It’s crazy to think I’ve been doing this for eight years, but it’s true (longer if you count part-time!). I’ll avoid all the cliches about time flying (even though it did) or how it’s felt as if I’ve been doing it forever (it doesn’t – I had some awful and some magnificent jobs before I started doing this).
Instead, I’ll list what I’ve learned in those eight years because maybe that might help someone who’s considering taking the leap into working for themselves. In all honesty, the best advice is not always “just do it” because this isn’t right for a lot of people.
What have I learned from eight years in business?
- Working for yourself is lonely. This sounds sad, and it is some days, but it’s right for me. There are some days when I miss having co-workers, and there are many days I miss being able to delegate work or collaborate on something fun and creative, but overall I’d rather work alone than be forced to navigate those workplace tangles that really put a damper on everything. I’m a bit of a control freak and that helps when you’re self-employed. Of course, in the future I might need to let go of a few things and hire someone to help, but I’ll be in control of who that will be, so it’s the best of both worlds.
- It takes awhile to really get going. Sometimes I’m still not sure I’m really going. Self-employment can be roller coastery, even during the best times, and that’s a tough pill to swallow. I’ve managed to hobble through the toughest times, and they are getting further and further apart, but this isn’t the case for many business owners. The advantage of this type of work is that there isn’t much overhead and I could always take on part-time work if I needed to (thankfully it hasn’t come to that, though I continue to fantasize about being a bartender).
- Working for yourself requires creativity even when you aren’t working in a creative industry. On most days my actual writing isn’t that creative (at least in my opinion). It’s dry and fact-based – something most people who know me personally don’t even realize. Despite the less-than-creative product, I still need to be creative about marketing, budgeting, time management, and a variety of other things. Essentially, it is what you make of it: if you’re looking to fulfill an emotional need not met by what you’re doing to make ends meet, as someone who is self-employed it’s possible to create your opportunities, and not only is it possible it’s necessary to have a successful business.
- Working for yourself requires you give up things that are important – paid time off – and things you like – a viable excuse for buying expensive shoes. Not that anyone needs an excuse. It’s just a more sensible purchase when your shoes leave the house for eight hours a day.
- Self-employment allows you to enjoy important things you might’ve missed out on otherwise. There is a great deal of flexibility when working for yourself, even though you’re often working a lot more than people with traditional employers. Over the course of eight years a lot has happened and in every case I’ve been able to juggle work and whatever was going on, good or bad. Even the most flexible employer can’t let you do what you want when you want, and you certainly can’t do it without the ire of co-workers. Working for myself has made it so I’ve never felt like I wasn’t where I needed to be at any given time, which is important to me because it’s one of the primary reasons I stopped working in baseball.
- It’s really a challenge to stay healthy when you’re working from home. I have the flexibility to go to the gym, but I don’t always have the motivation to make it so. And having the kitchen a few feet away with no supervision makes it easy to be dietarily undisciplined. Let’s just say there’s been good days and bad days.
- There are great clients and there are less than great clients. I’m happy to be at a point where I know which is which and can choose to work with those who respect and appreciate me.
- I have a lot of people to thank for being able to do this. My family (which includes friends close enough to be considered family) has been incredibly supportive of this and it hasn’t always been easy for them. This wouldn’t have been successful without them, nor could I have done this without the companions I’ve had at my side during these eight years – first Anais and Henri, and now Findlay.
If you are looking for a single piece of advice for how to succeed at something like owning a writing business, I have two:
First, surround yourself with supportive people – family, friends, other business owners, clients, etc. I could share a few tips for how to deal with those who aren’t supportive, too, but I’m trying to keep it positive). And two, adopt a pet. My furry assistants have kept me sane over the years, or at least given me a distraction when I’ve felt not-so-sane. Likely more of the latter than the former.
Happy 8th anniversary to KBJ Writing and be sure to check things out over on Instagram where there’s an Amazon gift card giveaway and a few other fun things.