I’ve been my own boss for almost half a decade. It’s taken me a little while to learn how to be a good employer, but I can finally say that Daisy Buchanan Industries has a fine HR department.
A happy worker is a productive worker, and I need to love, value and support my sole employee – me – otherwise the business would go under. I believe that freelancing has taught me about the importance of self love.
Before I started to work for myself, I thought the concept of self love was at best, a bit cringey, and at worst, sheer narcissism. “She really loves herself” was one of the worst insults you could throw at another girl in the playground. For a long time I believed that it was up to other people to tell me whether I was smart, talented or creative enough to be a success. I never seemed to get the validation I craved, and I felt insecure and miserable.
Love what you do
However, when I started to work for myself, it quickly became clear that I had to be positive about my skills and abilities. If you introduce yourself to someone who might give you work, saying “Hello, I’m a bit rubbish!” it won’t result in them saying “Ah, no, I’m sure you’re brilliant! Here, have this massive contract!” They'll take you at your own estimation, and give the work to the person who can comfortably, confidently say “I’m the best!”
Working for myself has made me fall in love with my work again. Even though I really enjoyed many elements of my old role, it came with plenty of irritations and distractions, thanks to office politics. Also, if my boss asked me to do something I didn’t want to do, I couldn’t turn it down. Now, I’m in a position where I can pick my projects and choose the work that I’m really enthusiastic about, and as I gain experience, I find that I have more choice than ever.
When I work on what I love, I approach the project with passion and energy, which means I’m much more likely to do a good job – and a great result boosts my confidence.
The money problem
At first, not having a regular income stream was scary. But I soon found that the exciting thing about being paid per project, rather than per month is that I could earn more money more quickly. When I had a full time job, my salary stayed the same no matter how hard I worked, but when I found that my bank balance grew with the hours I put in, my confidence grew too. It was like being on a ship, falling overboard, convincing myself that drowning was imminent, but staying afloat - and finding out that I’m a strong swimmer.
“Freelancing has taught me to silence the voice in my head that tells me to stop showing off
As a staff writer for a magazine, I earned a lot less than most of my friends. I don’t think they cared or noticed, but I felt quite self conscious about the fact that my salary was well below the average. Now I have weeks where I earn more than I used to in a month, and weeks where I earn exactly zero pounds. Obviously I feel a bit wobbly and worried when I’m not earning anything at all, but I don’t feel as though my income defines my identity any more, and I don’t compare my salary with my friends’ – partly because it varies so much that I wouldn’t know where to start.
Spreading the love
Then there’s the PR part. As a journalist, I use social media to promote my work. As a human being, I sometimes feel like cringing when I post “Hey everybody, look what I did!” Freelancing has taught me to silence the negative voice in my head that tells me to shut up and stop showing off. Again, it helps to think that I’m not just doing it for me, I’m doing it for my business.
Yes, there are trolls, but they make up a tiny percentage of the people I deal with - and the positive, constructive comments are a joy. To keep things in perspective and make sure my feed isn’t a constant stream of me, I try to spread the love and share other people’s work as much as possible. I find that practising positivity and self compassion makes me want to celebrate everyone’s talents as well as my own.
Working for myself has taught me that the world will take me at my own estimation. I’ve got a responsibility to be positive, to be cheerful and to show my talents to their best advantage. Being self employed has brought me so many challenges, advantages and opportunities and it’s vital that I respect and value myself in order to take them on. It’s hard to stay constantly confident, and working for yourself can be lonely.
But as long as you have faith in yourself and believe in your ability to do your best, you’ll be able to cope with quiet inboxes and multiple deadline pile ups while staying calm and cheerful. When I first went freelance, I didn’t really believe that I was strong enough or smart enough to make it work. No-one told me that there was one weird trick, a fairly simple secret to success. You don’t have to prove to yourself that you’re worthy of a career before you start working. You just need to believe you can do it, and start doing it.
So how do we get what we need to live? Our livelihoods are our own personal answer to that question, whether it be job in a factory, setting up a start-up, or taking time out to travel. But the economy we live in affects the choices we have in setting up our livelihoods, and we rely on so many other workers around us to be able to do what we do… how do we get the balance right?