After years working for other people, I started feeling trapped. Sure, it was nice to have the security of a regular paycheck and benefits, but I felt anxious to do more, to travel, to have different opportunities, and to have flexibility. I was sick of working excruciatingly long hours with very little reward – monetarily or otherwise. Further, while my job soaked up most of my time and emotional energy, I began to neglect other very important parts of my life. My blood was pumping, neurons firing and heart beating, but I wasn’t really living. My life on any given day was a fog. Entire days would pass where I wasn’t really sure what I had actually done, even though I was moving so fast.
Essentially, I wanted to control my workload so I had the time to live the life I wanted. I wanted to choose who I worked with. I also wanted the opportunity to work with other entrepreneurs and small business owners. Finally, I wanted the challenge of trusting myself. When you’re a solo practitioner, you don’t have a boss to rely on. When you don’t know the answer to a question, it is up to you to figure it out. The thought that I, and I alone, would responsible for my success (or failure) excited me.
There is no ‘typical work week’ for me, but in the mornings, I usually work from my home office (usually in my pajamas in bed) or I’ll go to a coffee shop. At the noon hour, I walk dogs with Le Pooch. Then in the afternoons I work on a project in a co-working space in the Short North. Because I like to save my evenings for relaxation, networking or social time, I inevitably have to do a little work each weekend. This is when I do most of my freelance writing, or when I write new business proposals and posts for my blog.
Sometimes I have the opportunity to take mornings off, or entire days. But it means juggling my schedule and working at times I wouldn’t otherwise – like late at night.
I’ve definitely strengthened my time management skills since starting on my own. When your head (and livelihood) is on the chopping block, it’s not an option to miss deadlines. Also – everyone talks about how networking is so important – but I’ve learned that’s an understatement. Staying connected with the community has been vital to my business.
It’s not fun paying quarterly taxes, navigating contracts, and being responsible for my own benefits. Nor is the constant financial uncertainty. But the good outweighs the bad. I love constantly meeting and working with new people, namely other small business owners. I love that I can take rest when I need it, while still getting work done in my own time. I love being nimble, being able to pivot on a dime, and make my clients happier for it. Further, I love the excitement and challenge that the difficulty brings. I feel like I am pushing myself harder than I would in a typical 9-to-5. These experiences are making me a better, smarter person, and for that I am grateful.
I rely on Twitter and Facebook to drive most of my website traffic. Further, I use Twitter as an avenue to curate content relevant to my peers and clients, but also to network with new people in my career field and in Columbus. Finally, LinkedIn serves as my online resume.
If you know that you eventually want to work for yourself, start saving money now and freelancing on the side. It will be a much smoother transition once you decide to go full-time. Also, nurture your networks. Go out to coffee with every and anyone you know in your field. Ask friends and peers for introductions to others with similar interests. The only reason I got clients at all is because I had meetings back-to-back for three weeks with every single person I knew.
Finally, reach out to other entrepreneurs. I have several friends that gave me recommendations on everything from business development to how to find a good small business tax accountant. Also, read books! I found My So Called Freelance Life: How To Survive and Thrive As a Creative Professional For Hire particularly helpful.