THE BLOG
06/26/2013 12:10 pm ET Updated Aug 26, 2013

The (Surprising) Reality of Self-Employment

We all live busy lives and work crazy hours. We all rush to wake up in the morning just to run to the gym and then run to the office and then run to the car just to rush home, make dinner, go to sleep and start the "race" all over again the next day. Whether we work for ourselves or for someone else, this seems to be the picture that most Americans face every single day of their lives. Even weekends seem to be filled with all the things we want to do during the week but cannot seem to "find the time." And so we end each Friday with the feeling of relief and freedom, thinking that Monday will never come around. And so we move through the weekends with reckless abandon until we look at the clock and see that it is 9 p.m. on Sunday night and we are more exhausted than we were 48 hours ago. And then we realize that in 12 hours, it all starts all over again.

This is how I lived my life for years.

When I made the decision to move into self-employment, it was for many reasons, though the main reason was that I no longer wanted to feel like I was "on someone else's time." I wanted to create my own schedule and move through my days at a pace that I felt comfortable with. I wanted to spend time in the home that I paid high rent for. I wanted to actually enjoy the life I had created instead of running from one place to another and spending more than half of my awake hours behind a desk in an office tucked deep into a corporate building. Some people love this and thrive on it and there is nothing wrong with it; however, I was just never that type of person. I always wanted more and would spend so much of my time fantasizing about how I would spend all of my "free" time and how amazing it would be to wake up every day without an alarm clock and nurture myself through my morning routine instead of rushing to do this or that. It's funny to me now, when I look back on this, because I really had no idea what I had in store for myself.

As a business owner, I have now been "on my own schedule" for close to a year. The days and nights that I spent dreaming about my ideal life have arrived and I have had some sufficient time to experience the difference, as well as the reality. I will say it took me lots of trial and error to make it work and learned from what seemed like one mistake after another. And in the first six months or so, I will admit that I felt like a kid on summer vacation. I stayed up late and slept in. I took my dog on long walks in the morning and would move into work mode by noon, giving myself about five hours of solid work time. I got lost in the week and couldn't tell the difference between Wednesday or Saturday or Monday, because it really didn't matter to me. Each day began and ended and rolled into the next and picked up from the last and the weekends were just one long relaxation fest because I didn't have that dreaded "Monday will come" feeling going on. However, in these six months, my business suffered. I didn't reach goals that I had wanted to and I certainly did not accomplish the things I thought I would. After a while, I felt like a failure. I found myself missing the "day to day" life because I missed the schedule and the routine and the feeling that I had a purpose and drive and that people counted on me every day, which led me to count on myself. Here I was, living my dream and feeling completely isolated, defeated, and unsuccessful. I knew that going back to the 9-to-5 gig would never work for me, so I started brainstorming and talking to people and I realized where I could improve some things.

For the past six months, I have been on a schedule that I created for myself. I wake up early, walk the dog, head to the gym, make breakfast, and start working by 10 a.m. every day. I block out time for client calls, time to respond to emails, time to market, time to be on the phone -- as well as time to eat, run errands, pay bills, meet friends, and go to yoga. The idea of the "vacation" lifestyle that I thought self-employment would mean quickly turned into some other form of reality that completely surprised me. I realized that what I had learned from my conventional jobs is that I thrive on routine and scheduling. I like to know what comes next and need to know what I can expect in my schedule. I need to know that I can and will have specific times to accomplish specific goals so that I do not feel anxious or overwhelmed. It almost felt like how things were when I graduated from high school and went to college. For the first few months, it was one big party because I felt so adversarial towards the life I had lived for four years. I didn't want to be told what to do and just wanted to feel free and live how I wanted. And sure, this worked until I realized how much it impacted my grades. And becoming self-employed was much like that because it took me realizing how my "vacation mentality" was negatively impacting my productivity and it was then that I decided to find a way that worked -- something in the middle that resulted in harmony and balance.

The truth is, self-employment is amazing. It is one of the most challenging, frightening, exhilarating, fun, exciting, rewarding and exhausting things I have ever decided to do. It's like taking care of a baby. The needs and requirements of the business need to come first in order for it to thrive. Yes, this might mean 10-hour days here and there and it most certainly means that weekends really have no meaning anymore. I work six days/week and even when I am not working, I am still open and receptive to potential clients and work-related situations. Sometimes it feels like I eat, sleep, and breathe my business, but even on those hard days, I would not trade it for anything. It's a true blessing to be able to run to a yoga class at noon on a Monday or meet a friend for coffee at 10 a.m. on a Wednesday. I love being able to take care of my dog and tend to my life and take care of myself and go to acupuncture -- and basically do all the things I felt I never had time for while working a "regular" job. And it also takes a massive amount of self-discipline to get up at 6 a.m. every day when I really have no one to "answer" to except myself. In lots of ways, I have learned to respect myself so much more because when I show up for my business and meet my goals and deadlines, it's really just a form of showing up for myself. I chose this lifestyle, and it's my responsibility to make the decisions and choices that continuously lead me forward.

Since I have been on the east coast (two weeks now!), I have had an opportunity to truly reflect on my blissful life back in Los Angeles. The life I have created for myself is a serious blessing. It's something I worked hard for for many years and dreamed about since I can remember. I set myself up in a way that I can take care of myself, do what I love, make a living doing what I love, and still have time to experience my life. I still have time to roll down the windows and smell the sweet summer air and realize I don't actually have to rush to get anywhere. I know I will only learn more and more and grow as my business grows and as I see results and experience even more success and fulfillment, but for now, I am just grateful. I have the opportunity of a lifetime and there isn't a moment that goes by where I don't remind myself. And when there IS a moment where I feel myself wanting to complain about this or that, I stop and remind myself that I am lucky to even be complaining about these things. My life is blessed and it isn't self-employment that makes it that way, but instead, it's my perspective.

For more by Robin Hoffman, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.

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