I swear I'm done now, but the event I was thinking of is the Wired Sussex un-networking salon, next one is May 7th. Have a look at the Wired Sussex calendar generally.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 3:03 AM on April 26, 2013

Move to London. Change is always, always good.

But when you go, work on cultivating your inner sense of focus. Stress doesn't necessarily make people productive. I spent seven years in NYC, the last four in a particularly stressful online environment (custom web development for financial companies covering a 24-hour stock market cycle). I felt very, very busy and important, but looking back, a lot of it was just the kinetic swoosh of reacting to highly external pressures.

Since then, I've moved to a sleepy mountain town in the American West and work remote from my home and in an entirely different industry. I have fewer assignments and I've had self-direct quite a bit. I had to re-learn how I learn and work. I've had to transition my working style from exoskeleton (essentially wearing an Iron Man suit to handle what my squishy, undisciplined, and stressed out self could not) to endoskeleton (finding inner focus, self direction, natural curiosity about my industry). I have fewer pressures, but I produce MORE because I am more deeply engaged on a personal level instead of just running on adrenaline. I am finally learning, some fifteen years into my career, that discipline comes from within.

I like the suggestion to keep your current job when you move. Is that possible? And then try to teach or coach or advise or volunteer or apply your skills to another industry you care about.
posted by mochapickle at 3:19 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

1) The least happy people are in their lives is... commuting. Whilst you may think it's only a 50 minute journey, it's really probably more like an hour and a half each way, when you count getting to the train, heading in, and then disembarking from the destination station. Three hours a day (200 working days a year) over a year is 25 days. That's 7% of your year – by days – commuting. When you extend that to the fact that you are sleeping 1/3 of the days, and working the other 1/3, that's basically 20% of your free time. On a train.

Just because one can commute, does not mean that one should, given any other option.

2) IS it crazy to think that being surrounded by busy driven focused people, will make me more focused and driven?

Not. At. All. It will make you more focused and driven. I have a friend who lives in a sleepy little town in Northern California. He jokes that he's retired at 33. He works from home, and has generally a very nice life. He came to London for a few months as part of a project we were doing, and immediately felt differently. Here, he was suddenly surrounded by strivers. Some of the best people in the world, working to their capacity to change their own circumstances and impact the world around them.

When he returned to Northern California, he sounded very different. As if he had been dialed back a little bit.

It goes back to the Malcolm Gladwell thing of influence. One college graduate in a poor community can reduce teen pregnancy substantially, because people see there is an option. Imagine what happens when you move to London, and instead of having a relatively rote relaxed life, suddenly, you are surrounded by people who are very inspired, and who start inspiring you.

It's going to be a change of pace – for sure – but then again you may really enjoy that. It may change your life in unimaginable ways.

3) You can always go back to Brighton. But if you don't come to London, you may never come to London. You've thought about it before. Now it's time to decide. If you make the leap, and decide it sucks, by all means, move back. You are in the prime of your working career – 33 – and have a good 10 years to push as hard as you can and go as far as you go. By 45, you'll probably be quite set in your ways and your trajectory. Maybe it's not now or never for you, but it well could be.

If you don't like the journey to find your treasure, you can always go back to being a shepherd.
posted by nickrussell at 4:07 AM on April 26, 2013

But why put myself through the stress, when I can just commute up in 50 minutes?

The commute is stress. Seriously, I can think of nothing worse than having a commute, other than living someplace where there was nothing to do and I had no friends.And even then, living in a place I really liked but had a long commute to work would just be a tradeoff of doing one unhappy thing (the commute) because there was a payoff where the benefits (social life and good job) outweighed the drawbacks.

You haven't elaborated, really, why you left London. Did you really hate it there?
posted by deanc at 5:25 AM on April 26, 2013

Dude GO.
posted by Skyanth at 5:46 AM on April 26, 2013

You want opinions? If I were you I'd move further out in the country, where it is quieter and cheaper, get motivated to work a couple more days a week to help cover the salary loss from my partner, and fill the rest of my time with pursuits outside of work and enjoy nature and peace.

Career in the city? Ugh, what for? So you can work harder, make marginally more money while spending more of it on rent/entertainment, and live in a frenetic, noisy, smelly city besides.

But it ALL depends on how you feel about cities. You said you've tried and left twice already. What would be different this time? And don't even consider commuting, that would be the worst of both worlds.
posted by lydhre at 5:48 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Either you enjoy the hustle and bustle of cities, or you don't. If you don't like it, then that's it. I LOVE living on the edges of cities, I'm a suburban girl. I love knowing that I can get in the mix if I like, or, on the other hand, I can kick back and watch the squirrels cavort in my back yard.

If you move to London with your partner, would you both be able to afford a home that would reduce the commute to less than the 50 minutes from Brighton? That's a HUGE if.

Is there a halfway point that makes sense? (Deja Vu, I think I recomended the same thing the last time you asked.)

You have two issues here:

1. Do you want to live in London

2. Do you want to have a more energizing, exciting or profitable career.

Moving won't answer number 2.

You're lucky, you have an on-going concern that lets you do as little as possible to keep you in beer and chips. That's AWESOME.

You say you feel isolated and stilfed where you are. Is it the location or is it the fact that you don't leave the house? Unless you change something, you're going to continue to feel that way.

You can move your on-line business to London, but unless you make fundamental changes, like making more friends, going out more or getting a job that gets you out of the house regularly, your life won't change.

Also, it takes at least 6 months in a new place to really start to fit in and to enjoy it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:49 AM on April 26, 2013

Go for the change!
posted by rosa at 5:54 AM on April 26, 2013

If you can't move the online business to London, could you manage to run it from Brighton a couple days a week, so you'd be commuting to and from Brighton once a week (and enjoying town life a couple days a week)?
posted by pracowity at 6:06 AM on April 26, 2013

Sure, go. Sharks gotta keep swimming or else they sink. Keep running your online business, but live in new surroundings.
posted by Greg Nog at 6:29 AM on April 26, 2013

You're lucky that you can work from anywhere with your current job, and you're not under pressure to find a job in London immediately.

That said, your ecommerce experience might be an asset when job searching. I work for an ecommerce company (we provide backend/automation software) and we are always looking for people who understand the ecommerce space. So you might want to look up companies based in London that have ecommerce software (shopping carts, shipping solutions, etc.).
posted by radioamy at 7:26 AM on April 26, 2013

IS it crazy to think that being surrounded by busy driven focused people, will make me more focused and driven?

No but it's crazy to think that being surrounded by busy driven focused people will make you more focused this time than the last two times you tried this exact same thing.

If you want to move, move with a plan to make this time different. I'd go get a post-grad diploma or degree in something you can build into a career on top of your experience.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:48 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you only work 2-3 days a week, do you make good use of the rest of your time, or do you find you sit in sweatpants all day surfing Tumblr? If the cost of living isn't a big issue (I assure your partner's London job would come with a pay raise), it comes down to your lifestyle. Would you want to live in a big city where people are everywhere and there are bars and restaurants and traffic? Or do you like having your own space and a slower pace? And do you use your extra 2-3 days a week to develop legitimate, fulfilling hobbies, or do you just kind of vegetate? Would you be interested in getting a part-time job in the city? And how does your partner feel about the job offer -- is she really on the fence or just simply not wanted to force you into anything? Maybe she has a preference and isn't being totally honest about it?

I think this comes down to what makes you guys happy since it doesn't sound like you need to do it at all. I've liked living in some cities (Chicago is pretty spread out for a huge city and clean) and hated others (Boston was very cramped and kind of old/dirty). Meanwhile, suburbs always made me happy, even when I was stuck in small towns without much going on (and zero vegetarian food), I was more okay with it than the worst big cities I lived in. Maybe you could do a visit to London and see how it feels.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:01 AM on April 26, 2013

Response by poster: Is it the location or is it the fact that you don't leave the house?

I spend a lot of time indoors, alone in the flat. I've tried co working, office space, and various activities like sailing and biking, but can't rustle up any enthusiasm.

I tell myself that in the city, with more choice, it will be different. I do find cities inspiring. And my personality is urban.

However I have a history of anxiety, including abandoning holidays after a day or two and returning home. So I know the move would be stressful.

However, vegetating at home might be doing even more harm. I feel I need to work for my sanity's sake. I've tried volunteering. There are zero part time jobs here.

My logic for staying, is that if I am going to vegetate inside it may as well have nice views. So I want to go, but my partner wouldn't be able to afford to stay in London without me, and I am worried something might blow up. I have seen counsellors about this. But haven't found them very helpful.
posted by molloy at 9:45 AM on April 26, 2013

It sounds to me like you want to go, but you are scared. That's a legitimate fear if anxiety has been an issue, but then you're also letting your anxiety keeping you from something you want to do. "If I am going to vegetate inside, it may as well have nice views" is not a reason for anything and certainly not a reason to continue a behavior pattern that it seems you wish you could break.

Maybe London will have better therapists than you can find in Brighton? Not sure how the UK healthcare system works, but maybe you can get a job that includes for health benefits so you can do more therapy/counseling. Will being there with your partner help? Can you take some pre-move steps to get yourself into the right mindset? Exercise everyday or take a free MOOC -- something to make you feel sharp and ready for a challenge?

The issue here isn't about location, time or money, it's about your mental well-being. Only you and perhaps a licensed therapist of some sort can figure this out. But I would lean toward pushing yourself to be more of the type of person you want to be, but only if you think you are at least a little bit ready. (I say a little bit because tell an anxious person they need to be 100% ready before they take a chance and they will never take a chance!)
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:04 AM on April 26, 2013

Oh! You have ennui!

That can be cured with the right anti-depressants. Go to your GP and have a chat. Try some drugs, I have anxiety and I take Celexa. Prozac was pretty great too, but then I had a reaction.

They can change your life for the better.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:11 AM on April 26, 2013

I have a history of anxiety, including abandoning holidays after a day or two and returning home. So I know the move would be stressful.

However, vegetating at home might be doing even more harm. I feel I need to work for my sanity's sake.
If you go to London, the person with anxiety who vegetates at home all day will be coming along with you. Take care of the underlying issue.
posted by deanc at 10:20 AM on April 26, 2013

I don't know, changing gears at your age may not be the way to go. I went from living in a rural area at 33 to moving back to Canada and having to find a "real" job. The constant need to network becomes a real drag, and by the age of 40 I was unable to take the whole "professional workplace" culture thing very seriously.

If you like where you are now, stay. It may mean giving up your partner.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:31 AM on April 26, 2013

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