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I’ve been self-employed for a good few years now and totally living off my earnings from art, running an arts cafe & art teaching since early 2008. I was thinking the other day about the things you have to get used to when you make the switch to a freelance life. Here are my top good, bad and unkempt moments!
The good – this is a long list!
Despite the “bad” things I will go into later, the good outweighs all of them.
It’s sort of hard to explain to somebody with a regular income working for somebody else just how wonderful it is to work for yourself.
The top thing for me is being able to really, really do the things I am good at – and not the things I suck at.
This builds confidence and has made me a much happier person than I was before.
In the usual work-for-a-boss job, you are expected to do everything. You can’t refuse to do a presentation because public speaking isn’t your thing, you have to work at times of the day that may not suit your way of working (I have a morning peak, a slump after that, picking back up in the evening – not great in the 9 to 5!).
Over time, this experience of frequently sucking erodes your self esteem.
As a self employed person, you can work to your strengths. Sure, you have to learn new things that you may suck at at first, but most of your working day is spent doing something that comes naturally to you.
In his book ‘Screw work, Let’s Play – how to do what you love and get paid for it’, John Williams puts it beautifully:-
“When you finally work to your personality and strengths, and avoid the ill-fitting work that drags you down, the effect is like dropping into a jetstream.”
People often ask me how I manage to get so much done, and compared to my 9 – 5 job I am five times as productive.
At The Art House I do communications – publicity, training, coaching, making sure people are OK.
I do creative stuff like design. I do event planning and running, something I love.
I choose the art & craft we show and I talk to outside organisations about the work we do with them.
I teach drumming and run groups. I write and speak about The Art House and our mission.
These are all things I shine at. The other stuff gets done by other people who shine in those areas!
Disclaimer: none of these things are really, really bad, but I think it’s worth pointing out some of the stuff that takes a little getting used to when working for yourself.
You have no boss to praise you.
This sounds silly but, in a ‘normal’ job, you get feedback and praise when you work hard. When you work for yourself, this is less forthcoming. It took me a while to get used to this. In the end, I made sure that I stored up the compliments from my satisfied clients, and praised myself with them, as often as possible!
Nobody makes sure you do stuff.
Self-motivation is much easier when you do what you love, but there will always be tasks that you put off, and when you work for yourself there is nobody nagging you to do them. I’ve overcome this by learning a lot more about dealing with how to get the ‘yuk stuff’ done in a way that doesn’t feel yuk.
Procrastination coach Angela Van Son taught me some handy tricks like ‘eating the frog’ (getting the thing you really don’t want to do done FIRST) and ‘pomodoro technique’ (working in timed bursts of 25 minutes on just one thing).
Nobody makes you stop
I come from a long line of workaholics, and it can be hard for me to take a break, eat properly, sleep enough and generally look after myself.
With a boss, they are looking out for your productivity and wellbeing.
When you are the boss, you need to look out for your own.
Work in progress, for me!
There’s no guarantee that work will equal money.
This is the most challenging one for me, since I started selling products. I can work my a** off on a new eCourse or kit, and perhaps only a few people buy it. I can set up to run a live playshop and nobody books.
With regular employment, you know that if you work X hours you will get paid X much. On the flipside, I’m not limited to pay-per-hour and my income is, as a result, limitless.
Big expenses are not scary when you can do a big push, promotion or bring out a high priced new product to get the money you need. On balance, the lack of fixed income has more pros than cons for me.
Actually, this is a good point too!
When I had an office job, or when I worked in education, I had a fairly strict dress code.
Now, if you’ve watched my video tutorials you will note that I don’t really do perfectly groomed.
I am a relaxed hippy type who is happiest in baggy yoga pants, a tutu or a swishy skirts, with bare feet, unbrushed locks and no makeup.
I haven’t visited a hair salon since 2005 (though I do like the odd facial now and then, and have been known to blow over £100 in LUSH!).
When I do dress up, I hand my fashion choices over to my inner 11-year-old, which results in glitter, too much jewellery, layers of sarongs and pink sparkly flip-flops.
A top hat has been known to make a regular appearance, as have pointy ears, facepaint and fairy wings.
Getting to wear exactly what you like is an outward sign on the inner freedom that a self-determined life brings.
Are you self employed, or thinking about it? Please share in the comments below!