2017 was a year of facing truths I ignored through most of my twenties. I quit my full-time job in December 2016 to go back to freelance work, something I thought would unleash my stifled creativity and allow me to feel more confident in my need to speak out and share my opinions. Instead, 2017 was more like a cocoon where I couldn’t speak or use my arms at all, so I just sat there like “Wow. Cool. This is fine. Suuuuuuper fine. I better get some cute wings out of this.”
What I’m saying is, I spent most of the year learning, growing, and developing in quiet solitude, choosing to observe the noise of the internet rather than actively participate outside of client work. That’s becoming more difficult in a world where the president is a pussy-grabbing simpleton who instigates war from the toilet, but taking time to listen and learn is something I needed to do, and I think it’s paid off in many ways in terms of personal growth.
All of that being said, this feels like an appropriate time to share some of the things I’ve learned this past year.
- I am actually a cat. There are three spots in my house where I am both comfortable and productive and I would like nothing to do with that desk in my cold dusty office, thank you very much.
- Sometimes, the biggest motivator is the threat of the need for a regular full-time job. And that’s OK.
- It’s OK to do something that doesn’t change the world. Really. I love what I do and the benefits it provides to my clients, but if I stopped doing what I’m doing today the world would not flinch. That doesn’t mean it has no value or doesn’t give me purpose – it absolutely does and I have so much passion and joy for what I do for small businesses. However – I’m not curing cancer, just doing what I know how to do in a way that lets me pay the bills and travel Delta (a girl’s gotta eat, right?). At the end of the day, that’s all any of us have to do – make enough to pay in exchange to live on Earth. There might be chunks of time where it feels like that’s all you’ve done, and that’s fine. Take a breath, drink some water, go for a walk, keep on living.
- If you no longer like what you’re doing, it’s OK to kill it and start over. Unless it’s your kid or husband or cat. For those, I recommend a humane drop-off at a farm in Kentucky. As far as inanimate doings, there’s a difference between procrastination as a result of laziness and procrastination as a result of resentment. If the joy has been sucked from your work and you find yourself putting it off out of dread, burn it down and start over. Nobody gets to make that decision but you, and that’s great.
- Self-care is essential. This is not revolutionary thinking, but if you work from home you know it can be hard to pull yourself away from where you think your attention should be to focus on yourself for a few minutes. Self-care for me looks like:
- A yoga mat ready for stretching
- An electric tea kettle full of hot water for tea refills (if you’re a hot drinker and don’t have an electric tea kettle, you’re seriously missing out).
- The occasional puff of one of my SelectCBD pens to alleviate soreness and boost my focus.
- Binaural beats to keep things flowing while I type. This is great for when you want to be productive, do not want to work in silence, and do not want the distraction of words. Also because it’s good for your brain.
- Getting dressed and going to the coffee shop.
- The blogging industry is becoming a pyramid scheme. I took a 4-year break from blogging and came back to a virtual community of bloggers starting blogs to teach other people how to blog. They see 4 and 5-figure blogging income reports and think “cool! I can learn to sprint!” aka “I, too, can make some cash by strategically posting Bluehost/Tailwind/Amazon affiliate links in my blog posts and rewriting the same advice as all these other blogging about blogging blogs.”I don’t know where the circle jerk ends or the bubble bursts, but I do know that this business model is as sustainable as the business of selling weight loss saran wrap to your Facebook friends. I have never stumbled upon a blog with an income report titled “How I made $193.13 in my second month blogging!” that A) taught me something new and original, or B) made that money in a unique way. If your blog is 2 months old, you need a different niche than “how to blog”.
- Nobody gives a fuck about what you’re doing as much as you think they do. I used to be a people-pleaser. I still am, but this year I truly realized how many decisions I placed into the hands of other people, often without them even knowing it. If I took a day off to run errands, the guilt that I wasn’t giving my clients my full attention or using my time in the most responsible manner ruined the experience and privilege of doing things when I want to do them. Truthfully, I have worked harder in 2017 than I have in my entire life. Also, nobody cares what I’m doing with most of my time. You know what helps with this? Therapy.
- A lot of business success is found in reframing your mindset about money, work, and time. Many potential business owners think they could “never do it” because starting a business means you’re probably not getting the consistent paycheck of 40 hours of work. That’s an uncomfortable feeling, especially when starting a business means you’re putting in unknown hours on top of a full-time job with no guaranteed payoff. This is what leads many people to shill for multi-level marketing companies. They do the dirty work – creating the product and promo materials, setting prices, building a brand – so you can sell at your leisure and cash checks in your downtime (at least, that’s what they want you to think you get to do). Why do this when you can sell a product or service you’re creating yourself, with full control of every part of the process?If you’re thinking “but I have no marketable skills,” remember this: people make money off everything. EVERYTHING. I made 3 grand last year editing porn video subscriptions for a streaming service. Everybody has a marketable skill they can turn into a business on their own, it just means you have to be willing to let go of the comfort of a 40-hour work week and security of a consistent paycheck. Before dismissing the idea of working for yourself because the financial situation makes you uncomfortable, write down some numbers – what you want to make each month, the bare minimum you need to survive, and how much you need to make each day in order to reach those numbers. These smaller pieces are much easier to digest and put into action on a day-by-day basis, which is the best place to start.
- Delayed gratification is imperative to success. This is pretty similar to the last one. Sometimes, if you’re not at a point in business where you’re sleeping on stacks of $100 bills for fun, you might hit a point where you want to go to Target but you don’t have any money to justify a Target trip because you don’t know when your client is paying and you need to make rent without charging it to the game or dipping into your emergency fund.When you work for yourself, sometimes you have to be OK with not getting what you want right when you want it. That is, unless you want to panic about your broke state while desperately writing mind-numbing articles about handicap toilets for extra cash. This isn’t to say you should aim low and prepare to be broke forever (or at all), you just have to prepare for and be cool with these risks regardless of how much you plan to make.
Delayed gratification is also essential for when you’re super excited about building your business and want everything to come to fruition NOW but lack the money/resources/time to do it all now, which can be very frustrating when your motivation is kickin’ it on Adderall. Which leads me to…
- Progress, not perfection. This was my mantra last year and will be my mantra this year. I’ve found so much truth in the idea that you have to just start doing things, despite the “buts” and “what ifs” of your inner voice. Nobody starts a successful project with all the answers. They find the answers as they go because there are more answers in doing than in sitting and thinking about getting it right the first time. Get started now and use whatever resources you already have, even if it’s just your brain, a pen, and a notebook. Just begin.