I have a habit of downplaying things as “no big deal”, I don’t like attention and I don’t rate myself all that highly. But when I mentioned late last year that this milestone was approaching, all of my loved ones sang the same song: you must celebrate, you must make a fuss, you have worked hard. I couldn’t be talked into a huge party, but I will celebrate tomorrow night with my near and dear.
Because it’s been hard work. A LOT of hard work. All of the time. Without respite. Even when I finally got around to taking a holiday for the first time at the 4 year mark last year, the condition of self-employment never leaves you, never gives you rest. You may take a break or even a holiday, but when you are the sole embodiment of your business and your livelihood you’re not actually on holiday, you’re just ‘not working’… and when you’re a freelancer that never truly feels good.
I don’t have some majorly inspirational story to tell, I don’t pretend I’m setting the world on fire and have some secret inspiring recipe to success, but I do have my story and it’s a simple one: endurance and hard work.
I confess I didn’t appear on the self-employed stage in a blaze of glory, I didn’t spend years or even months preparing to burst out of the gates with a bang. It was far less glamorous, after a year in a miserable job that made me horribly unhappy I simply grew tired of working for others and their goals – especially those that don’t appreciate you – and made the snap decision to build my own dream instead, as my friends and family had been telling me to do for years. And I’ve been working my guts out ever since.
I resigned prior to a long-scheduled invasive surgery and the first day of my recovery was the first day of being self-employed. Terrifying.
And it has never stopped being terrifying. You never know where your next paycheck is coming from. You never know who your next customer will be. You never know whether a customer will be happy and come back. Graphic and web design isn’t like making cakes or fixing a toilet, it’s not the kind of self-employment where you can turn over a high rate of jobs on a daily basis. Occasionally you’ll get a quick job and a quick paycheck, but not often. Design is the long haul, always.
And even when you finally land a big fish and have the luxury of ongoing work from a larger organisation, they’re not in a hurry to pay you. You wait until their month-end or until their finance lady comes back from long service leave… or until you’ve asked four times why your invoice is overdue and someone figures out they never sent it to finance in the first place.
But it all comes back to endurance and hard work. The droughts have been plenty in 5 years but I’m proud to say that I never gave up. And whatever my faults, I always work hard. When the buck stops with you – ultimately and always – you work hard and you endure.
The question I get the most is, by far, “How do you get anything done? If I worked for myself from home I would just never get anything done.” Well, I don’t have a secret or an inspirational line there either. I have plenty of flaws, I suck in lots of special ways, but the one thing I’ve always had is discipline. I’m a creature of habit, I love routine, I’m not easily distracted. When you’re self-employed you simply just CAN’T procrastinate, it’s not an option. I always tell people “If it were you and the buck stopped with only you, you would find that you just do it, you just make it happen.”
My co-workers are Ellen Degeneres, Jimmy Fallon and James Corden, Hanson, Hozier and Adele, they are my constant companions and yet never a distraction… just as a sidenote, in case you were wondering. And that’s the other question I get: no, I don’t get lonely. I may be a sociopath (LOL) but I’m a happy one who doesn’t have bosses that chastise and undervalue me or colleagues that annoy and disappoint me. Though, Ellen could stand to have Justin Bieber on her show a little less. #justsayin
I don’t fancy myself some super success, but I did want to take this opportunity on this enormous milestone for me to say that I’m proud of how hard I’ve worked, proud of how I’ve endured, proud that I never gave up.
I don’t pretend to have any major secrets to success but I do have experience and my experience would cite the following quotes as the best summary of how I’ve reached this important milestone in self-employment:
“Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.” – Orison Swett Marden
“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.” – George Sheehan
“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.” – Conrad Hilton
“Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.” – Mark Victor Hansen
And my favourite, to close:
“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!” – Richard Branson