The New Look Iris Lillian (And Why I’m Back In The Office)

4 min read

Hey A-Team

I have a confession to make: for the last few months I’ve slipped back into old habits. I thought I had left that life behind me. The late nights, the dizzying highs, the billable lows. Yes, that’s right lovely readers, I have started lawyering again.

But returning to the law, and abandoning my dream of working from for myself, full time, from home, has definitely been for the best. At least for me.

I’m happier than I have been in a long while. I bloody love being in the office again. When I make this declaration to friends they stare at me quizzically and assume the stress of work has got to me and I’ve completely lost it.

I practiced as a lawyer for ten years before moving to Hong Kong in 2016. Instead of jumping straight into a new role I decided to take a break from the corporate slog to recover from self-diagnosed burnout. I also decided to scratch an itch that had been lingering for way too long and launched It was a great opportunity for me to try something new, to be more creative. I used to sit in my office thinking, “instead of ploughing 100 hours a week into someone else’s business, imagine what I could create if all this time was invested in my own venture?” I had to put my theory to the test.

Eighteen months after launch I wasn’t the happiest of chappies. I constantly felt out of my depth.

Eighteen months after launch I wasn’t the happiest of chappies. I constantly felt out of my depth. Learning to write for a different audience (not in legalese), managing a website, coding (what was I thinking?) and creating content for social media platforms was a steep (very steep) learning curve. It was satisfying at times, but mostly frustrating. I struggled to motivate myself for fear of failure. In my mind, I was just “spinning the wheels”. Very few of the skills I had honed over the preceding decade could be applied to my new business. I was starting from zero and completely and utterly out of my comfort zone.

“But”, I kept thinking, “Isn’t that what we’re all supposed to be doing?” I kept telling myself, “being out of your comfort zone is good for you, Elissa”. And yes, there are reputable studies championing the positive benefits of forcing yourself out of your comfort zone. But I couldn’t escape the fact that I was miserable, unsatisfied and pretty grumpy a lot of the time.

“But”, I kept thinking, “Isn’t that what we’re all supposed to be doing?” I kept telling myself, “being out of your comfort zone is good for you, Elissa”. But I couldn’t escape the fact that I was miserable, unsatisfied and pretty grumpy a lot of the time.

There is also commentary which says that “pushing [yourself out of your comfort zone] too hard can actually cause a negative result, and reinforce the idea that challenging yourself is a bad idea.”

They say if you love what you do you never work a day in your life. I’m calling bulls**t on that one. What started as a passion project had turned into a daily mental slog with un-healthy doses of self-shaming.

Regardless, I persevered.

Why self employment and working from home didn’t work for me

Then one morning, while eating my Vegemite toast, I came across an article written by Johann Hari, a journalist and author who writes about depression, the war on drugs and the monarchy.

“We all know that every human being has basic physical needs: for food, for water, for shelter, for clean air,” Hari writes. “It turns out that, in the same way, all humans have certain basic psychological needs. We need to feel we belong. We need to feel valued. We need to feel we’re good at something. We need to feel we have a secure future.

“And there is growing evidence that our culture isn’t meeting those psychological needs for many – perhaps most – people. I kept learning that, in very different ways, we have become disconnected from things we really need.”

Bingo. I’d been thinking for a while “this is way harder that I thought. Why can’t I motivate myself like I used to?” Now I knew why. Working for myself, from home and outside my core skill set just wasn’t for me. I’m a lawyer. A damn good lawyer. So that’s what I went and did.

My dream for Iris Lillian

I have no regrets about taking time out to launch And I am immensely proud of the new skills I developed from scratch and the platform and community we have created. We receive over 12,000 visits to our site per month and our Facebook Group has grown to nearly 500 members. Our team of 14 writers hail from an array of industries, backgrounds, and countries to bring you a diverse perspective on the daily lives of working women. Iris Lillian connects, inspires and facilitates dialogue around topics most of us find it difficult to broach. Most of all we’re here to remind you that you’re not alone – we’re all doing this together, every day.

Now, when I work on, it’s not a chore – I love it. I derive huge satisfaction from editing, writing, photography, search engine optimisation, analysing data and everything else which goes into running a media platform.

Because Iris Lillian isn’t my sole focus anymore, I have been able to approach it with a renewed love and enthusiasm.

What do you want to see more of?

The team recently gave the website a complete overhaul and we have some exciting plans in the pipeline. Look out for more great reads, real-life fashion guides and advice for women who work.

I built Iris Lillian as a creative outlet for me, but two years down the line it has evolved into a strong, supportive community and my wish is for it to continue to grow.

So I’m calling on you, lovely readers, to get involved. Do you have a great story you want to tell? A work issue you need to hash out? Or maybe you just want a place to get book recommendations and life hacks.

Please let us know what you love, or don’t love, about the website. What you would like to see more of, less of, and how we can continue to serve you.

Because I may be a lawyer, but dammit, I’m an Iris Lillian woman, and I hope you are too.

why I'm not cut out to work from home
Credit: Michelle Proctor
  1. Emily says

    Well done! I am always going back and forth between my start-up and advertising and not sure where I fit. Being in an office with people is the thing I miss most. At the moment I’m full time on Bravery Co. but who knows – the office life might win me over at some point too. Good luck for your new lawyering chapter. x

    1. Elissa James says

      Hey Emily, thanks! Tell me more about Bravery Co.

  2. says

    Blogging is not my day job definately. Im trying to promote my
    business by attempting to write about it. But crap is it
    difficult. I really do admire your content, and I had fashioned to comment to just
    offer you kuddos on wonderful content and information.

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