The many woes of the self-employed

Yes, you read right. I said woes. But let me get the pros out of the way immediately, before you rebuke me with the how-dare-you-complain rant.

Pro 1) My work, my inspiration, my time.
I’ll admit, its beyond awesome to have all the time in the world to chalk out my work schedule. I no longer have to feel threatened by legit work-hours, unscheduled meetings, random directionless brainstorming sessions, loud concalls and fighting the unbearable urge to call it a day to go home and bake, all of which have in the past scared away the slightest smidgen of inspiration that might have bothered to wander my way. I now write, when inspiration strikes. In the last 4 months I have stayed up writing a piece because I couldn’t go to bed thanks to thoughts of the headphone party that were swimming around in my head, begging to be articulated in words. I have also woken up at the crack of dawn, pumped to finish a wireframe because I knew it would unlock the creative block I was facing for many days on end.

Pro 2) Location, no bar.
I can now boast about the fact that several article drafts and emails were written, and maybe even a call or two were taken, when I was in my ittie-bitties. In bed. When the rest of the world was out to function like normal people, in a normal world. The life of a self-employed person sometimes loses all those strings that keep schedules and routine in place, and if I wake up feeling like its not time yet to get out and surface, I don’t. If for some godforsaken reason an email needs to be sent or an article suddenly needs to be submitted, I lug my laptop into bed. Simple.

The other thing that happens to me a lot is that if mid-article I get the sudden urge to snack, cook, watch TV or read, or pretty much do anything else, and if time permits, I can. I simply push my chair back, shut the lid of my laptop, take an instant break right then, right there. No questions asked.

Pro 3) Work hard, play harder.
I am my own boss. Which means that there are no daily work schedules to play to. There are days when I want to work hard and get a lot of stuff done, so I can bake for a whole day. Or go meet a friend who’s in town. Or go catch lunch with myself. If I have been bad and faffed for one too many days on end, I can always let work pile up for the weekend, and know that I will get it done because I no longer look at the weekend as designated chillout time. Everyday is a weekend, and work and play intermingle, criss-cross each other and dance to my tunes.

But that’s about it. The short of it is that being self-employed gives you all the time in the world. To do things as and when you please. What they don’t tell you is that that means being self-driven, far more than your job expected of you. It means being determined to finish what you start. And it means learning to switch off the homey-mode and turn on the at-work-mode, even if you are lounging in bed in your sleep wear, trying to finish an article in time.

Being self-employed makes you do things you didn’t imagine you’d ever have to.

Woe 1) This self-motivation stuff is not for the faint-hearted.
I have never been good with that. Even the things I have loved to do, have taken some external push to get me going. So on many days I have found myself skirting the edge of giving up on an article to go bake a cake, but miraculously finding some mysterious hidden reserves of drive and motivation, in the nick of time.

Woe 2) This finish-what-you-start business is such a bitch.
I have an incomplete draft somewhere, about how somewhere along the way I have lost this knack to start and not stop till I am done. Its a curse of this age of multitasking we’re stuck in, and I am working really hard to stop doing many things, do one thing, and finish it well. The process is long and tedious, but I’m on it and I will get there someday.

Woe 3) This switching between SOHO-person and home-maker, on demand. Um, how?!
This has been by far the hardest for me. And every so often, I slip into that zone where I take my own time for granted. Where I let myself be languid beyond what I can afford. Where I let deadlines pile up and sometimes only get down to finishing them in a maddening rush, right at the very last minute. For the first time ever, this month I let myself go completely. I wanted to see what it would be like to really not have work to do. I intended to squeeze in some writing at nights, once the day of doing as I please had passed, but that didn’t happen for the most part. My food blog will tell you what I have been up to. I have been lost in an ever surmounting urge to cook as much as I can, share some of it, talk about it and while I am not doing that I am reading about it and dreaming about it. I also finished two books for my list for the year. I have been on a blogging high. And I have not one, but three ideas for “future plans” brewing in my head. It was certainly a very productive time. But has also been an epic failure in terms of meeting my deadlines spot on.

Thankfully, since I have been at home, I have been rather punctual with my work. Even when I sometimes take my chances and delay things to the very last minute, I manage to get it done in the nick of time. I have never kept my clients waiting for work, or letting them down by missing deadlines. This month too, while I have pushed my luck, I have crammed my way through the last two days to finish up everything in time, before the month ends.

Woe 4) Playing your own project manager is no fun.
I’ve said this before, being self-employed means you have to wear many hats. Take a brief, do some research, finish up the writing, sell your work, chase after payments and maintain relationships. I really struggle with this. But there is nothing quite like a kick in the guts, in the form of a client who likes to pull rank, because for some inexplicable reason she is convinced the freelancer is the underdog. Nothing puts me back on track, getting my game face on, than some good old fashioned bad client behaviour. So when I received a hint of a stinker two weeks ago, which pointed out in a rather condescending and threatening tone that I had not delivered on my promise, when actually I still had two days to go, I was thrust into overdrive. And at that moment, nothing, not even the wonders of having all the time in the world to stop and smell the roses, to bake that cake in the middle of the afternoon or staying up late to finish a piece because “that’s when I felt like writing it” can stop me.

I had to physically separate myself form the distractions of home and my kitchen, take myself to the nearest Coffee Day and put in a few hours of focused time. And it was well-worth it, because I more than made up my backlog. With some time to spare.


I maybe dealing with the woes of self-employment, but I am far from incompetent. Take that, pesky bitchy client.


8 thoughts on “The many woes of the self-employed

  1. arundati

    this post could not have come at a better time… i’ve been self employed now for 5 years and i still grapple on some days….even if it just to have chai in the company of someone… or bitch about office politics!


    1. Haha okay I dont think I miss the chai and the politics and bitching, but I do miss not having to wear many different hats and having servicing folks take care of business while I had to do was write! Now I have to do it all on my own :S


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