As with most business owners, my story is one filled with a series of peaks and valleys. Traveling the road of entrepreneurship has not been easy. Looking back at the last 10 years, I can honestly say the hardest part was making the decision to actually be self-employed. Everything else has been merely overcoming the challenges I expected. I was not so naïve to believe the journey would be smooth. I knew that once I embarked on self employment, there would be a lot of work for me to do to stay afloat. I was aware that I had to work harder than I did on my 9-to-5 job. But I was ready for my future. What that would look like, I couldn’t be sure. I was sure, however, that I’d work to make it a positive future.
The transition wasn’t that difficult for me. While I was working my 9 to 5, I was doing what I loved on the side, writing. I began by doing fact checking and research for various magazines. That led to writing for some the same magazines I fact checked for. As I expanded, I realized that I might be able to survive on my writing income. At the same time, I was developing my skills in graphic design, a little hobby I’d picked up a few years earlier. It was fun. I enjoyed creating things. Between writing and graphic design, I was making descent extra income. The World Trade Center incident was the push I needed to make my final decision. I wanted to get out of Manhattan. So I assessed my situation, weighed the pros and cons and took the leap. It was a bit strange at first. I leaned on a few part-time positions probably more out of fear. But that barely lasted a year. I decided to put all my time into my business and haven’t looked back since.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been some deep valleys at times. There were days when I felt I was underground, wondering why I couldn’t see the mountains off in the distance, even if I couldn’t be on top of the them. Just when I thought it might be time to do something else, I get a stream of work. There are times when it all feels so cosmic. But something keeps me going, staying strong and learning to live simply so I can continue to do what I love: write, edit and design.
What works best for me is to always be honest when working with clients. Deception NEVER works. There are some who feel if they tell potential customers a little lie, it could potentially bring more sales. Don’t underestimate the intelligence of potential customers. Tricky advertising will only degrade the business. I never do it. I work honestly and do my best. I’ve learned that getting things to your clients when they want it allows for less tension in the working relationship. But it is equally important to let clients know that if they come to you with a project they are already late with, they cannot expect you to drop what you are doing for other clients. I never make another person’s emergency become my problem at the expense of my other clients. If I can create a comfortable balance, then taking on urgent projects is not a problem.
One of the hardest things to deal with when embarking on self-employment is time management. I found myself working into the wee hours of the morning. While this may be necessary in the beginning, it is something an entrepreneur needs to rein in. I have set times that I now try to stick to. Do I succeed all the time? Heck no! Working overtime can become an unhealthy addiction. But I have gotten better. I know I must stay within my work hours so I don’t overwhelm myself. Not to mention that sleep is a requirement of nearly all species on earth.
Could I be making more money? Absolutely!! A LOT more! Would I trade what I’m doing for money? Not in a million years. As long as I’m able to take care of my basic needs, I’m content. I’m no fool now, if I could become wealthy doing what I’m doing, I wouldn’t turn it away. Living comfortable in this crazy culture is priceless. There are times when things are so slow and part-time employment might be necessary. Self-employment isn’t a life of glamour unless you somehow luck out and find a business that brings you a great cash flow. But even if picking up a little extra work is necessary, I don’t see myself completely abandoning my business. It’s mine. I’ll continue to nurture it for as long as I am capable. I love working for myself.