A few weeks ago, that would have meant a lot more to me than it does today. (Spoiler alert: one of the things on this list is that the days of the week don’t matter that much anymore.) But Friday means that I’ve officially had two weeks as a full-time member of the No-Pants Club (I am in fact not wearing pants right now) trying to turn writing into a full-time career.
In the two weeks that I’ve been working from home, I’ve discovered that, for all I had hopes and dreams my life would be radically different and I would be free – free! – from all the stresses and challenges of modern-day living, instead, things are very much the same as they always were. I still struggle to balance my workload. I still have a tough time getting up in the morning. I still have a hard time forcing myself to work out. Just because I don’t have to do these things on anyone else’s schedule, doesn’t mean I don’t still have to do them. But in two weeks, I’ve already figured out some tactics for preventing inefficiency and allowing myself to sleep at night. So, without further ado, here are ten things I’ve learned in two weeks of self-employment:
10. Life is still stressful.
In fact, it’s arguably more stressful. The difference is that it’s internal rather than external. Now that I am the sole deciding factor in whether or not I can pay my bills, there’s a lot more pressure to succeed. When you’re working for someone else, the money is steady. That paycheck shows up regularly, and it may not be much, or as much as you’d like, but it’s there. And it’s consistent. Now, that consistency is gone, and I alone am responsible for determining whether or not I’ll be able to pay rent next month. Sound stressful? Yeah. It is.
9. The days of the week cease to matter.
Drinks on Tuesday? Four-hour writing session on Saturday? Brunch on Monday morning? It all sounds great to me. When you’re self-employed, it doesn’t matter what day or what time of the day you get your work and your fun in – it only matters that you get your work done, and that you block out times to relax and de-stress just as you would at a normal job.
8. “Decision anxiety” is real.
A few times over the last two weeks I’ve wasted as much as a few hours inefficiently flipping between several different projects I wanted to work on and for some reason couldn’t pick one to focus on. When you’re self-employed, you have to be diligent in blocking out periods of time to work on certain tasks. Otherwise, as I’ve learned, you’ll waste loads of time toggling back and forth between Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram because you want to work on everything at once and can’t decide where to start.
7. Setting small but important goals is critical.
If you don’t set goals, you don’t have anything to keep you on target, and you won’t have a history of what you’ve done to get where you are now. By setting and tracking goals – for me, these go under different categories of writing, blogging, marketing, and social media – I can account for what I did each day, and what works and what doesn’t. Also, when you set goals, and cross them off your list, you add to your sense of productivity at the end of the day, and feel better about closing your laptop when it’s time to relax.
6. Time management is still hard!
I thought when I quit my job, I’d have all the time in the world to do whatever the fuck I wanted. I’m not going to lie, I kind of thought that by now I would have watched at least four movies, written several chapters of my book, gotten back into playing the piano, and gotten into the habit of doing at least a small workout every single day. And those weren’t even my stretch goals.
Spoiler alert: Nope.
I’ve definitely been better about working out than I used to be, but only marginally. I’ve watched a few movies, and some TV, but nothing on the order of what I expected given all my free time. I’ve definitely gotten a lot of work done, but not as much as I expected. And I haven’t even touched my keyboard. Guys, let me tell you: time management is always a challenge, whether you’re self-employed, unemployed, or working sixty hours a week.
5. Being self-employed as an author means you have to take the business side seriously.
I knew this already – I’ve always been passionate about the marketing and publicity side of my author career – but I hadn’t thought about it from the perspective of taxes, accounting, and budgeting. In order to be successful and pay yourself adequately, you have to take a holistic view of your career. This means focusing not just on the artistic side of writing but on the financial as well.
4. It is no easier to get yourself out of bed in the morning when you’re self-employed than when you’re working.
At least not if you’re me. God, I hate getting out of bed in the morning. If I ever get married, it had better be to someone who doesn’t mind dragging my ass out of bed at 10am every day and making me coffee to ease the grouch.
3. It’s not paradise…
Working for yourself still means you have to work. If anything, it means you have to work harder. Everyone knows that being an entrepreneur or a self-starting business requires loads of effort. But despite that, the idyllic image persists (perpetuated by yours truly with my “no-pants club” mantra) of the self-employed businessperson working in their PJs and lounging on the couch every day. And, let’s be honest, some of that is true. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t working. You are. And, as I said above, if anything, you’re probably working harder than you were before, because now there’s so much more riding on you.
2. …but it sure beats working for someone else.
This is my personal opinion. As a fiercely independent person who intensely dislikes working under or for other people, the freedom that comes from being self-employed is so incredibly liberating it’s almost hard to describe. I despise being told what to do – it’s almost like a part of me never grew out of my petulant teenager phase. (Probably true.) Now that I’m the only person telling me what to do, I finally feel 100% committed to the business in front of me.
1. I love writing.
Really. I do. I am finally starting to work on Porous again, and taking it out of the outlining stage and into the editing-and-writing stage is delightful. It feels heavenly. It feels like it was meant to be. It feels like home.
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Nicely done. And quite true. I have been working for myself for three years as a writer.
Congratulations! That’s very exciting. Good on you!
I struggle with the admin side of things. In my utopia, I’d be free to write and/or take photos and then hand them to someone who loves doing admin who would submit them and deal with the business side.
But, as you say, you can’t half-arse these things. They need to be done.
Definitely. Running a business yourself is no joke – even if the business is just managing yourself. And you have to have someone who is passionate about your work managing your work – and it usually turns out that the best person for that job is you.