For as long as I can remember, I wanted to work for myself. But, like most graduates, I ended up working for someone else after I left university. I worked in a betting shop for 11 months, not the sort of job you’d associate with a graduate with the world at his feet.
It was during this time that the idea of working for myself become more of an obsession. After a few years of living and working in Australia and New Zealand, I decided to move to Barcelona to teach English and set up a travel blog. The goal was to go full-time with the blog eventually but, deep down, I didn’t think it was possible.
I figured it was a pipe dream at best. And yet, three years later, after working in a boring office job, I quit and was able to work full-time on the blog.
It was a dream come true, and something I thought might never happen. I remember the smile on my face as I walked out of that office for the final time. It was an incredible feeling.
Since that day, I’ve learned a lot about the pluses and downsides of working for yourself. The freedom is great, but it comes with its own demands. No one is going to do the work for you, and I do miss the atmosphere of working in a team. It’s not for everyone, and it’s not necessarily the best job you’ll ever have.
Here are a few of the things I’ve learned on my journey so far.
Working for yourself isn’t for everyone
I feel like this is the most important point to make. Despite the abundance of posts stating that blogging and working for yourself is the best thing since sliced bread, it depends on the person.
Some people just prefer working for a company or someone else. And you know what, there’s nothing wrong with this. A point that’s often missed in these articles is that if everyone suddenly started working for themselves, society would struggle to function.
We need people to collect our garbage. We need people to work in supermarkets and shops. As we’ve seen during the Coronavirus pandemic, these people play a key role in society.
I’ve worked a lot of jobs, some of them good, some of them bad. Sure, I’ve always wanted to work for myself, but I enjoyed many of these jobs. It was rewarding, invigorating, and fun. Not everyone has the same dream, and that’s a point that’s often neglected.
One of my friends set up a blog recently. He’s used to working for himself in various other fields. Despite his blog going from strength to strength, he hates blogging. Writing articles just isn’t his thing.
If you want to work for yourself, go for it. Give it a try. But don’t worry if it doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would. It may appear that working for yourself is something that everyone should aspire to, but it’s just not true.
Everyone’s different; there are many great jobs out there where you can work for some fantastic employers. I enjoy working for myself, but I know it’s not without its flaws.
Discipline is key
When you work for yourself, the first thing you learn is that no one else will pick up the slack. You have to do the work; otherwise, you’ll be looking for another job very quickly.
It’s essential to be disciplined. The word discipline is often misunderstood. Its connotations are often associated with punishment, but in this regard, it refers to freedom.
Being disciplined provides you with freedom. If you wake up early and work for a good four hours in the morning, you can often spend the rest of the day as you wish.
It’s tempting to think you need to work eight hours a day, but you can get a lot done in half the time if you’re disciplined. This, of course, depends on what job you’re doing.
My Dad is a self-employed builder, so working for four hours every day isn’t practical. But, after working with him on and off over the years, I’ve learned that showing up and being disciplined with your time is essential to being successful.
If you can’t manage your time, it will hold you hostage.
Things can change in an instant
There’s no such thing as a stable job. The days of graduating and walking into a job for life are gone. Only a small minority of people will work for one company during their lives in the future.
If so-called ‘stable’ jobs are no longer stable, what does that mean if you’re self-employed? Well, it means that whatever line of work you’re in, you’re one crisis away from going out of business.
My travel blog is what allowed me to become self-employed, in addition to what I earnt here on Medium. When the Coronavirus pandemic picked up pace in March, traffic to my blog almost ground to a halt.
Beforehand, I was regularly getting 1,500 page views a day, sometimes more. In the depths of March and April, I was lucky if I was getting over 100!
Lockdown meant travel was off the agenda, and thus people stopped researching for their holidays. There was no way I could have known this would happen at the start of the year. Although traffic to my blog has increased in recent weeks, it’s not what it was.
In an unstable world, things can change quickly. Being self-employed, you’re more vulnerable than others, as your whole business can collapse, and not every country offers safety nets to self-employed workers.
Shocks are a part of life. That’s why you must prepare for the worst, set up an emergency fund, and diversify your income. This way, you can move with the tide instead of being battered by the waves.
You don’t need to always be hustling
One of the misconceptions about blogging, in particular, is that you always need to be working. It’s not true. Most of the things you think are useful really aren’t.
It’s only a few tasks that make a difference. Likewise, if you decide to write articles for 14 hours a day, you’re going to burnout in no time. It’s just unsustainable.
The fetishization of hustling comes from looking at people such as Gary Vee. The problem with this is that Gary is a unique individual, and not many people could keep up with his lifestyle.
He is also at the top of his organization. Someone is taking care of all the mundane tasks he’d rather not do. That’s why he has so much time to post videos on TikTok and stream live shows such as tea with Gary Vee.
One of the best things you can do when working for yourself is to consider what tasks bring the most value. Once you’ve identified them, you want to focus on them as opposed to others.
For my blog, it’s more important to write new posts and optimize old ones, than spend hours trying to perfect my pins on Pinterest or increase my Instagram following.
Sure, it would be nice to have tens of thousands of followers on Instagram, but it doesn’t equate to much compared to the value of my posts ranking on the first page of Google.
Prioritize what matters, instead of hustling for the sake of it.
Being part of a team is underrated
One of the things I miss the most about working for myself is being part of a team. The best jobs I had were the ones where there was a close sense of camaraderie.
Working in construction is a difficult and draining job. It saps you, mentally and physically. The people you work with make a big difference. If they’re good people, work is a lot easier, and if you don’t get along, it can feel like the days drag on forever.
You take things such as banter and having a laugh as a given when you work in a team, but once you’re working for yourself, it can feel empty.
To this day, I still struggle with this aspect of working for myself. Sure, it’s great that I can make a living working from home. But it can feel empty. Humans are social creatures; working in isolation isn’t much fun at the best of times.
The rush to adore being a soloprenuer as the pinnacle of work neglects to take this into account. The success you feel as a team is great, and it’s fantastic to have someone to pull you up when you’re feeling down.
Unfortunately, when you’re writing a post in a coffee shop, there aren’t many people you can ask to do the same. If you get the chance to expand your company or blog to take on staff, consider it.
Working in a team can give you a new lease of life and spur you on to greater heights. Working for yourself is great, but, for me, it’s missing the camaraderie you have within a team.