Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How to be Self-Employed and Not Hate Life

officing from my mom's breakfast table this morning.

The office is super mobile these days. And the to-do list is long. I'm trying to figure out how to get work done before I enter into a couple week craze of moving, road-tripping, driving, and nesting. I know it will get done, even if it's by moonlight in a passenger seat.

But all of this is on the list of reasons I took the leap from 9 to 5 to self-employed. The hard things are hard, but the benefits make it all worth it.

A more open schedule. Flexibility. Opportunities to travel. Oodles and oodles of time to be with my daughter ... just to name a few.

So if you're considering taking the leap from office desk to home desk, these might be for you!  For this Working Girl Wednesday, whether you're just venturing out on your own or considering it, I'm giving you my top 5 tips for making it through the scary leap and the first few months of getting traction under your feet. Every story is different, so take 'em for what you will from a girl who has been somehow, sometimes not by myself, staying afloat. (I'll also add a few things I wish I had known before I started.)

1. Love what you do. I'm really convinced more and more that anyone can come up with an idea. You and I could probably brainstorm at least 10 new business ideas for a way to make money from home. So why am I not doing any of those things? Well, honestly, because I don't want to. I don't want to offer pet care and catering services to elite dogs. I don't want to crunch numbers and work as an assistant to people who are busy. I don't really want to come into your home and organize your pantry. But if you want to do any of those things, do them because you love doing them. It will take about three months for the initial "I work for myself" high to wear off. So if you don't love what you do, you'll still be hating life even without the bossman looking over your shoulder.

2. Respect the people you encounter. Do your best to build healthy, honest, good relationships every where you go and leave. Life is a giant web of relationships, and I'm never quite sure who I'm going to meet who might know so-and-so who knows so-and-so. Sometimes it just blows my mind how small the circles of creative people actually are. Everyone knows someone who knows someone who probably knows you. Leaving a job you hate? Even if you hate your job today and are scratching at the doors to get out, be sure to leave as well as you can. Let their memory of you be positive and try to maintain good relationships with colleagues wherever you go. Get to know the people who are in your field. Designers. Photographers. Crafters. Writers. Don't be afraid of them. Learn from them. Ask questions. Encourage them. Dream big for them. Trust me, there is enough work to go around for us all to have fun and be successful.

3. Execute your work well and quickly. At first, I was not always the best at this. There were times the stress of responding quickly made me delay, and I probably lost jobs. But, these days, I'm finding there is nothing better than fast responses, good work and great communication. When you are working for yourself, there is no one to blame for your lack of productivity except yourself. Distracted? Then make the necessary adjustments. Tired? Get more sleep. Too much work? Stop over-committing yourself. Afraid of failing? Sounds like a great learning opportunity. 

4. Be you. Be the you that you imagine you are when no one is watching. Don't sell yourself short. Dr. Seuss said it - Today you are you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than you. This means from your blog to your coffee appointments, Twitter to Facebook, phone consultations to e-mails. Be you. Stay inspired. Educate yourself on what's new in your field. Then find your voice again. Refresh your "brand" every so often. Stay on top of who you are, what you do and why someone should pay you for it. Know what you can't do. If you don't believe in the product you're marketing, no one else will. 

5. Have patience and be diligent about your craft. I'm still in this boat. For me, working in a creative field means I can never just say "I know what I'm doing." The field is constantly changing with trends, focus, styles, etc. This forces me to always be a student of my career. And it means working longer hours, sometimes when it's most inconvenient. It means working extra on a project because I want to figure it out, learn more, and give my client the best product I can. Sometimes it means unpredictable paychecks, believing the best in people when I get frustrated, conceding to clients when I want to argue, allowing opportunities for correction and criticism. And pray. I pray a lot while I'm working.

The road is fun, long, hard, freeing and adventurous. Turn up some jams and make a list... What are you waiting for?

I wish someone had told me.... 
that somedays I'd be working just as much, if not more, than a "regular" job.
to give myself a day off, and to stop working when I should be resting.
to get a good CPA. (I did end up finding one, but just down to the wire!)
that it's scary.
that there is a whole community of people who are doing the same thing, and they are friends.

To sum up, I read this article yesterday from The High-Calling and it was so encouraging. So I'll leave you with this: "Not Your Ordinary Team"


  1. I think 6. Should be "Know yourself". Find out what areas you're strong/week in like task management, communication, finances, focusing, etc. We aren't all great at everything and finding tools that compliment our strengths and help manage our weaknesses is vital.

  2. Ethan - agreed. I think that takes time, and trial and error at the start, but definitely something everyone needs to figure out.

  3. I love this. You're right on! :) I also love that you linked to The High Calling, and that you joined us in the HC community. Welcome~I look forward to getting to know you better as you have time to participate. :)

  4. Dena - thank you for stopping by! :) i look forward to connecting with y'all more too. :)