People increasingly crave freedom, time, and a whole bunch of other things that spark the yearning for self-employment. Along the way, they wouldn't mind losing a crappy commute and an even worse boss.
We were the same way, so we rejiggered about a decade ago, and TA-DA - our No Vacation Required life was born.
Our recent visit to Japan reminded us just how tough it can be to strike out on your own. We were in Japan for client meetings spread across several days, but we also had to keep things chugging along with our other clients.
Jet lagged. With a 17-hour timezone difference.
Oh, and as travel fanatics, we needed to squeeze in time for lots of fun and exploring and eating.
We have so cracked the code on this equation, especially as we are fresh into a new chapter of our NVR life. In honor of that, allow us to drop some wisdom.
Here are three (of the many!) things that we wish people would have told us before striking out on our own. We still would have done it, but we just wish someone – anyone – could have said something to prepare us.
Here are are nuggets of wisdom for anyone pondering doing it for themselves.
1. Self employment takes skills you may not want to use.
A friend who freelances for a living recently told us that he hates the fact: that he has to market his business, that he has to deal with scheduling, that he has to keep records, that he has to bill clients, that he has to be the help line. You get the idea – all those things that other people take care of in a corporate environment. Sure, you can hire out for help on anything, but we're talking about people (like us) who want to keep things small and contained.
This. Stuff. Can. Ruin. You.
Can you hack being the complaint line? How are you with confrontation? What's your take on being interrupted? Okay, what's your take on being interrupted five times more than you just imagined?
We're lucky to be a couple that works very well together. Moreover, our workplace strengths could not be more complementary. Again, the "core" work we do revolves around helping businesses and people to maximize. But, between the two of us, we've also got mad skillz in a broad range of business functions that enhance the core work we do.
2. Self employment is your thing, or it isn't.
Being self-employed is either in your blood, or it's not. I know that may sound either overly simplified or sorta hardcore, but it's true.
This relates, tangentially, to #1 but is different and deserves it's own number.
Take our friend above who is innately wired to be doing freelance / contract work, but who hates the tasks that come along with it. Here, in #2, we're talking about people who aren't wired for it. Some questions for exploration:
– Do you manage your time well?
– Are you an "ideas" person?
– Do you work well alone?
– Are you a self-starter?
Doing it for yourself only works if it aligns with the natural strengths and talents that reside at your core. If it wasn't our thing, being in a totally different culture, 17-hours ahead, attending meetings while jet-lagged would absolutely not work. But it does. And we get to have so many great experiences along the way.
3. Life Balance? What life balance?
People who succeed, long term, doing their own thing are most often the people who make money by doing exactly what they're meant to be doing. Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, there's a little problem.
It can consume you. And who wants to be in Japan, consumed by work?
The good news is that, with mindfulness, you can manage the overwhelming desire to work every chance you get. After all, if #1 and #2 aren't a problem, what's going to stop you?
We weave in and out of work (mostly) successfully now that we are 10+ years in and living a new chapter of our NVR life. When we're on the road, we deliberately scale back other things so that we can focus on what we're on the road for (meetings, a campaign, fun). When we're at our home base in Washington, we can tend to lean into meaty work projects quite a bit more.
It took us a long, long time to get this flow in a comfortable place.
If you're "on purpose" – doing exactly what you should be doing – balance becomes a bit of a ridiculous word. However, we believe in cherishing the sustainability of things that we love. Given that, we're careful to mindfully zigzag around the different things we enjoy. For instance, I took a break from project work to write this. Granted, it's late… on Sunday. But, hey, I took a break. And we're not going to be working at all for several days in the coming weeks.
It all works out just perfectly.