3 Years of Being Self-Employed Taught Me These Valuable Lessons

What life looks like as a full-time online entrepreneur.

3 Years of Being Self-Employed Taught Me These Valuable Lessons
Image from Anangsha’s Instagram.

What life looks like as a full-time online entrepreneur.

A lot of my friends who are working full-time jobs often tell me, “Being your own boss is the dream!”

They’re right, and it is a dream.

It’s the dream I had all my life when I was a child growing up on a diet of books written by people from all over the world. It was the dream I had when I took up engineering, hoping some day I’d have the guts to pursue my passion for writing full-time.

But dreams have their list of pros and cons, and solopreneurship is no different.

The past 2 years and 8 months have been nothing short of a blessing, but they’ve also taught me some valuable lessons I’d never have otherwise learned. These lessons changed me as a person and made me understand what it really means to be working for yourself.

In this post, I want to talk about eight lessons I learned from the past couple years of being self-employed.

These lessons have shaped my journey immensely, and have influenced so many decisions I’ve taken. It took me several months to learn them and I’m grateful I’ve come to the stage where I can share them with you.

I hope these lessons help you in your journey as well.

1. Passion is unreliable, discipline is the key.

No matter how deeply you love your passion, there’ll come a time when it starts feeling like work.

I quit my job because I’d always wanted to become a writer. But after I started working as a writer, within a few months, writing started feeling like a job for me.

And it’s completely natural because, after all, when you’re self-employed, you have to think about paying the bills. You just can’t simply think of how much you love your passion. You have to strategize, plan, and take care of your finances.

There are so many things involved in the self-employed life and it’s not always all rainbows and roses.

If you’re not careful, it’s easy to lose the love you had for your passion.

In those situations, discipline can save you.

If I only relied on my love for writing, I’d probably have given up the moment writing started to feel like work.

But at this stage of my life, I’m beyond these delusions that only passion will save me. I know discipline and consistency are the only things that I need to keep moving ahead.

It doesn’t matter how deeply you’re in love with your new profession. There will come a time when this intense passion will fade. And in those times, consistency and discipline will be your saviors.

2. Being addicted comes naturally, but it comes with its share of pitfalls.

One of the biggest perks of being self-employed is that you see the direct impact of your work on your life.

If you work extra hard, you know it’s possible to earn extra money.

In my case, I know the longer I spend in front of a computer, the more money I can earn, the more wealth I can accumulate, and the more impact I can create.

I’ve learned the hard way that there’s no limit to this wanting.

After I reach a certain level, I’ll obviously want more. That’s how human nature works, anyway. We get into this hamster wheel of wanting more and more, and before we know it, we’re stuck.

When you have a job, you have certain deadlines. There are expectations from you, and you know when to stop working.

But when you’re self-employed, especially if you’re doing something you really love, it’s easy to get addicted to working.

But obviously, like everything else in life, too much of anything isn’t good. And in this case, if you work extra hard, you might burn out and lose motivation.

That’s why it’s important to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

I’m very strict about not working on the weekends so I can relax, unwind and rejuvenate. On workdays, I don’t turn on my laptop before lunch because I need the morning and the entire early afternoon for myself.

Remember, no matter how much you love your new “job,” it’s important to take breaks and take care of your mental health.

3. Envy has no place in a solopreneur’s life.

When you’re in a company, you know what you need to do to get a promotion or a bigger paycheck.

But when you’re self-employed, there are no rules or boundaries like this. It’s easy to feel envious of people you see on social media who are richer and more successful than you.

Seeing pictures of your friends working in big corporations and going on expensive foreign vacations might make you start doubting if you took the right decision. It might force you to wonder if you need to work even harder to make more money.

When you’re your own boss, it’s easy to feel you’re being left behind.

When you nurture that seed of envy in your heart, it can grow darker and consume everything you have. It can make you lose sight of the very reason why you quit your job.

Trust me, you don’t want this toxicity in your life.

I’ve been through this phase myself, where I used to see my friends who were working in big companies and wondered why am I not as rich or as fortunate as them. But you need to understand that the life that you see on social media never reflects a person’s real life.

For example, my friends who work in corporate might be working 12-hour-days, whereas I work only 2–3 hours a day. Very few people can afford the luxury of working so less and still having a nice balanced life.

But when I’m envious of someone, it’s easy to lose sight of the good things in my life. This envy can be very dangerous when you’re self-employed.

To counter this, it’s important to stay in touch with your own goals. And remember that there’s no point being jealous of anyone. Feeling bad because someone else appears to have a better life is meaningless. Everyone has their own journey. You have to trust the process and believe that you’re going to do great things in your own time.

4. The only way ahead is forward.

I had a high-paying and stable job. No matter how dead it made me feel inside, at least I knew I’d have some money in my bank account at the end of the month.

When I quit it, I also quit the stability to embrace a life of uncertainty.

I know that if I keep looking back and wondering if I made the right decision, I’ll never be able to fully move ahead.

As a self-employed person, it’s natural that your life won’t always be an upward curve. You’ll have days when you feel like you made the worst decision in the world. 

On such days, it’s important to remind yourself that instead of focusing on the problems or thinking of what you left behind, it’s important to focus on what lies ahead.

The future can be bright, only if you work hard for it.

But if you start questioning your decision at every wrong turn, you’ll find it’s a difficult hole to climb out of.

“I don’t believe in taking right decisions, I take decisions and make them right.” — Ratan Tata

5. Your passion cannot be your only hobby.

When you make your passion your profession, you start putting insane pressure on your creativity.

I know I need to write so I can put food on the table. It used to be a form of catharsis before. 

Now, it’s a way I pay my rent at the end of every month. You can imagine how easily it must have lost its sheen.

And like I mentioned before, it’s easy to lose interest in your passion. You stop enjoying what you loved wholeheartedly before. And suddenly, the fun goes out of your life.

To make sure this doesn’t happen, nurture other hobbies.

Have things in your life that you don’t do for money, but for the pure pleasure of it. I’ve adopted several new hobbies after I became a full-time writer, like going on nature walks, pole dancing, gardening, and an Instagram page for my dog. None of these pay me anything, but they serve as an outlet for my creativity, and I’m grateful to have found them.

6. Take care not to get lost in extremes.

Since you don’t have a boss, you also don’t have a fixed timeline as a self-employed person. You might fall into either of these two extremes:

  • Working too hard, which we already covered in the previous point, and
  • Working too little.

Since no one’s keeping tabs on your time, it’s easy to slip into that mode where you’re always in your comfort zone. You keep postponing work and end up watching Netflix and chilling all day.

If you do that, it’s easy to lose track of your goals and remain in your comfort zone forever.

To make sure this doesn’t happen, I always make a plan for the next day before I go to sleep at night. When I wake up in the morning, I know all the tasks that need to be done.

Time-blocking your day helps.

Make monthly, weekly and daily goals so you can keep reviewing them and revisiting them whenever you feel like there’s nothing left to do. This will keep you on your toes and help bring some semblance of balance back in your life.

7. Keep reviewing your progress every once in a while.

Regular appraisals and salary raises are common in 9-to-5 jobs. But when you’re self-employed, there’s no one to do this for you.

In such a scenario, it’s easy to lose sight of how far you’ve come and get blinded by how far you’ve left to go.

To make sure this doesn’t happen, you need to conduct regular appraisals. As I mentioned in the previous point, have weekly goals and then keep reviewing them from time to time.

This way, you’ll know the progress you’ve made, understand what mistakes you committed, and what lessons can be derived from them. These will help you appreciate your journey better and make you feel excited about achieving the next goal.

8. Keep your eyes on the positive.

When you’re on the verge of quitting your job, people are going to tell you all sorts of negative things. Most of these concerns come from people who are genuine well-wishers. These are people who might tell you all the ways you’ll fail. You’ll get ample warnings about all the ways your dreams will shatter and leave you heartbroken.

But they are also the people who have never gone through a career switch.

So they legit have no idea of what they’re talking about. They’re only projecting their insecurities onto you. Granted, this projection comes from a place of love for you, but it also stems from a mindset of scarcity.

It’s very important to be strong and to also forgive these people. You need to understand that their advice means you no harm. So wish them well, but don’t let their negativity affect you.

Have faith in yourself. Be so strong in your conviction that nothing anyone says can impact your decisions.

Lessons from 3 years of living the self-employed life: Final words

Living a self-employed life is not always easy, but every day is a new adventure. If you asked me if I regret my decision, I’d say a big, loud NO with all my heart.

Being my own boss has taught me valuable skills I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. It has given me the confidence to take a stand for myself and the unshakeable belief that I can save myself from whatever situation life throws at me.

If I stayed in my old job, I might have been “safe,” but I’d never have gained this new perspective and seen myself in a different light. 

Now, I respect myself much more and am super proud of the journey I’ve taken so far. I can’t wait to see all the new highs I’ll unlock along the way in the future.

I hope you enjoyed reading about the eight lessons I learned in my 3 years of being self-employed. I’m curious to know which of these lessons resonated with you the most.

I’d also love to know if you are on the verge of making a decision like me and taking a leap of faith to quit your job and follow your passion. If you’re in that same phase, please leave a comment below. I’d love to connect with you and know your story.

I just launched Freelance Superheroes: A training program for writers who want to earn from writing online without leaving their job, attract gigs outside Upwork/Fiverr, and become irreplaceable. Get it today!

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