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NVR Blog

What to Consider Before Working for Yourself

No Vacation Required

I was recently on a call with a client. She had recently gone from self-employed to working for our client-company because being on her own was not what she expected. "I was envisioning all of this freedom," she said. "I didn't feel free at all."

What she said is exactly what we hear from people who get in touch requesting tips for how to best strike out on their own. People crave freedom, time, and a whole bunch of other things that make them yearn for self-employment. Along the way, they wouldn't mind losing a crappy commute and an even worse boss.

Here are three important things to consider before choosing to be self employed.

1. It takes skills you may not want to use.

Someone we partner with on random projects, Brian, works for himself doing project management. He's always telling us – and did so again just yesterday – that he hates the fact that he 1) has to market his business, 2) has to deal with scheduling, 3) has to keep records, 4) has to bill clients, and 5) has to be the help line. You know, 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? Not a fan? How about 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 change and grow. But, between us, we've also got far-reaching skills in a broad range of business functions that enhance the core work we do – marketing, sales, service, etc.

2. It's your thing, or it isn't.

Something interesting we've learned over years spent bonding with other freelance / contract peeps: 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 its own number.

Take our friend, Brian, above. He's innately wired to be doing freelance / contract work, but he 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 your natural strengths and talents. Need help figuring out what those natural strengths and talents are? We can help! Well, not right now. But one of these days we're going to bring some of our services here to No Vacation Required.

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.

The good news is that, with mindfulness, you can manage the overwhelming desire to work every chance you get.

If you're "on purpose" in life – 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 zigzag around the different things we enjoy.

We long ago recognized that too much of a good thing is still too much. It’s what keeps ours a No Vacation Required life. You, too, should aim for an NVR life, not merely work you love.

How to Spot Toxic People

No Vacation Required

If you want your life to change, you have to change your life.

Positive change isn't just about gaining. It's also about losing. To create room for the next great thing in your life, you have to be willing to let go. That applies to stuff (which we've gotten intoand people.

Make space for change by eliminating toxic relationships and keeping soul-killing people far, far away.

Energy vampires can somehow manage to suck the life-force out of anything and can make a day a lot more difficult than it needs to be. Here are the three types of people – the toxic trio – to steer clear of. Oh, and we're not talking about a person who is having a rough day or, perhaps, letting off some steam. We're talking about those people who – when you really tune into their overall vibe – are not the type who will bring much good to a situation or your life.

The Bully

This person usually takes a loud, direct, "you've got it all wrong" attitude. On the surface, bullies seem easy to spot, but that's not always the case. A clever bully oftentimes disguises unhelpful energy by playing the expert. This person rallies the troops or gets what he wants by acting like he has seen it all and has therefore implicitly earned the right to be abrupt and abrasive. A really clever bully will often hide behind an often-intriguing layer of sarcastic humor.

Don't be fooled. Expertise and experience are great, but pay attention to the energy behind the message.

The Negatron

Here again, it seems simple to recognize a negative person. But think for a moment about the people in your life who live in this state of being. People who – when you think about it – are always nay-sayers who perpetually see the glass as half empty. We love us a strong contrarian, but not someone who can't turn a critical viewpoint into an idea or a possibility.

When you leave a negatron, you don't feel energized. Stay away from these people.

The Complainer

Many times, a complainer is a hybrid bully/negatron. They love to find fault but, somehow, can't manage to turn it into something constructive. They like to eschew proactivity and instead wallow.

A vigorous critique is great, but not if it isn't, ultimately, coming from a constructive place.


For some reason, gravity pulls so many humans toward paying more attention to people operating in these modes. Stay the hell away from the toxic trio and, instead, align yourself with interesting, proactive, and supportive people.

How do you do align yourself with interesting, proactive, and supportive peaople? Be an interesting, proactive, and supportive person.

How to Deal with Uncertainty

No Vacation Required

Uncertainty, discomfort, and some negative realities are a regular part of life and work. But we're conditioned to avoid that reality in the interest of becoming reactive rather than proactive. We're conditioned to believe that life is meant to be bright and shiny and to ignore the truth until facing it becomes absolutely necessary – the divorce, the lost job, the major illness.

Here are a three things we know about working through uncertainty. We hope they help to inspire you in moving closer to the life or career shift you might be pondering. 

1. Accept the reality of situations.

One of our chief ah-ha moments a couple of years back was facing the fact that we needed to slow down. We had found our mojo and didn’t want to let it go.

This client is a referral, so we have to accept it.

We can’t pass up this opportunity?  

We can make the time.

You likely know this thinking very well, don't you?

What did we do? Late in that year we stopped accepting new clients for a month. Admitting the need to do that was challenging, but it was imperative. Throughout that year, we had promised to slow down the pace, but it didn't work. A lot of our business’ arms are driven by referrals. Our desire to not let clients down regularly trumped saying no. Because that form of delaying "facing the music" only got us deeper into discomfort, we had no other option but to draw a line in the sand.

We stopped accepting any client work for a month. The reality of our situation demanded it.

2. Practice facing the unknown

Deciding to cease our small business for a month+ was a scary decision. Actually, the first week didn't go so well. We were consumed by the fear that being "unavailable" was sending the wrong message.

In truth, it wasn't. Either way, it needed to happen. As we worked through the discomfort, all of this space opened up for creativity and other facets of ourselves that had been on hold. We had the time to discuss and plan steps we could take going forward,

Facing that unknown was a foundational step in bringing us to where we are now.

3. Focus on the possibilities waiting on the other side

Sometimes you need to get out of your present reality in order to gain perspective. The problem is... that's not easy. When we're in the thick of our lives, it's difficult to see things any other way.

A practice we've taken to – as individuals and as a couple – is writing down what might be "waiting on the other side" if we make a change we're pondering. It's very helpful to get out of your current reality to forecast what might be over the hump if you simply take the plunge.

And you know what? Our experience says that our lists of what might be waiting are accurate 90% of the time.

How to Say NO

No Vacation Required

Being able to say NO is a key part of paving the way for change. How can you start down a fresh avenue if you keep doing things the way you always have? How can you welcome in something new if you don't create the space for it?

The other day, we were catching up with a friend. While we were hanging out, a woman texted him to cancel a first date they had planned.

He was irritated.

We told him he was lucky.

With that seemingly odd response, let's jump right into our first "how to say NO" tip!

#1: Say NO as soon as you feel it.

This is how we explained to our (now doubly irritated) buddy why he should be happy that his potential date cancelled. Why waste your time going through the motions of something that's not going to work out?

As we tell people often, a "positive NO" the moment you feel it can be a very rewarding and freeing feeling. 

And boy-oh-boy, do we ever know something about that. In honor of 10 years of No Vacation Required living, we've been working hard to right-size our world by acknowledging that too much of a good thing is too much of something.

As we always say, you can't roll in the new if you don't make space for it.

Say NO. Swiftly. With postiivity.

#2: Schedule everything.

We've individually and as a couple started blocking out the time we need for everything – work obligations (of course), exercising, cleaning, errands, down time. Everything.

When you block off your time, it's easy to say no because you are busy. Your calendar tells you so. 

On a recent trip to Los Angeles we got a lot of business done, but we also had loads of time for fun. We hiked a lot, we went to a concert, we toured an incredible museum, we enjoyed our favorite hotel, and we caught up with friends. Had we not blocked time for these things, we could easily get completely wrapped up in out consulting work.

#3: Take time to think.

We are not shy about taking a beat to consider whether or not something will work. Our life is quite a jigsaw puzzle, and it requires that we be extremely mindful about what we get ourselves into (or not into). With often back-to-back-to-back assignments/projects, we have to first consider how we can make things work in a way that keeps us sane and that doesn't diminish our ability to deliver on the exceptional standard of work we promise our clients.

We take a lot of time to think and to plot.

A good first step for people struggling to say NO, is to say MAYBE. We used to say MAYBE a lot. Now that our YES, NO, and MAYBE muscles are pretty toned, we're able to be much more swift about skipping MAYBE and going right to one of the other options. Nonetheless, saying MAYBE is a hell of a lot better than saying YES and then having to back out.

Which brings me to...

#4: Stop viewing NO as selfish.

Guilt is often behind why people say YES more than want to. It's not selfish to say NO. Remember, we're no good to anyone else if we don't take care of ourselves first.

How To Find Your Passion

No Vacation Required

Many people feel a lack of passion in their lives. Social media, movies, and television often glamorize passion and make us feel feel as though it's something we're just, you know, meant to magically harness. As in, if you don't instinctively know what you're passionate about, something's wrong with you.

Well, that's an inaccurate way to model passion and is probably a significant contributor to the fact that so many people are confused about what passion actually is.

Passion is the hum that emerges when your strengths and values are put into action.

We all have glimpses of passion in life. You know what I'm talking about because you've felt it. But when passion is not grounded in self-awareness, it's fleeting. When passion is not rooted in knowledge of your strengths and values, it's impossible to sustain it and elevate it to the most constructive, fulfilling levels possible.

Some passion-fostering questions for you to consider:

Do you put yourself in environments and around people that inspire passion? It helps! If you have passion, putting yourself in these environments is a booster shot. If you're lacking true passion, the inspiration can conjure thoughts that will help you along your path. Sporting events, arts events, conferences, and special-interest clubs are all good places to start.

Do you mistake other things for passion? Just because you spend a lot of time doing something, doesn't mean it's a passion. This is a big problem in today's world with so many of us wasting time, for example, curating presences on social media that are often driven by presenting yourself in a certain way rather than in an accurate, authentic way.

Do you chip away at knowing your strengths and values? Knowing yourself – and in this case, your strengths and values – is something that no one can take away from you, boosts confidence, and unlocks doors. 

Strengths First

No Vacation Required

"Because I'm good at it."

"Because it's something I can do."

"Because I just sort of fell into it."

These are things I regularly hear from clients. People oftentimes "like" what they do and are good at it. But, more often than not, they have no real passion for it. The same can actually be said of people's non-work lives. They often feel happy-ish but not completely on track. Likely, that's because they are not playing to their strengths.

Here are a few thoughts that might help you to sort things out and move forward with a strengths-first mindset:

1) Figure out you. Plain and simple. If you don't have a sense of what you are made of, what your strengths are – how you "plug into" this world – you may find temporary gain but you won't find enduring fulfillment. Ask: What do I do that doesn't feel like work at all? When am I happiest? When am I most free?

2) Strip away what doesn't matter and/or add value to your life. Think lean and focused. Ask: What relationships are draining? What old patterns do I need to let go of? How do I waste time in a typical day?

3) Be a change agent. Agility is increasingly important in the modern world. Additionally, a change mindset helps to keep things fresh and forward-moving. Ask: What am I resistant to change in my life? What's something I can do differently this week? When is the last time I was open to hearing a divergent viewpoint?

How to Stop Thinking Small

No Vacation Required

Ready to have more Big Thinking mojo in your life? Here are some tips:

Think critically – Mindless group-think is a powerful force that goads people into simply "going along" with things. Question the norm. Make your own decisions.

Don't look sideways  Glance sideways from time to time because it's important to know the landscape. Otherwise, look forward. Paying too much attention to what others are doing immediately puts you in the space of duplication and envy. Find your own version of success. When you're focused on the best version of you and doing your best work – regardless of what everyone else is doing – you're less likely to waste time on time-sucking "because they are doing it" activities.

Define yourself – Don't be limited by others' need to put you in a box. We're all dynamic, multi-faceted individuals. Create the frame through which others see you (and not the other way around).

Have a vision for your life – Want to know a great way to become success oriented? Have a vision for your life. Of course, that vision will evolve over time but always have one. Not sure what that vision looks like? Time for some heavy lifting. Start by monster-hugging life's greatest (and most rewarding!) challenge: knowing yourself. The more self-empowered you feel, the stronger your resolution in the face of distractions and the powerful pull of mediocrity. Living with vision is also a prime ingredient of making major change.

Be honest – Being honest is not about being tedious or unkind; it's about growth and authenticity. You can't grow if you are not honest with yourself. And you can't build authentic relationships based on half-truths and lies. That may upset some people, but they will get over it. If they don't get over it, whose problem is it, really?

Keep it positive – Negativity can be fun in the moment, but the fun is superficial and fleeting. Negativity breeds myopic vision and shallow thinking. Sometimes a vigorous, critical conversation can seem negative. That's okay. Here, we're focusing on the kind of pointless negativity that can saturate a conversation or, quite often, an entire relationship. Negativity is the sinkhole of life. If something isn't positive or framed in positive action, run away as fast as you can. If someone is a consistent drain on your life, give them the chop.