self-employment: the paradox of choice

Self-Employment: The Paradox of Choice

I’m sat here at 0455 in the morning with a good, strong coffee, after waking before 4am, lying in bed (agitated about life and whether or not I’m making the most of it) and deciding I may as well get up. This happens from time-to-time. A lot. I then proceed to get up (trying not to wake the other half which I invariably do), feel über-productive (because I’m getting up early; therefore I must be), then fidget around, attempting to decide how best to spend my time. Welcome to self-employment.

I did succeed in deciding what to do this morning, however: I decided to write my blog post as I’ve committed to writing one a week for ten weeks. But what to write about? Well, apparently we’re told “write what you know about”, and as I’ve only got ten to write, that shouldn’t be too hard. Last week was “Travel“, so this week can be “Self-Employment”.

Bruce Springsteen: CEO of commercially accessible rock.

“Being self-employed”. “Wow! That sounds amazing! I want that! Living the dream!”. Well, the first paragraph is a pretty good indicator of “living the dream”. If your dream involves a lot of uncertainty, self-doubt, fluctuating earnings and a big, fat, slice of solitude, then climb aboard, old chum (I am painting rather an unfair picture, though…it’s also a lot of fun and extremely rewarding).

But, since the jobs I had as a teenager a) crushed my soul and b) crushed my soul, I knew stacking shelves or sitting at the same desk for 45 years weren’t viable options, so self-employment was the path for me. I’ve been a few things thus far in my self-employed career, namely:

    1. ✏️ Graphic Designer. This is currently my main source of income and I can’t complain. Drawing pictures, colouring in and helping companies sell stuff. Awesome.
    2. 🏠 Property Investor. It’s a nice idea, but very stressful when stuff “goes rubbish”. I’m tempted to write a book called “How not to be a property investor”.
    3. 🎼 Music Producer and DJ. A BIG love of mine. However, doing this for 45+ hours a week (as opposed to part-time which it had been since early teens) with next to no compensation for three years has a shelf-life. Turns out it’s three years. Still, I’ve DJed around the world, played at the Ministry of Sound, been in a couple of bands so I can tick those off the list. This is now a past-time again (albeit slightly paid), and I’ve decided it’s fine for it not be my primary source of income.
    4. 💡 Entrepreneur. Work in Progress. It’s the potential, freedom, excitement and variety of the daily schedule that appeals.

So, why the agitation, when there’s so much choice? I guess the point is exactly that: The Paradox of Choice – how having so much choice ends up being a source of stress. It’s especially prevalent, it seems, among the self-employed, as we have to manage our time (rather than our boss). 1st world problems, right?

But, here are a few mental “tools” I’ve collected to cope with this agitation:

  1. Goals – Make sure you’re moving towards goals you really want, and review them often (daily). Realise that having several, non-compatible goals won’t work, but there’s time to tackle them in sequence. This often seems obvious to everyone but me.
  2. Acquaintances – Spend time working with disciplined, committed partners / friends / clients. This is super important, and shouldn’t be under-estimated.
  3. Routines – Have daily routines, like going to the gym.
  4. Focus – Stick to one task before moving on to the next.
  5. Commitment – Make small commitments (like this blog), then stick to them.

I fail at all the above – often – but life improves when I follow my own advice on them.

Still, despite the challenges and uncertainty of self-employment, for me, the joys far out-weigh the stresses. Kind of like getting up at 0455, but then having a nice coffee and biscuit.

I have several good friends who are self-employed (across a broad variety of work around the world), and we all operate differently. How do you guys and gals cope in the face of seemingly endless possibilities, choose a focus then stick to it? Seriously….let me know!

Righty-ho…That’s three of ten blog posts done in my personal experiment. Kindly leave feedback / questions / answers / suggestions in the comments section, and sign-up below for the next seven. Thanks! 🙂 – Will

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Graphic designer, music producer and entrepreneur. I like travelling, learning new things, roast dinner and tea.

2 thoughts on “Self-Employment: The Paradox of Choice”

  1. Great blog Will – having been in a full time well paid job for nearly 10yrs then ditching it to be a self employed photographer (which up until that point was my hobby and passion) I can relate to a lot of the above! Hope your well buddy. Pricey

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