Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Living the Dream: Three Self-Employment Surprises

Three Self-Employment Surprises

It’s time for an update on the under-discussed arm of our NVR life. Work.
Working and Traveling
Through all of the travel and other life goals, we’re busy maximizing companies and people. I don’t know that our work has ever not been stacked up over the last five years. We’re always pretty busy. Currently, though, that has never been truer; we’re in the middle of our busiest quarter ever.
Which got us thinking about why we do it, which got me thinking about a call I had the other day, which got me thinking about writing this post.
Bottom line. I was on a call with a client. She had recently gone from self-employed to working for our client-company because being on her own was not what she expected. “I was envisioning all of this freedom,” she said. “I didn’t feel free at all.”
Cue the part that got me thinking about this post.
What she said is exactly what we hear from people who get in touch requesting tips for how to best strike out on their own. People crave freedom, time and a whole bunch of other things that spark the yearning for self-employment. Along the way, they wouldn’t mind losing a crappy commute and an even worse boss.
We were the same way.
Here are three (of the many!) things that we wish people would have told us before striking out on our own. We still would have done it, but someone – anyone – could have said… something. Here are those things and how we deal.
1. It takes skills you may not want to use.
Someone we partner with on random projects, Brian, works for himself doing project management. He’s always telling us – and did so again just yesterday – that he hates the fact: that he has to market his business, that he has to deal with scheduling, that he has to keep records, that he has to bill clients, that he has to be the help line. You get the idea – all those things that other people take care of in a corporate environment. Sure, you can hire out for help on anything, but we’re talking about people (like us) who want to keep things small and contained.
This. Stuff. Can. Ruin. You.
Can you hack being the complaint line? How are you with confrontation? What’s your take on being interrupted? Okay, what’s your take on being interrupted five times more than you just imagined?
We’re lucky to be a couple that works very well together. Moreover, our workplace strengths could not be more complementary. Again, the “core” work we do revolves around helping businesses and people to maximize. But, between us, we’ve also got mad skillz in a broad range of business functions that enhance the core work we do – marketing, sales, service, etc.
2. It’s your thing, or it isn’t.
Something interesting we’ve learned over years spent bonding with other freelance / contract peeps. Being self-employed is either in your blood, or it’s not. I know that may sound either overly simplified or sorta hardcore, but it’s true.
This relates, tangentially, to #1 but is different and deserves it’s own number.
Take our friend, Brian, above. He’s innately wired to be doing freelance / contract work, but he hates the tasks that come along with it. Here, in #2, we’re talking about people who aren’t wired for it. Some questions for exploration:
– Do you manage your time well?
– Are you an “ideas” person?
– Do you work well alone?
– Are you a self-starter?
We were both excellent employees – well, most of the time – but also had our fair share of dust-ups for too-often thinking outside of the box. One time, a manager told me she was officially “squelching” my ambition. In writing.
Doing it for yourself only work if it aligns with the natural strengths and talents that reside at your core. Need help figuring out what that core is? We can help! Well, not right now. One of these days – when things slow down for a hot minute – we’re bringing some of our services here to No Vacation Required. Watch for MAX LaB – it’s gonna be good.
3. Life Balance? What life balance?
People who succeed, long term, doing their own thing are most often the people who make money by doing exactly what they’re meant to be doing. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, there’s a little problem.
It can consume you.
The good news is that, with mindfulness, you can manage the overwhelming desire to work every chance you get. After all, if #1 and #2 aren’t a problem, what’s going to stop you?
We weave in and out of work (mostly) successfully. When we’re on the road – about half the year – we deliberately scale things back a bit so that we can gravitate towards other dimensions of our NVR equation. When we’re at our home base in Seattle, we can tend to lean into work projects quite a bit more. As a matter of fact, right now we have a crazy life experiment planned for the coming weeks. It’ll diminish our availability for work, so we’re putting in extra time right now.
If you’re “on purpose” in life – doing exactly what you should be doing – balance becomes a bit of a ridiculous word. However, we believe in cherishing the sustainability of things that we love. Given that, we’re careful to zigzag around the different things we enjoy. For instance, I took a break from work to write this. Granted, it’s late… on Sunday. But, hey, I took a break.
What’s your take? Is self-employment for you?