Don't Quit Your Day Job (Just Yet)
Self-discipline; (noun) an inherent ability possessed by all, but that I seem to have misplaced as I’ve managed to scroll three months worth of ‘Rate My Plate’ memes on Facebook this morning and I’m yet to tick off any items on my desperately-needed-done-yesterday-to-do list. Except breakfast - I never skip a breakfast. I’m fast approaching one year of self-employment, and I’m almost ashamed to admit that my productivity levels are at a groundbreaking low. *Almost ashamed*, but not quite. More often than not, any negative chatter around self-employment is financial. Money, money, money. The inconsistency, the inability to nail down 30-day payment terms and the inconvenience of not knowing where your next hot dinner is coming from. Very little mention, if any, is given to the shift that comes with moving from working for someone, to being your own boss and how difficult it can be. If I had stopped to consider it for even a moment, I may have realised that I may not have been cut out for the freelance life at all.
I used to believe that working for yourself was living the best life possible. Well, other than that of a Love Island alumni. Or a Kardashian sprog. Coffee shop mornings, the pick of the annual leave calendar, office attire that amounts to a hooded dressing gown and soft socks - what more could you wish for? Our generation has been sold the dream of the freelance life. Be your own boss. Hustle, grind, and have a glass of wine at 4pm on a Tuesday. But then, like most of adult life, the reality is far from what eighteen year old me was sold on. The freelancer lifestyle once held high on a pedestal didn’t quite measure up when I eventually dipped a toe in. Soft socks and coffee mornings are a reality, but then, so are taxes, the need for the self discipline of an ox and an unshakeable feeling that nothing you do will ever be enough.
It’s less ‘work by your own clock’ and more work around the clock for fear of repercussions of taking your foot of the pedal. There is no down-time, only time spent in decline. The real reality of working for yourself is that taking your foot off the pedal isn’t an option. Being a flake - by which I am the dictionary definition at the moment - just won’t float. In a normal job, if your feeling demotivated, or struggling with direction, you scrape by with the bare minimum for a afternoon (if your boss doesn’t kick your a**) and you come back with a stronger coffee and a better attitude in the morning. When you work for yourself, there is no one to kick you into gear. It’s not as simple as handcuffing yourself to your desk and declaring a sit in until you’ve managed to write 950 words because trust me, if it was, I’d have done it.
I often wonder if it comes down to expectations. By shouting to the world that you are now working for yourself, there is a self-imposed pressure to life up to a standard. When you feel like you aren’t meeting that standard, it’s easy to hide behind the facade of daily admin, and this is where I lost my own way. Whether it be because your in the depths of a creative rut, or just because your feeling demotivated. Maybe your just having an off day. Regardless of reason, it’s easy to avoid the real work - the stuff the pays - in favour of busy work. My busy work is pinning. Or planning. I’ve lost days to planning blog posts. I’ve lost hours to planning my planner for blog posts. I’ve lost even more hours planning my Pinterest boards to plan my planner for planning my blog posts. Hours, days, weeks, you name it, I’ve spent it doing planning the work instead of doing it, for fear of it falling short of my own expectation (Small silver lining, the colour-coded-obsessive deep inside me is deeply satisfied at how kick-ass my planner is). One of my favourite YouTube videos tackles the idea that procrastination is a resistance to tasks that have power, and the fear of not doing them well, and I rewatch frequently to remind myself that I’m not failing at freelance life because I’m incapable. I’m failing because I’m scared to fall short, so I’m just not doing. Which is a lot easier of a pill to swallow than the knowledge that I’m lazy AF if you ask me.
I didn’t throw myself into the deep depths of self-employment. More like dipped a toe. And yet it seems I tripped, fell halfway in and still managed to find myself drowning without a paddle. I didn’t quit my job and declare myself a full time blogger. I reduced my hours at work when my blog was making more than my full-time salary, leaving myself with enough of an income to cover my bills. I had clear direction, consistent work coming in, good contacts in place. I was set. I thought that by giving myself the time and space to really focus into making moves online, I could only gain traction, but I had never taken into account just how difficult I would find it to actually work for myself. This isn’t a post about failure, moreso, a quick commentary on the other side of working for yourself that isn’t always talked about.
Working for yourself is difficult. Not just making a living, but doing the work itself. There is little platform given to the self discipline and laser focus you need to be able to keep yourself moving forward (and not just through box-sets at an impressive pace) and I felt giving a nod to the other side. You can love the work as much as you like, but it can still be difficult to keep yourself ticking over when there isn’t a clear path laid bare in front of you. I’d like to say that having been able to have whack out 950 words on the subject means that I am now out of the woods, but truth be told, I’ve made it through six seasons of Are You The One? On MTV so I’ll let you be the judge of that...