Just for kicks, every now and then I’ve tried to rock an office job, but it’s just not for me. Regular schedules and strict hours aren’t my cup of tea. The very idea of having to report to someone or ask for a day off has been enough to keep me away from being on anyone’s payroll. So, for nearly four decades now, I’ve been my own boss.
Many people say they would love to leave their job and launch their own business or freelance. Some end up giving it a try, others don’t. Of those who try to go it solo, many seem surprised at what it really takes to build and maintain the self-employed or freelance status.
In the same way that working for a corporation or having a 9-5 job is not for everyone, freelancing or being an entrepreneur may not be for you.
It takes crazy dedication, an independent character and a dose of wackiness, all of which I happen to have. Perhaps that´s why I prefer the uncertainty of unlimited possibility on a daily basis over the doubtful certainty of a limited paycheck.
If you are toying with the idea of being a freelancer or micro-entrepreneur (which is what I have experience with), here is what I´ve learned that you need to deal with in order to make it in the long run.
Also read: My tips after 4 decades of freelancing
1.- It helps to really hate the idea of having a job.- A visceral dislike for offices, jobs, cubicles, is what´s kept me afloat. I’m able to make a living with my skills: translating, interpreting, writing, communicating … all while working from home, a café, a park bench, or the library. If you feel you have no other option than to work for yourself, you will find ways to make it happen. Trust me, when the going gets tough, if you have no plan B, you will get creative in making a living based on your skills.
2.- You must be ok with uncertainty.- People who are used to the perceived security of a monthly paycheck are often shocked when, after a while of going it solo, clients are late in paying or they have a dry month. They ask me how I deal with the anguish! While I won´t say it´s a wonderful feeling when your cash flow slows to a trickle, in the big scheme of things, I can live with this roller-coaster. In fact, I prefer it. Because along with the ebb and flow of work and money, comes the excitement of getting a new gig or wrapping up a project.
3.- You need to be results-oriented.- You can´t be caught up on how many hours you work a day or even a week. I can often do in four hours on my own what someone else may accomplish in eight hours at an office. It´s all about progress and completion. When I have to turn in a manuscript for one of my books, the publisher doesn´t necessarily care how long it took me to do that. They just need me to meet the deadline and turn in a decent book. The sooner I get it done, the faster I will be paid.
4.- You gotta dig working in solitude.- When I´m working, I´m working. I dislike interruptions, phone calls, chit-chat … So I´m a happy camper working by myself. I don´t mind having people around me, but I am way more productive when I´m alone. Since I work from home, I often isolate myself by listening to music. My husband also works from home and wears headphones when he´s writing. Recently, for the first time ever, I worked at a coworking space. While I enjoyed the experience, I don´t see myself doing it on a daily basis. It would feel too much like I´m actually going to a job. I love to switch it up and change places. But yes, even if you work alongside others at a public place, you do need to enjoy the mental and emotional solitude.
5.- You have to be proactive.- You need to always be one step ahead to ensure that you have a gig lined up before your current one is over. This could mean a variety of things, from reaching out to prospective clients, past editors, if you´re a writer, or posting your work on social media if you´re a communicator. It could mean that you hire a business manager, as I´ve done (best decision ever!). When you have a job, you just have to do your work, and not worry about whether there will be more for you to do when your current to-do list is finished.
6.- You must adapt and course-correct.- As a lifetime freelancer and micro-entrepreneur, I know that no gig, no client, is forever. There is usually a beginning, middle and end to every project. Unless you embrace this, you are in for an unpleasant experience. You just can´t be bitter or disappointed when a business relationship ends. Gigs and clients come and go. When it´s over, you need to wrap it up and go on to the next one.
7.- You need to be in it for the long haul.- If you decide to work for yourself, know that the only way to really make it (be profitable) is to stick it out. You need to be so into this lifestyle that nothing will deter you. Not the dry spells, the bad economy, the changing market, the naysayers or your own self-doubt. There will be tough moments, sleepless nights, restless days, anguishing moments. There will never be a day when all of your problems are over, when you can rest in your laurels. If you are a true freelancer or entrepreneur, you will always seek a different challenge.
Those who say that freelancing and entrepreneurship is not as cool as it seems from the outside are absolutely right. It isn´t easy. But me … I wouldn´t have it any other way.