How living rent free changed one person’s life

Back in 2009, when we first launched Live Rent Free, we decided to give away a year’s rent to kick things off. We figured a whole year without paying rent might give someone the opportunity to do something exciting, or maybe even life changing. Thousands of people clearly agreed and entries started flooding in. We picked a winner and emailed her with the fantastic news.

Nothing happened.

We waited a few days…still nothing. We emailed again. Nope. So we took to social media to see if anyone out there could help find our winner. Still no luck.

Then, two weeks later, just as we were having the do we need to pick another winner? conversation, an email arrived.

‘I didn’t get the original no, thank you for mailing me again. Jo.’

Quickly followed by another…

‘Didn’t fully read the last email, now I’ve read the second bit… I’m sort of freaking out. I don’t think I’ve ever won anything before!’

Turns out the original email went into her junk folder but, finally, we’d found our winner. At the time, Jo lived in London (Balham, to be precise). We worked out her prize, based on the average rent in her postcode, and sent her a cheque for £7,072, along with a note asking for a bit of info about herself and what she planned to do with the money.

‘I moved to London from Manchester in order to go back to university, where I study illustration. I entered the competition on a whim then forgot all about it. I have to say when I read your email my brain stopped responding to what I was seeing, which is a bit worrying for an art student. I have no idea what I’ll spend the money on…probably  a Cintiq, which is a sort of computer screen you can draw on. Then I guess lots of nice books and beer for my friends!’

Lucky friends!

Our lucky winner, Jo

Fast forward to 2017 and we decided Live Rent Free deserved a little bit of a refresh. We’d given away over £60,000 in our regular monthly competition by then, but, inspired by our founder Rupert’s experience of finding roommates when he moved to New York, wanted to give someone else the chance to live rent free for a whole year.

While we were discussing it someone in the office asked what had happened to Jo since she won. We had no idea, so sent her a quick email to see if she minded us asking what she’d done with the money. Thankfully, we got a quick response this time!

‘I’m so happy you got in touch! It was life changing actually.

I was studying illustration at the time, and I used the money to buy a Cintiq. It’s a drawing tablet, like a big screen you can draw directly onto to make digital artwork. After I graduated I worked at a couple of studios in London, then within the year I decided to go freelance and move to Australia. I only brought one bag of clothes and my Cintiq. 

Since then I’ve been working as an illustrator, and I actually got to do some work with the company who make the tablet (Wacom) which was amazing, they kindly gave me a Companion (a smaller Cintiq you can carry around) and I also won another small one, so I’m now the proud owner of three of them! The first one is still my favourite though, I use it every day! 

I’ve attached some pictures of my workspace, see if you can spot the cat!

If you want to see some of my artwork, there are a few pieces of personal work on here http://jo- ley.tumblr.com/ 

I really want to say a big thank you to you all for the competition and prize money. I’m lucky enough to have a job I love, and I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do it without that piece of equipment, so you really helped make my dream of becoming an artist come true.’

Jo and Gambit

We didn’t need any more convincing that a year’s rent free could change someone’s life!

So, now it’s your turn. How could a year living rent free change your life? Would you travel, start a business, go back to uni or volunteer? Or would you just use the money to pay off your debts?

Enter now for your chance to live rent free for a year.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering…a year’s rent in Balham now comes to rather more than it did eight years ago – £9,449 to be precise!)