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Six Things I've Learned About Working for Yourself

Working for yourself is scary stuff.


When you work for someone else, it's easy to blame failings or frustrations on the boss, the company or even the customers you're dealing with.

But when you run the show, it's all on you. I’m not trying to pull some motivational, cheerleader-ish ideal over your eyes here—that's just the matter-of-fact truth.

Self-employment is the ultimate life experiment, complete with an uncountable number of variables that come with large amounts of fear and challenges. But for those of us who do it, we don't know any other way. We aren't content with the status quo and feel the need to hack it. To innovate. To make something new.

Along the way, I've learned a few things, not just about doing well at working for yourself, but how you could actually enjoying working for yourself.

Just Start

Don't think too much about starting something or you might talk yourself out of it.

The caveat here is that sometimes your ideas may be awful and not work. That's why it's important to start in small steps (with little to no money on the line). Every huge idea can be boiled down to a smaller one, sort of like a prototype. Start there, and start now.

Show Up

I write at least 500 words a day, every day, no exceptions. I've done this for at least a year. I do it especially when I don't want to or don't feel inspired. Why? Because I want to increase my odds of writing something good.

Some days what I write is utter garbage, and that's okay, because that's not the point. But unless I show up to work at what I do as often as possible, there's no hope that inspiration will show up as well. And some days, when I think I'm horribly uninspired, my best work flows out.

Launching is Better Than Perfecting

If the work we do is on a road that leads in two directions, one of those directions would lead to launching and the other (the opposite) would lead to perfecting.

Perfection isn't something that can ever be attained with the work we do, and the more we walk towards it, the more it stays a distant dot on the horizon, always just as far away from us as when we started.

Whereas launching is a definite point on the road. We see it more clearly the closer we get to it. And the best part is, we can actually reach it if we work at it. Getting something—anything—out the door is the most important part. Make it great, sure. But acknowledge where great leads to diminishing returns.

Stop Judging, Stop Comparing

We are horrible multi-taskers. Yes, I'm talking to you, the person who thinks you're awesome at it. And I'm also talking to myself, for every time I leave social media open because I think I can do actual work and keep up with status updates and retweets and whatever else—all at the same time.

This multi-tasking, in one of its worst forms, appears as judgement and comparison. We troll the internet to see what other people are doing so that we can judge our work by comparing it to theirs. If they're further along than we are, we tell ourselves we'll never get to where they are. And this keeps us from starting our own thing.

There's no true comparison because everyone's different in terms of the values they hold their work to, and more importantly, everyone's at a different place in their journey.

We also judge ourselves, often too harshly. We need to fall out of love with our inner critic—because it rarely, if ever, serves us.

Busyness Does Not Equal Productivity

There aren't badges handed out for the long work week, and if there were, I'd have gotten a few (and promptly thrown them out, since they don't matter). Work smarter, not more. And the best part is, the more you are present and focused, the quicker the work gets done.

Trust Yourself

The most important thing I've learned is that the best advice is to listen to yourself. Everyone's got an opinion about working for yourself (myself included, obviously) and while it's all well-intentioned, nothing takes the place of trusting your own journey.

This project is part of GOOD's series Push for Good—our guide to crowdsourcing creative progress.

Work image via Shutterstock
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