4 (Very Hard) Things About Being Your Own Boss
I was born in 1988 and raised in the model and the rhythm of the Industrial Age. Society expected me to work 8 hours a day, to sleep in another 8 hours and to have a social life in the 8 hours left. In one year, eleven months would be dedicated to work and one month would be dedicated to enjoying some guilty-free idleness. Back then, our professional and personal lives were clearly separated and limits were easy to identify. We had to go to work, because work wouldn’t come to us. However, today, things have changed.
I, as so many others of my generation, have chosen to say “no, thanks” to a comfortable 9 to 5 and opted for a flexible, more collaborative and ultimately more creative way of work. After starting my career in a big tech company and working almost 10 years in advertising agencies , I decided to join the Gig Economy.
As an independent consultant I got to work with great clients, meet a lot of talented people and learn faster than in a traditional job. I also had to expand my skill set and start doing stuff I considered *boring*. As a freelancer you will be running every aspect of the business, from creating your service, to defining and finding your target to handling the finances and promoting your work on social media. I guess being a one-person company is like being an octopus. An octopus dealing with anxiety and battling the impostor syndrome while watching TED Talks on a Sunday night.
People like to talk about the advantages of hustling and being your own boss, but few are open about how difficult it can be. Being self-employed is far from sending emails at the beach, in the south of Thailand, while some cute german guy, who looks like Alexander Fehling, talks to you about how he’s crossing Southeast Asia on a bike, carrying all his belongings in a single 20 kg bag, with the mission of searching for his life’s purpose.
Anyway, being an entrepreneur is great, but requires resilience and commitment. It is not for everyone. That’s why our generation needs more honest discussions about the challenges of choosing this path. This is what this text is about.
Focusing and getting things done
To me, one of the “secrets” to success is as much about planning, as it is about letting go of a the plan if needed in order to get things done quickly. Although part of my job is to help other entrepreneurs and company leaders do this for their own companies, doing the same for myself is not a piece of buttery croissant. I try to use the GTD method (great book by the way) and to update my Action List in every 2 days, but I confess that sometimes I feel lost, not sure whether I’m on the right path. Every time I feel like that I stop, review my goals and adapt my priorities. I also keep all of my events in Google Calendar and answer all of my important emails in less than 24 hours. Still, keeping productivity high and balancing how kind or hard I should be with myself is… complex.
Not isolating myself
When you are self-employed you can work from home, from a co-working space or pretty much anywhere with internet. But that doesn’t mean you will be working directly with other people. It is normal to feel lonely and isolated. As a response to that I’ve carefully chosen a shared office where I got to work with other freelancers with complementary skills to my own. We exchange about our work, share references, inspirations and give each other a hand every now and then. I also participate in online meetings, one of them held by Torus. We’re a community of people, from different countries, who gather to discuss burning topics related to the spirit of our time.
Networking is also another thing that keeps me away from feeling isolated. Every week I push myself to go to happy hours, to have coffee with potential partners, to attend workshops and so on. It’s important to enjoy the benefit of movement the freelance lifestyle gives you and to see the world beyond the “office”.
Dealing with inconsistent work and cash flow
Before throwing myself into the adventure of starting my own business, I’ve saved some money for an emergency fund. This money allows me to sleep at night and to avoid desperately taking on any client just because I need to eat or pay rent. The second thing I did was to establish a system for tracking my company’s expenses and incomes.
A simple Excel sheet where I update my budget monthly. The more complex your business is, the more decisive having an accounting partner can be for your success. We don’t need to do everything well, but we do need to understand our company numbers. It’s important to have goals and know if we are far or close from reaching them.
Keeping unhealthy anxiety away
We live in a time where anxiety is a shared cultural experience. The internet is filled with stories of success, but we don’t get to see behind the curtain. We only see the “mise en scène”. Although some entrepreneurs are open about their struggles and failures, the majority of them aren’t. I try to be very selective with the accounts I follow on Instagram, however, I often get the feeling that other people are doping everything and that I’m slow as a sloth. I constantly have to remind myself to focus on my own journey and to follow my own instincts in the pursuit of my dreams, in my own way. It’s hard. Social media can be a portal for inspiration and a dungeon for discouragement. It’s up to each one of us to find the right balance and to surround ourselves with content that encourages us to actually do stuff, take action.
I’m happy to keep the discussion below here and/or on Instagram and I wish you all get there, wherever “there” means for you. ✌️