By ITV News Content Producer Alex Binley
The Covid-19 lockdown "was a blessing in disguise" are words few of us would say.
While the majority of us have seen our worlds and social circles shrink in the past year, others have used the situation as an opportunity to launch careers they'd always dreamed of.
From earning £100,000 per month to gaining hundreds of thousands of followers on social media and being able to quit their day jobs, ITV News spoke to four people who used lockdown to do more than catch up on sleep and explore the local area on foot.
One year ago, lip-syncing sensation Meggie Foster was working in beauty product sales.
When lockdown hit, the 27-year-old was furloughed and says she was left thinking “what am I going to do?”
She decided it was time to take the acting career she dreamed of "into my own hands”.
While working in her sales job, the aspiring actor said she felt like she was waiting for her agent to call her and for acting work to come to her, but with a lot more spare time she decided to put herself out there.
She had made lip-syncing videos several years ago, and looking for a project to keep her busy, started producing content again, posting it on TikTok, Instagram and Twitter.
In the intervening 12 months, her satirical videos have amassed her tens of thousands of followers on social media and seen her interviewed by more or less every media organisation and publication.
She says she was “quite surprised” by the reaction to her videos and believes it was because “during lockdown there were no live performances or comedy or theatre".
“Everyone was bored and online… there were a lot of dark things happening and people needed some light relief,” she says.
During the first lockdown in April, Ofcom figures suggest that UK adults spent one-quarter of their waking day online - plenty of hours worth of social media scrolling to stumble across witty videos
Making short videos helped too, she says, meaning people “engaged” and “shared them” more.
While she says she “wouldn’t have wished for a pandemic, without it, none of this would have happened”.
One year ago, Ben Gulliver was a hair loss consultant, working 10 hour days in a job he didn’t particularly enjoy and counting down the days until the weekend.
Fast forward 52 weeks and the 21-year-old is earning £100,000 a month from businesses he started during lockdown.
“Lockdown was a blessing in disguise,” Gulliver says.
He was furloughed from his job leaving him with a lot of “time on my hands” and “free money”, meaning he had “no excuse” but to follow his dreams of setting up his own business.
At 20, he says he had few responsibilities or commitments and felt it was the right time to “dig in and take risks”.
After researching and watching videos on YouTube, Gulliver began selling items on Amazon which he identified as being in demand.
With gyms, dentists and non-essential shops shut, Gulliver focused on teeth cleaning products and fitness equipment.
He used Facebook adverts, TikTok and sent products to influencers to increase his reach, and in the first month of setting up his ventures, hit six figures.
He’s already sold the dental business to an American investor and is now eyeing up the property market.
On his best day, he’s made £12,000, now employs a friend and has freelance suppliers working for him across the globe.
Just months after starting it, Gulliver says the fitness business is on “autopilot” and more or less runs itself - by lunchtime of the day we spoke he said he’d spent around 20 minutes on it.
Lockdown, he says has changed his life for the better: “When I worked 9-5 I always looked forward to the weekend, now I look forward to Monday, it’s my favourite day of the week… no one replies to business emails at the weekend.”
A week before lockdown hit, personal trainer Courtney Black had just launched a fitness app, but with people suddenly confined to their homes and only allowed to leave once a day for exercise, she quickly changed it to focus on home workouts, despite never having done one herself and “hating training at home”.
As well as the app, for the first five months of the pandemic, she did several live home workouts each day on Instagram, with up to 31,000 people taking part at once.
With people searching for home workouts online, her social media following and app uptake ballooned as a result.
She went from 260,000 followers on Instagram to 825,000 in the course of the year.
The effect of lockdown on her career was “bittersweet”, she says, adding that she found having the commitments and engaging daily with an online community helped her as she lived alone.
A year ago, Abi Clarke was working in a cafe in Bristol while doing open mic events or stand up spots in the evening, it was going well she says, but success in stand up is a “long road” and she’d only been doing it for a year.
When lockdown hit, she was furloughed and decided to use her time to “fully focus” on her comedy career.
She began producing short comedy sketches in which she’d play multiple roles or even enlist the help of her more-than-willing parents.
She puts her rise to internet fame down to the fact that during lockdown, “comedy exploded online” as “people craved something positive to cheer them up and take their mind off things”.
Her short social media videos were easily shareable, she says, meaning friends were “still able to laugh together”.
Now with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, her success has meant she’s quit her cafe job to focus on comedy full time.
“You feel awful to say that you’ve benefited from lockdown”, she admits.