Does growth equal success?

It’s 10 years ago now since I gave up the nine to five and became self-employed.

Bee and Belle were fourteen and seven at the time and I made the decision for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I may have been drunk. Secondly I was sick of wasting my time for not much money – it felt like I was spending hours at my desk and often accomplishing very little. Not (always) because I was being slack, but because there’s always so much down time, waiting on decisions, waiting on management.

There has been a lot of research in fact into the amount of actual WORK that people get done on the average working day and most of it, like this study, concludes than in the average eight hour day at the office, most people do less than three hours of work.

It’s ridiculous isn’t it?

I hated the rigidity of it, having to turn up and be at your desk between set hours, just because that’s what everybody does. It felt so pointless, especially when, as a single parent, I was having to do things like forgo school performances and pay for extra childcare. I spent five years after Belle was born stressing myself out, working badly paid, part-time jobs for which I was generally over-qualified, driving from one job to another on my lunch break, scoffing a sandwich in the car. It wasn’t much fun and I didn’t make much money.

I knew that if I worked for myself I could get the flexibility I needed to prioritise my children. I also knew that I was smart and could work quickly and would probably end up working far fewer hours for the same money, if not more.

I was right.

Fast forward 10 years then to last week, when I was listening to a presentation about business growth.

“Put your hand up,” said the speaker, “if you would like to grow your business.” He smiled and kind of chuckled, as though that was an obvious question. Who wouldn’t want to grow their business? Dur.

I kept my hand down.

The fact is that I’m happy with my business just the way it is. I didn’t become self-employed because I wanted to work harder than ever, I became self-employed to create a flexible lifestyle that paid the bills but gave me time to do the things I enjoy. (Brunch). I also enjoy the day to day work of writing and networking online – I don’t want to hand that over to someone below me while I strategise. I hate strategising.

I wrote a little rant a while ago about people always asking me if I’m busy, and I guess it’s all part of that. I’m not normally that busy, but that’s a choice, not a sign of my success or failure as a freelancer.

It feels over the last few years like there has been a growing trend to be more. It’s not enough to have just one perfectly good job – you have a side hustle or honestly, what are you even doing with your time? What do you mean it’s the evening and you just want to watch some TV and eat crisps? No way! Now’s your opportunity to start writing an online money making course, crafting your own small batch gin or brainstorming ways to add more and more value to your life because when life gives you lemons you make gin and tonic and dance between the raindrops and you’re worth it Goddammit.

*pauses for breath*

Sod that.

At 8pm I want to be watching reruns of Hercule Poirot. I certainly don’t have the motivation to be hustling, sideways or otherwise.

I’m sure I can’t be the only one who is perfectly content with their business as it is and who doesn’t feel the need to be constantly striving for business growth. I just don’t buy into the idea that success is always defined by size, turnover or status. If that’s your jam then go for it, but I don’t think that everyone has those same goals or that they should be made to feel like they are failing for not pushing themselves all the time.

To me, business success if having spent 10 years designing my own sustainable way of working that allows me to stay in bed in the morning with the cats and go for walks in the wood whenever I like. I measure success by how often I get to be creative and how much free time I have to bake cakes, not by the size of my workforce.

How do you measure success? Leave a comment and let me know.

how to measure business success

Photo by Geran de Klerk on Unsplash



  1. 4 December, 2019 / 10:51 am

    My Doctor recently rang me to re-arrange my appontment as she had a school thing to go to fro her kid. I love that her bosses even allowed her to do that and I was quite happy to oblige. Life isn’t all about work, it’s about living, and giving your kids nice things is not as good as just being there for them. x

    • Jo Middleton
      5 December, 2019 / 3:27 pm

      That’s a lovely example!

  2. Claire Turner
    6 December, 2019 / 5:53 pm

    This really resonated with me. So many people I know seem obsessed with striving for the bigger/better/brighter – constantly pushing. Sadly, they miss so much around them. Surely it’s not all about material possessions or being a big fish. For me it’s about time to think, time to live, appreciate and enjoy family, friends and the little things. I feel it more and more as I get older…

    • Jo Middleton
      9 December, 2019 / 1:53 pm

      I think age is definitely playing a part for me, it gives you some perspective doesn’t it?

  3. 6 December, 2019 / 9:00 pm

    You are successful if you are happy and enjoy what you are doing. If it brings you joy every day then you are the most successful person to me. I would kill to feel like that about my job!

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