In the generation before mine, it was common to work a job for a long time before realizing your calling may be outside of the corporate world. My dad, for example, worked in banking nearly 20 years before taking time to try his hand at running his own business. These days, millennial college graduates leave college dreaming of the day where they can work for themselves.
Coming out of college with that mindset (if you are driven to be your own boss someday) isn’t a bad thing at all and it will set you up on a road to making that dream a reality. However, in the last year of being my own boss, there are a handful of things I’ve had to learn the hard way. Things no one told me before I became self-employed.
Can you relate to these 5 things no one tells you before you go self-employed?
I remember just a short eighteen months ago when I used to sit in my corporate office and wonder how long I’d be stuck there. I counted down the theoretical weeks or months I had left until I could be my own boss and do my own thing. I can honestly say there hasn’t been a single day that has passed where I have wished that I was back in the corporate world but there are definitely some things I’ve learned that no one seems to talk about when it comes to self-employment.
The Work Days Never End
When you begin a career on your own, it’s easy to work literally all the time. If you’re in blogging, social media or marketing, it’s easy to spend time working even when you don’t mean to, as you sift through social media interacting with potential customers during your “lunch break.” In the beginning days of opening your own business, it’s really easy to justify working 60+ hours, using quotes like “when you love what you do it’s not really work.” Trust me, I’m the pot calling the kettle black here, as I’m still guilty of this.
I wish someone had warned me a little more about how easy it is to fall into the trap of working all of the time. Creativity, whether you’re an independent CPA or a lifestyle blogger, needs room to breathe. We can’t stuff our 24 hour day with 26+ hours of work and hope to thrive under that kind of schedule. Setting boundaries is difficult when you’re your own boss, but putting systems in place can really make a huge difference in creating a successful work week.
Working By Yourself Can Get Lonely
I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve had conversations with my dog while working. When you’re at home all the time working, it can get very lonely and isolating. Hence talking to the dog.
One thing I did love about being in a corporate setting was the daily interaction with people. Whether it was coordinating on projects or just having lunch together, it was always nice having that interaction.
When you’re self-employed, you have to be really intentional about getting out of the house for dedicated work hours so that you aren’t always working by yourself, alone in your house. There are some awesome coworking spaces across the country that are the perfect solution for this, or you can even virtually cowork with someone to keep you company!
Setting Your Prices is REALLY Hard
When I was working a full time job, I had a desire to make an income from my side business but I didn’t need to. I had a healthy salary that we were comfortable living off of so if I wanted to cut my prices, I could without really worrying about it. After 18 months, I’m just now making a little over half of what I made while I was working full time. I’ve been in the limbo of wanting to raise my prices to be able to actually make a living but being afraid to lose potential clients. It’s a really hard spot to be in. When you actually need your income to live off of, it’s easy to justify lowering your prices to book more clients. This is, of course, a vicious circle because then you’re stuck being in a pattern of overworking (see point #1).
You Can’t Do It All
When you’re not rolling in profit, it’s hard to justify outsourcing certain parts of your business. What I’ve realized though is that if I don’t outsource some of the tasks that don’t need my personal touch (design work, content creation, etc.) then I’m constantly overwhelmed with a to do list that doesn’t need to be overwhelming. I have a blog post coming soon to help give you some ideas of tasks you can easily outsource, but if you’re self-employed and struggling to keep up with your to do list, I highly recommend evaluating what aspects of your business may not need to be done by you.
Your Friends and Family Might Not Understand Your Work (or Might Not Think You Work at all)
This is a double edged sword for me specifically, being a new mom. Because I didn’t have a traditional maternity leave from corporate America, often times I think people just assume I don’t work. When they find out that I work from home running my own business I usually get the response “Oh that must be so nice to have time with your son!” Yes, it totally is and it’s a huge blessing. But what they don’t see is me working on blog posts, client designs and self-employment taxes until 1 AM (then feeding the baby at 1:30 AM).
If your friends and family haven’t been self-employed, there’s a chance they just won’t get it. They won’t get that there are no paid vacations, no real time off, no benefits, etc. They won’t get the daily ins and outs of your business, like why you’re “always on Facebook” or interacting with customers on Instagram. They may not understand why you can’t take the afternoon off to go out to lunch and go to a movie.
It’s okay if they don’t get it. Keep hustling and they’ll eventually catch on.
What is something you wish you had known about being self-employed?
Are you a blogger? Maybe you can relate to these Five Lessons I’ve Learned Blogging Full Time.