Being self employed for the first time in my life is like running up and down the stairs 50 times a day. I loose my breath, catch my breath and loose it again. Some times it feels like I am flying, other times I drag my feet after myself. Suddenly it´s clear how much I put my own worth in the hands of other people´s recognition.
“So what are you doing now?”
“I´m self employed.”
“Oh really? Well, I guess it is a good way to kill time in between jobs, huh?”
“Uhm…no, being self employed is actually my job, I don´t want a fix employment right now.”
This conversation I´ve had a couple of times with different people since I decided to take the step and become a freelancer. I try not to feel uneasy by the question, not to read anything more in to it than what it is: a normal question. But the truth is that it is hard for me not to take things personal at the moment. I am building up my business but at the same time I am also working hard with my own self worth. It´s like this little man on my shoulder, also known as Jante (all you non Scandinavians – look up Law of Jante on Wikipedia), now shouts louder than ever before: ”Who do you think you are!? What makes you believe you can pull this off!?”.
It´s 11 am on a Tuesday and I have been staring into an empty inbox all morning. Wishing that someone would just throw something at me to work on. Any bullshit work would do, just to take my mind of the fact that everything is in my hands. I have to plan out my next step, I have to contact people and I have to convince them that I am the woman for the job.
This is a typical example of a day where self employment becomes a burdon. A day where self doubt and uninspiring thoughts are conquering my positive thinking strategy. All days are not like this. Far from. Some days I am flying up the stairs to an interesting meeting that might lead to a great collaboration. These are the days where I suddenly meet the right people in the right moment or where I overcome myself and make that phone call that lead into a new freelance job. I actually managed to sell in my first freelance article to one of the biggest newspapers in Sweden last week. I was high for a day, and then I realized that I had to move on. Approach more people that might want to pay me for my time and efforts. I really have to get better at celebrating my victories.
I could plan my launch forever and never start
I always dreamt of being self employed. “Someday I will start my own business and create it exactly how I want it” I was thinking. I had many different ideas during the years but somehow I wasn´t ready to take the step. I didn´t have the confidence. But it wasn´t before I stopped trying and just focused on going all in where I was standing that I really started to move myself towards my goal. I focused on getting really good at my job. And my confidence started to grow. Until one day I realized that I was ready to take the next step.
It´s not like I suddenly knew what to do or that I got the best business idea ever. I also didn´t have any customers from start. The only thing I had was a clean slate and a belief that somehow I could earn money for myself.
So this is how I ended up here: with a company that is brand new, with just a few customers so far, with some savings to start my journey but yet no fixed goal or plan. My best plan is to try things out and to grow my business as I move forward.
If I make it sound easy don´t get fooled. It was bloody hard to get where I am today. And I´ve just started out. I like the thought of being just slightly irresponsible and follow my gut feeling but most of my life I´ve taken well founded decisions and I always did things in the right order. I am a perfectionist and an analyst. I can work with something forever and still end up not being satisfied. I can think of something from all angles and still miss out on the most important thing – the right feeling. I realize my own mechanisms, and part of this journey has been about letting loose and skipping some of my controlling behaviors. Less planning – more intuition.
I truly believe that if I would wait until everything was perfect, all set up and planned out before I started – I would most probably never have taken the jump. Because things will never get perfect. There will always be reasons to postpone decisions.
Four no´s and not a single yes
One of the hardest parts about quitting my job, where I knew my place, my competence and my worth, was that suddenly I was all on my own. Today nobody provides me with my daily chores, encourage me when I have a shitty day or give me high five when I´ve done something great. And I just have to learn how to deal with that. I remember when I was sitting at work sighing about having 50 unread messages in my inbox to go through in the morning. It was a constant race against time. Today I would gratefully take on some of those e-mails – even the one´s that were not very positive. The ones that made me lie awake at night sometimes worrying about how I should solve this problem.
Today I´m the one that is sending out great ideas (at least that´s what I think) to stressed editors or business leaders that have to go through their 100 emails. And I feel neglected when I haven´t heard from them in a week. It´s funny how perspectives change.
One thing that I am trying to teach myself is that when I don´t get outer confirmation I have to learn to be satisfied with myself anyway. Even if I get four no´s and not a single yes during a day or nobody answers my sales e-mails that I´ve worked so hard on, I am still ok. And statistically it´s a fact that every no is leading me closer to a yes. When this yes finally shows up it is the greatest victory of them all. Because it´s my yes and my achievement.
What does a real job look like?
Another thing that I have a hard time dealing with is the ”not having anywhere to be”- feeling. Some days I just feel like a fraud leaving my kids at daycare and school and going home to my computer. Not to mention going out for a run during lunch hour. Now, this I did all the time when I was employed without ever thinking twice about it. Just like I could sit half an hour and drink coffee with my colleagues, yet when I use one of my breaks to vacuum clean the house today the annoying ”I´m-not-really-working” guilt is coming over me immediately.
Why is it like that? Why do I automatically feel that a fixed and solid 8-5 job is the right thing and working from home for myself is not really a job?
Now, with a little support from my husband and other self employed friends I work hard to wash off my stigmatized image of what a true work life should look like. Yet, I still feel instantly better on a day when I get up early, put proper clothes and make up on and go out to an early morning meeting. Suddenly I feel part of a community again. It´s funny, no matter how individual we try to be it´s in our nature to want to belong somewhere. To look like others, behave like others – blend in.
Tomorrow I think I will leave my kids at daycare and school in my sweat pants and morning hair. Challenge the norm – right?