I spent my first day as a full-time freelancer spectacularly hungover.
I’ll admit, it was not the most auspicious (or romantic) beginning to my new self-employed life, but I’d spent the evening before at a send-off party with my now-former co-workers, and I was riding the excitement and fear of what I’d just done: quit my job, cut down my safety net, and convinced myself that this was something I could actually do.
The next thirty days were a learning experience, and as with most things in life, some things lined up with my expectations. Others didn’t, and there have been more than a few surprises along the way. Here are just some of the things I learned during that first month as my own boss.
Getting sick is terrible when you’re self-employed
What’s worse than being hungover your first day on the job? Getting sick the week after. The fates were not on my side in early September, and I had a nasty little cold that lasted for a solid week. While I could physically still write for my clients, I was very slow and unproductive. It was a harsh reminder that I would no longer be paid when I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck.
A support system is an absolute necessity
I was seriously on the fence about attending the Digital Nomad Girls retreat in Javea. After all, I’d just left my job and didn’t have enough clients to replace all of my income yet. Wouldn’t it be foolish to drop a grand and jet off to Spain?
I did it anyway—and I’m so glad I did
The women I met there just got me. This was my community, my new support system for a life that can feel very isolating and scary at times. I learned a lot of practical skills while I was there, but more importantly, I learned that I do know more than I think I do. I am worth more than I think I am. And I am totally capable of making my dream work.
My new friends are all tackling the same problems I am and have the same insecurities and fears—but they’re all doing amazing work and taking the world by storm. When women support one another, great things happen.
We laughed, we cried, we listened. It was an intense week, and the perfect way to kick off my new life.
The stress is different
Do I still have stress? Of course!
Is it the same kind of stress?
Not even a little bit.
As a freelancer, my stress mainly focuses on money, raising my rates, and getting new clients instead of the day-to-day work I do. My opinion? It’s a much better type of stress to have.
I am very bad at time management
I am a procrastinator–always have been. I hesitate to say that I always will be, because miracles do happen, but the possibility of this one coming true seems remote.
I have never had so much time alone with my own thoughts. I wander from one task to another; check Facebook; read an article that catches my eye instead of finishing the draft of the one in front of me. My fear of deadlines is the only thing that keeps me in check. Somehow, I finish everything. Every time. I am NOT good at time management, and it’s something that is constantly a work in progress.
Days of the week matter less than they used to
I constantly have to remind myself what day of the week it is. They all kind of run together now that I have nowhere to be. I live my life by deadlines, but when I think about my schedule, the urgency is just not there anymore—it doesn’t have to be. I wake up every morning and it’s just another day, a day that moves quickly because I’m always doing something. The weeks feel shorter.
I can go anywhere and do anything
During that first month, I found myself at yoga at noon on a Thursday. Now, I can plan my writing around my exercise and appointments instead of the other way around. Even though I’m not a full time nomad, the freedom of setting my own schedule and choosing where I work is extremely liberating.
I’ve always been a traveller, but now I can plan any trip I want as long as I can fund it. I can spend 7 weeks with my family and take quick weekends on a whim with friends. There is nothing holding me back from this big world, and I can’t wait to see as much of it as I can.
My home is a peaceful oasis
I love my slow mornings. These days I have the luxury of cooking myself the breakfast I want, going for a run, doing a little yoga, and starting work a little too late. My home is a peaceful oasis on the weekdays when everyone is at work, and the only noises are my fingers on the keyboard and the dog shifting in his sleep.
Going out means more
I like to think that I always try to look cute when I go out, but now that my ventures are more infrequent, my opportunities to show off my wardrobe are limited. I put more effort into my outfits than I did before and walk with renewed confidence because I know I look good.
It’s really scary
I fly into a panic at times, because I’m not productive, or I’m not making enough money, or there just aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needs to be done. But then I take a deep breath and remind myself that nothing is perfect, and that it will get easier with time and practice.
Life goes on
As a fortune cookie once said to me, “Only those who dare, truly live.” There are so many reasons to love self-employment: the freedom, the ability to linger in the small pleasures of a life lived slowly. On the flip side, there’s the loneliness, the uncertainty–the knowledge that it really is all on you.
It’s hard. It’s hard because life is hard, but you know what? The fear I feel over finding new clients and pleasing the ones I have is small potatoes compared to the lifelessness I felt every day getting up to work for someone else. And that feeling is enough to let me know I’ve made the right decision.
Susannah Bruck is a freelance writer and editor with a passion for travel. She spends her time visiting exotic locales, cooking new dishes, gaming, and writing her dystopian novel. You can find her at www.susannahbruck.com and www.welltraveledwriter.com (coming soon!).