Today is officially the first day of the rest of my life. I am finally free of the cubicle and all the crap that goes along with it. I no longer have to be the “tech” guy that everyone comes to for problems and stupid questions.
The above quote is from a post I wrote a year ago entitled A New Journey Starts Today. It was officially the first day of my new life after leaving my cubicle job. Well guess what? It’s been a year since that happened!
I can’t believe a year has come and gone. When I first quit my job, my main goal was to make it a year without having to get another job. All I wanted to do was work for myself for a year without having to commute, sit in a cubicle, or answer to a boss. Luckily, I managed to do just that. I learned a lot along the way and wanted to put together a list of some of the things I’ve learned from a year of self-employment.
1. Hard Work: You Can’t Escape It
When a lot of people make the jump to working for themselves, they often assume they will be able to work less and set their own hours. While this can be true to some extent, it’s not likely going to happen this way. Instead, I’ve learned that hard work is necessary to build a successful company (or career). I’ve easily worked more than twenty 75 hour+ weeks since I quit my job.
Heck, I often work more than 12 hours a day. It’s one of the sacrifices I made in making the move to working for myself. However, the hours you put in are much different from clocking 12 hours at your day job. Working for yourself means you can take breaks when you want, work on the projects you want, and work when you want. That’s why I often split my work up and do some throughout the day and some at night.
Plus the work I do is fun so it doesn’t really feel like work to me. It feels more like playing video games did back in high school. You don’t even realize the time is flying right by.
2. Trial And Error Is Necessary
While spending all that time working, I’ve noticed that some things work well while others fail miserably. If everything worked the way we wanted it to, I probably would have retired already. But things fail and this is where we learn a lot about business, as well as ourselves.
So don’t be afraid of trail and error. It’s not as simple as finding a book with all the directions in it because not everything works for everyone. You need to find the things that work for you. Once you do, take baby steps to scale them to be much larger. This is where you will start to see success.
3. Sleep Will Be Lost
With working long hours and failing constantly, you will no doubt lose sleep. I often find it hard to sleep when I can’t get something off my mind. I even wrote a post about my unplanned experiment with sleep deprivation, where I ended up staying awake for more than a day straight.
The good news is since you can set your own work hours, you can easily catch up on sleep by giving yourself the enjoyment of sleeping in.
4. Sacrifices Will Be Made
Regardless if you plan on it or not, you will eventually make some sacrifices when working for yourself. It might be as simple as skipping an event with a friend to catch up on work or saying no to something you really want to buy. It’s just part of life and anything worth having requires some sacrifices.
As I mentioned above, one of the sacrifices I made was working far more than I used to. I also sold my car and got rid of a lot of things I no longer used. These things made it easier for me to make it a year without any problems.
5. Money Isn’t Everything
A lot of people go into business to make money. While obviously this is one of the goals of a company, it should not be the only one. What you should be focused on is proving some sort of value, making a difference, or creating something unique. The goals will lead you to the money you were hoping for.
However, working for myself quickly made me realize how unimportant money is. Yes we need it to survive, but that’s it. Other than food/water, clothes, and a place to sleep, we really don’t NEED much else. Instead, we WANT everything we see on TV. The key is to use your money wisely.
Do you absolutely love watching television? If so, then go grab a badass TV. But if you’re only buying the TV to have a bigger one than your neighbor, think twice before you get it. If you’re like me, you’re happy with a 23 inch screen and some rabbit ears. It’s important to decide what you want in life and then focus your money on it.
Neil Patel over at Quicksprout summed it up perfectly in this quote:
So what has all of this taught me? It is easier to save money than it is to make it. You can’t always control how much money you make, but what you can control is what you spend your money on.”
6. Benefits Are Nice, But You Can Live Without Them
One of the things that everyone pointed out to me was “if you quit your job, you will lose your benefits!” I think other people were worried more than I was. It was probably due to that fact that I was just out of college and barely had benefits prior to landing my first two office jobs. So I knew what it was like to not have them.
But the truth is, benefits are overrated. This is coming from someone without a family so I’m sure things would be different if I had a family to support. When you’re young and single, you don’t really need benefits. As soon as I quit my job a year ago, I grabbed a health insurance plan online for less than 90 bucks a month. 6 Months later, I ended up cutting that plan down to a 60 dollar plan that covers me in case of an emergency. Guess what? I haven’t used my plan in over 12 months.
If it’s retirement you are worried about, you can also setup a retirement plan for yourself. This can provide a nice tax break since you can put some of your income into a retirement account.
The key is to do your research prior to quitting your job. Learn as much as you can about your current benefits and see what you can get on your own. This will make the transition a lot easier for you.
7. Bookkeeping And Taxes Suck
One thing I cannot stand doing is the books. I hate accounting and always have. Taxes are a whole other ballgame. When you go into business for yourself, these are some of the things you will have to learn about. You don’t need to know everything, but the more you learn the easier it will be to meet with an accountant.
I’ve slowly been learning more as I go and I’m finally to the point where I have a good understanding of how things work. However, when I just started I wanted to pull my hair out.
You can check out my podcast on bookkeeping and tax tips for bloggers and freelancers for some useful tips.
8. Office Politics Are Shit
If you’ve been here before, you’ve probably read my post about hating office politics. I used to hate everything about them. The gossip, the power tripping, and the alliances that employees make. It used to drive me absolutely insane. Even the whole idea of “climbing the ladder” made me want to cry.
After spending an entire year as far away from an office as possible, I can tell you one thing: office politics sucks. I don’t miss them one bit and I really hope I can continue to work from my home rather than an office.
9. You Will Learn (A Lot)
Of all the things I’ve mentioned so far, nothing has been more enjoyable than learning. It’s absolutely amazing how many things I have learned over the course of one year. I can easily predict that I’ve learned at least 5 (maybe 10) times as much as I did from high school and college combined. I’ve learned valuable things about business, life, and everything in-between.
If anything, I recommend trying out self-employment for the learning experience. It forces you to quickly adapt to what’s happening around you. I think one of the reasons it works so well is because you don’t have a lot of people around to ask questions. If you need to figure something out, you find a way to make it happen (the best saying ever). Whether it’s from reading online or visiting the public library (a lifesaver), the answers are always out there.
10. Freedom Is What Matters
Last but not least is freedom. Freedom is the one thing that made me want to work for myself, as well as build an online business. Why? Because I love to travel and be anywhere at any time. I also enjoy moving fairly often, which might be happening fairly soon.
Having a normal job makes it difficult to live the digital nomad lifestyle because you always have to be at work. Yes you can take vacation but you only get so much time a year. Instead, I decided it would be far more beneficial to create a career that can move around with me.
So the most important thing anyone can have is freedom. The ability to do what you want whenever you want. This is far more important money. People with high-paying jobs have plenty of money, but they don’t necessarily have freedom.
It Was A Great Year
Overall, it was the best year of my life. Not only was it fun and rewarding, but it was also challenging and difficult. I learned a lot and have been making progress since the first day I started. I can only hope that this upcoming year can be just as fun and rewarding. So far, it has been just that.
Photo Credit: St3ve