Those few days just before a new year starts are days of contemplation. Time to reflect on the year that passed, to draw conclusions and make loads of plans for the year to come! What I liked in particular this year was reading all the mail I got from you, my dear readers. Sometimes I could barely keep up and it took a couple of days, if not weeks, for me to reply. Believe me, I gave my best and hopefully didn’t forget anyone. I also started a new video series on YouTube in which I’ll answer all your questions once a month.
But some mails touch upon things that I can’t simply mention in a video in passing. Like questions about quitting the rat race and becoming self-employed. I know how lucky I am to be living the life I currently lead. I’m free, can plan my time independently, don’t have to deal with selfish bosses or annoying colleagues, all of which are issues that drive a lot of people mad. I’m not suggesting you quit your job and start blogging or go off travelling. But I do want to give you some tips on how you can bring a bit more joy and freedom into your lives, find happiness and take baby steps towards the goal of self-employment.
Becoming self-employed guide: Am I happy?
Be honest, how often do you ask yourself this question? Only once a year between Christmas and New Year’s Eve? That’s not often enough. I ask myself this every morning, as soon as I open my eyes. I blink briefly, look up at the ceiling and ask myself: Are you happy, Christine? If the answer is yes, then congratulations, time to hop out of bed and start my day. If the answer is no, then I stay in bed, take a deep breath and listen to my inner voices. Yes, I too have days when I don’t feel happy and then I keep probing: Why am I unhappy? Why am I in a bad mood? What’s troubling me? What am I not in the mood for today? Sometimes it’s just one or two appointments that I’m not in the mood for, but on other days I go through an extended period of feeling unhappy. Such as when I came back from the Maldives. I accredit that to a shortage of Vitamin D, the realisation that a person in my circle of acquaintances wasn’t good for me, and the insight that I was working too much. The first step out of the rat race is insight. You need to know what’s bothering you, otherwise you can’t change it.
Becoming self-employed guide: The old job
It’s a reality that most people are unhappy in their job and that getting up and heading to work every day is an ordeal. I had times like that too. And I was, as most of you, too cowardly to end it. I was fortunate enough to be forced to embrace change and was thrown into the deep end. My first full-time job in a start-up was terminated after three months because I was “too much Christine Neder”. To this day, I still don’t understand what this means. Possibly because I was writing my book 90 days and 90 beds and was blogging on the side. Luckily I already had the idea for my new project “40 Festivals in 40 Weeks” and could continue working for the start-up on a freelance basis. I suggest everyone who wakes up early and feels a certain resistance to going to work, try to put into words what exactly is bothering you. Is it your boss? Your colleagues? Or the work itself? Do you want to do something else, something new?
Becoming self-employed guide: Forging new paths
Yes, you want to do something completely different, but now what? Strength lies in calmness. I suggest taking things easy, try your passion as a hobby for a few months to see if it really is the right thing for you. See if your enthusiasm lasts. I’m not trying to insinuate that it won’t last, but sometimes I go through phases when I really want to try something new, but after a few weeks the excitement is gone and it was only a pipe dream.
Many of you might also dream of becoming a full-time blogger. But start blogging because you want to write every day and not because you want to make money with it. I know it’s a bit of a trend to write a blog for a living. But I don’t think that’s the right way to go about it.
Becoming self-employed guide: Gaining time
You know what path to take but are afraid of quitting? I totally get that. I’m a huge security fanatic. I never know how much money will be going into my account next month, which contracts are coming, and whether jobs are lined up. I can tell you one thing: If you want freedom you have to be brave. If you want freedom you might end up working 18 hours instead of 8 in the beginning. If you want freedom you’ll give up on having free time, give up on finishing work early, give up on your weekends. At least in the beginning. I was brave, but not careless. If you’re seriously thinking about being self-employed, I recommend you set up a financial buffer. Maybe you could cut back from a 5-day week to a 4-day week in order to have more time for your project but continue drawing a salary. You should also do some research on funding to see if you qualify for financial support. I never needed it, but I also knew my parents could help out if everything went wrong.
Becoming self-employed guide: Living frugally
If you’re one of those people who can get by with very little money then you’re steps ahead of the rest of us in terms of being able to experiment. I’m incredibly frugal, that’s how I could survive the 40 festivals in 40 weeks. If you plan a career break and don’t know how things will develop financially, try to keep your expenditures low. Maybe move into a smaller apartment. Change your life style and save some money, meaning you won’t have to make up for it in extra earnings.
Becoming self-employed guide: Your surroundings
I think the older you get, the choosier you are in terms of your surroundings as you realise how important they are for your well-being. At least that’s how I feel. Maybe I’m too picky, but I have certain expectations of my friends. I want to be able to rely on them. I don’t want to be a part-time friend you simply call when you’re in need. I don’t want to feel like I’m being taken advantage of. All I want is a normal friendship, which is becoming increasingly difficult. Friendships need to be nurtured. They take time. You have to learn to listen and get to know the other person. I’ve known some people for years and they know nothing about me, simply because they’ve never asked me anything personal. Often in a friendship I’ve felt like a mental bin, left behind in an empty state once the other person feels better. I don’t want this anymore and it certainly doesn’t make me happy. What has this got to do with becoming self-employed? Well, if you have a solid base, if you’ve got friends who stand by you no matter what, then you can do anything!
Becoming self-employed guide: Don’t give a shit about the others
It’s your life. You only get one and time flies by far too quickly. You’re unhappy? Then change it and don’t listen too much to what others have to say. Those who tell you that you should be happy with what you’ve got, you should be grateful for having a job in the first place. But what’s the point in having a job that doesn’t make you happy? Money? Money won’t make you happy. What makes you happy is moments in which you create something that’s entirely yours. Moments of passion that make you bloom. I was surrounded by people who were unhappy with their jobs. Some even got sick, proper sick, as a result of being unhappy at work. I think my desire to do things differently was fueled by them. If you go through something like that you start thinking differently.
Becoming self-employed guide: Being confident
If you want to be self-employed you have to be confident. You have to stand by every decision you make and stand by your work. Often when you start something new people will be skeptical. I remember how my friends and family reacted when I told them about my “90 nights, 90 beds” project. I think they would have liked to have me institutionalised. But no matter what they said, I stood by my idea. I believed in it and was sure it was the right thing to do. And it was the best decision I’ve ever made! I don’t like people who sell rubbish as gold and I’m also not good at selling myself and yelling HERE the loudest. I managed to stay grounded, yet critical of myself, while also being convinced that what I was doing was the right thing to do.
Those are my tips. I hope I could help you, inspire you and open your eyes a little bit. Being self-employed is the best thing that’s happened to me. But it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. If you have any more questions, leave a comment! On a final note, there’s one thing I’d like to share. People are often unhappy in their jobs because of their customers. Customers who yell at them and are unfair. Sometimes though you might be in a situation where you act like this. So take a moment to think next time you’re on the phone on a hotline or standing at the checkout in a supermarket: Do you really have to be so grumpy? Why not smile instead? A smile can sometimes mean the world to someone.