Being self employed provides a rare and wonderful opportunity to unleash your creativity and express yourself through your work, without the constraints of a boss, co-workers, productivity demands, staff meetings, etc. It’s wonderful, and I love it. However, along with the freedom, flexibility, creativity and job satisfaction comes the understanding that you are always “on the job,” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
When I am not working directly with clients, I am working on marketing, networking, budgeting, short term goals, long term goals, organizing lessons, classes and workshops. I am constantly taking continuing education and advanced trainings. Vacations are a distant memory. There is no such thing as sick days or paid time off. There is no benefits package. When you are self employed, you don’t measure success by how much money you make. You measure it by the satisfaction it brings to you.
Most people are impressed when I say I’m self employed. But, sometimes I get a different response. Recently a friend asked me about my business. Before I could begin she interrupted me and said, “Well, it doesn’t affect you and your husband.” Confused, I asked her what she meant. “You don’t have to make any money. If you do, it goes right back into the business.” I explained that this was my livelihood, how I earn my income, and how I contribute to the family budget. She was shocked, and said, “I didn’t realize that!” Sheesh. At first I was amused. Then I was annoyed.
A few days later, a colleague asked to meet with me, stating we needed to discuss something important. When we met, he asked me to move my practice from my office to his. I politely declined. He kept talking, explaining that he was losing business because he spent so much time out of town. He needed me to run his office, schedule new clients, and grow his business. What about my business and my clients? He told me they wouldn’t mind moving. I knew they would. Besides, my office is large, bright, and beautiful. I designed it, and I have a lease. At first I was amused. Then I was annoyed. Finally, I started to worry.
What was I doing wrong? Was I not working hard enough to present myself in a professional manner? What could I do differently? I went back to the drawing board (so to speak), which happens to be my dining room table. I poured over my mission statement, my business plan, my long term goals, my short term goals, etc. Maybe I needed professional help to evaluate my plans and my approach. Why else would two people minimize my accomplishments?
Suddenly, I had an epiphany. I wasn’t doing anything wrong; I was doing everything right. I was making all my hard work look easy and effortless. It was actually the highest form of praise I could receive. I guess that is another way that you can measure success, when no one else can see the tremendous amount of hard work and sacrifice that goes into being your own boss. Just in case you were wondering, I still love it! And no…..I’m not moving!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP