Last week’s topic was pretty heavy, so I want to lighten things up this week. You’ve heard me start a lot of sentences with “one of my favorite things about working for myself is…” I often laugh at myself when I say it because I realize I have a lot of favorite things about self-employment. So for anyone thinking about starting a business, here are some perks that are waiting for you when you do. Or if you’re already in business for yourself, maybe this is another reminder why you’re doing what you do.
I’d love it if you’d share your favorite things about working for yourself, too! DM me on social @aardvarkgirl and join me in the “Self-Employed Creatives” club on Clubhouse. We chat on Wednesdays at 4pm Pacific time to discuss these topics in a fun, safe and collaborative space: https://www.joinclubhouse.com/club/self-employed-creati
These are in no particular order, because it’s impossible to say what I love more at any given time. I do my best to keep a healthy dose of gratitude on hand at all times, because I do know it’s a privilege to be doing this. But I worked hard to get here, and I work hard to stay here.
Maybe one of the most obvious perks of self-employment is the freedom. I am my own boss, which means I decide what I can do on a daily basis. I don’t have to concern myself with looking a certain way, dressing a certain way, or being around a bunch of people when I’d rather be alone. I choose which projects to take on, which means I am engaged in my work and never have to fake it. I don’t have to fill the day with meetings and menial tasks that don’t serve me. I get to focus on whatever I want to do in that moment.
To bring it back down to earth a bit, it doesn’t mean there’s no structure, but there is definitely way more flexibility than working for someone else. I still have clients and deadlines and have to prioritize those over things I want to do personally sometimes. And because I’m a one-person company, it means all the work falls on me unless I outsource it. So it’s not that I don’t have to do all that admin work and other little things, it just means I get to pick when to do it.
Owning My Time
Owning my time is another of my favorite things. I choose what hours I work, when I want to take breaks, and I have the ability to be spontaneous. I never liked asking permission to do the things I wanted to do. I’ve always been responsible with my time and work and always felt the corporate structure was too restrictive. I don’t know how many times I was stuck in an office with nothing to do because my work was done for the day but it wasn’t 5pm yet. I don’t like wasting time or filling it arbitrarily, and now I don’t have to do that. It’s not that I have more time in the day, I just have more control over how I spend it.
The earning potential is an amazing part of self-employment. It’s easy to think that being employed by another company offers the most job stability, and while I can see that argument, one I actually made for quite a while when I was still in that world, I now see the limitations of traditional employment. Sure, you might get a steady paycheck so you know you can rely on a certain amount each month. But most of the time you’re lucky if you get a standard cost of living raise once a year, any kind of significant salary increase over time, and any benefits at all. I do miss benefits like health insurance, paid time off and the 401k employer match. But my business income more than compensates for what I no longer have. Part of that freedom I have is the ability to go after any projects I want and reach for goals beyond the scope of what the company can handle. Because I am the company, I know I can handle it.
Offering A Variety of Services
I really enjoy being able to offer whatever services I feel like offering, and being able to change my mind about what those are. I’m not limited to a title or role. I love being available as a resource for random needs. Some of the emails I get from my clients just make me laugh. Hey, I need to figure out how to borrow a koala who can chew eucalyptus in the same rhythm as the song we’re using for this video. Can you help with that? Okay, that one isn’t real, but I do seem to be the person people reach out to when they need something done and aren’t sure who can do it. I love that. Even if it’s not in my wheelhouse, if I have the time, I’ll do my best to figure it out. I’m nothing if not resourceful and I’m usually up for those kinds of unique challenges.
Choosing My Projects and Clients
Choosing which projects to accept, and with whom I want to work, are more favorite things. When you work for another company, you have to work on whatever jobs, and with whatever clients, they want you to. Sometimes that means you have to spend time with those whose personalities don’t mesh with yours. You might have to work on a project with which you have no connection and don’t enjoy. If that happens when it’s your own company, you have the option of firing that client or turning down that project. That frees up room to work on things that are in better alignment with what you want to be doing.
Along those lines, I also love being able to create my own projects. Like this podcast. I don’t think I’d be able to find the time or energy to do this if I was also working a full-time job somewhere else. It’s time consuming, but I don’t mind because I love it. It’s really helped me connect with people on a different level than I’ve been able to do with things like social media or in-person networking. It suits me better. I also think about projects like the “Dream Out Loud” documentary I produced. There’s no way I could’ve taken 3 months off of a job to follow U2 around the world. There are so many things I’ve done in the last 6 years that I never would’ve been able to do if I was chained to a desk 40+ hours a week.
I remember back in 2005 when I was planning my first trip to Australia. My boss said he’d consider letting me have the 2 weeks off. He was a little confused, and I told him I wasn’t asking and that if he had an issue with it, he should consider that to be my notice. He didn’t have a problem with it. But that’s when I learned how much I love traveling and seeing other parts of the world. It was one of the reasons I finally decided to leave the corporate world, so I could work from anywhere as long as I had my laptop and an Internet connection. Since then I’ve worked from Ireland, Germany, England, Canada, and all over the US. Who knows where I’ll work next?
Controlling My Environment
Being tied to an office was never the right fit for me, but I didn’t realize it soon enough. When I think about it now, I don’t know why I didn’t see it. I love that I don’t have to use an alarm. I wake up when I wake up and I go to sleep when I’m tired, not when the clock says I have to because I have to get up in 8 hours. The quality of my sleep is way better, and my energy levels have definitely improved. I don’t lose 1-2 hours a day commuting and being stuck in traffic. I get to spend more time at home, which is a place I love to be. I get to control my environment, so I’m not freezing all day long, listening to all the sounds when I’m trying to focus, or smelling microwaved fish coming out of the communal kitchen. I don’t miss any of those things.
Choosing to be Social.
Working for myself gave me back the choice of being social. If you’re not an introvert, that might not make sense. Being around people, while it is often fun, drains my energy. So I’m better in small groups for short periods of time. When I worked in an office, I had to be “on” all the time because I had coworkers, clients, and vendors around all the time. By the time I got home during the week, or on weekends, I was drained. It was difficult to muster up the energy to go out and see friends. Now, I get to be home by myself all day while I’m working, and then I have plenty of energy to meet up with friends or the occasional client. I look forward to it. I’m much more social in my personal life now (or at least when there isn’t a pandemic) and enjoy my outings way more than I used to.
One thing I haven’t really thought about until I started working on this list, but is probably one of the most important things, is how much more respect I get on my own. I didn’t really feel this way too much at the time, but thinking back over all of my years working for other people, I probably should have. I don’t miss people assuming that I would answer the phone, or get coffee for the clients, even though I was in upper management, because I was the only girl in the office. I don’t miss doing extra work to help people who were getting paid for it but couldn’t do it themselves. I don’t miss people condescendingly trying to convince me that I didn’t actually want the things I wanted. I don’t miss people lying to me about what was going on behind the scenes while I naively supported them. And I don’t miss other people secretly doing their best to hold me back so they could keep moving forward. Since I’ve become my own boss, I haven’t had to deal with any of that. Instead, I have clients who value what I have to offer and don’t have any problem paying what I’m worth. It’s been an incredibly welcome change of pace.
The Feeling of Accomplishment.
The last favorite thing I’ll mention, is the feeling of accomplishment that comes with being in control. I feel like I’ve had to do everything in life on my own, and that’s not a complaint. It’s just how it’s been. I work hard because it’s who I am and have never expected anything in return from anyone. But it’s always nice to be noticed. I appreciate it when someone compliments me for doing a good job. When someone gives me credit for helping them succeed. When someone refers new clients to me because they know I’ll do right by them.
I had too many experiences in the corporate world where other people took credit for the work I did, and often the benefits that came as a result. It was another big motivation for me to go out on my own. I figured it was worth putting my self-confidence to the test. I’d either work hard and earn my own success, or I’d fall flat and realize maybe I wasn’t doing such a good job after all. If I’m being honest, I didn’t actually ever think the latter would happen. I suppose it was always somewhat of a possibility, but I was willing to take the risk. I had to at that point. It took me a long time to get here, but it was worth the wait. I learned what I needed to every step of the way, and know I know exactly what I want, and that’s what I’m going to keep doing.
I’m sure I’ve missed some good stuff, but those are some of my favorite things about being self-employed. If you are also self-employed, what are some of your favorite things about it? Or if you’re thinking about starting your business, what are you most looking forward to? Connect with me on social @aardvarkgirl and let me know! Until then, I’m going to go do one of my favorite things and stop working for the day simply because I feel like it.