Wellbeing / Work motivation

The wobble that almost turned into, *shudder*, a real job

Have you ever questioned whether the business-owning life is really for you? Is it time to dust off that CV and apply for a *shudder* real job?

2 February 2016 by

Last night I had a wobble.

It was so bad I actually took out my dusty old CV and started searching for jobs.

It started with a casual snarky remark in a community. And ended with me questioning whether this whole ‘running my own business’ thing was genuinely for me.

I came this close to packing it all in.

"After a few hours down this business burrow I start to question my abilities, my personality, my personal hygiene and my sense of humour. "

Why am I sharing my wobble moment?

Because while I may seem to be coasting along on a wave of sarcasm and success … And while I may appear to be prolific, busy and generally doing okay—I have dark days just like everyone else.

Hopefully by sharing them I can make someone else feel a little bit better.

My wobble story

Don’t get me wrong. There are days when I think running my lifestyle business rocks, and I’m 110% convinced I made the right choice.

But there are other days when it all just seems a bit too hard.

I’m not sure what it is—the constant need to squeeze out the dollars, the relentless pressure of competition, the grating irritation of copycat businesses, or the arse-clenching struggle to motivate yourself through each day.

It’s during these dark days that it becomes easy to fall down the solopreneur rabbit hole.

My rabbit hole tends to make me:

  • Compare myself unfavourably to others, and measure their successes against my own failures.
  • Feel bad about my typo-packed website, cringe-worthy headshot or lack of social media followers.
  • Freak out about my sluggish cash flow, lack of enquiries or woeful conversion rate.

After a few hours down this business burrow I start to question my abilities, my personality, my personal hygiene and my sense of humour.

And this particular night was a doozy.

It was late, I was tired, and my fingers were red raw with clicking.

I found myself scrolling through REAL jobs and pondering if I really would be better off working for ‘the man’.

I fantasised about the sweet joy of a steady wage, annual leave and sick days, and the freedom to completely switch off after work.

On that wobbly day I truly, madly, deeply craved the (relatively) pressure-free life of an employee.

So I fiddled with the font on my resume, saved it as CV2016.doc and went to bed with visions of corporate life dancing in my exhausted mind.

Then I woke up—literally and figuratively.

In the warm light of a fresh, moist day, everything didn’t seem so bad.

I felt a little brighter:

  • My bank balance may not be fat, but it is slightly chubby.
  • The competition may be stiff, but it’s still manageable.
  • Those copycats will hopefully get what’s coming to them.

And the motivation? Well, we can’t be ‘rah rah rah’ all the time, can we?

It’s fine to put down the pom-poms every so often and admit running a business of any size is a tough gig. After all, if it was easy then everyone would be doing it, right?

Some days all we can do is keep on keeping on:

  • Sending out those proposals.
  • Tweeting those tweets.
  • Calling those clients.
  • And putting one meme in front of another.

This time I survived my wobble.

My CV is back in its trusty old folder, and my time on the job recruitment websites is a secret between me and my browser history.

I’m back to feeling confident that me being in a proper job just wouldn’t work out—assuming anyone would even hire me.

My business is where my heart lies, and for now I’m just going to try my best and have my best be good enough.

Have you ever had a wobble and considered giving up the business-owning life? Please share in the comments below.

Kate Toon

is a copywriter, SEO lover and Hula Hooper based in Sydney. She runs copywriting and SEO eCourses as well as helping large corporates and small businesses create engaging content. Connect with her on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Comments

  • I actually spoke to a recruiter last year when I was having a massive wobble. Then I quickly woke up to myself. THANK GOODNESS! I can’t imagine going back to being an employee in a traditional job. Ugh.

    • Beware the wobble! It can lead you to do terrible things, like talk to recruiters!! Glad to hear I’m not alone @mel_kettle:disqus

      • It would have been a fantastic job, but they weren’t prepared to let me do it as a job share, which is what I wanted, so I immediately lost all interest. As it happens, a friend got the job and it was ghastly – huge pressure, long hours.

        • Well that’s awesome. Not for your friend, but awesome for you. A near miss.

  • Thanks for sharing Kate. I’ve had several of those wobbles of late but my passion for what I am doing keeps me going! It’s always good to know that you aren’t the only one with the odd self doubt.

    • Self doubt is a terrible thing. It squishes dreams. But passion is a powerful defence! From talking to some of the big names at conferences and on my podcast I know that they ALL have doubts. We’d be crazy if we didn’t. Thanks for reading.

  • Oh my goodness this article couldn’t have come at a better time! Yesterday I was in tears questioning my very being. My bank balance is as scary as looking under the bed and I was chatting to my friend who said ‘it’s not *really* defeat if you have to go back to working for a while, as long as you keep the dream alive when you get home in the evenings’ (I remember that phase of working almost 24hr days and do NOT want to go back) but I guessed he was right and spent the afternoon on seek (instead of working on my website) shed a few more tears and shortlisted 3 jobs and messaged my other half to say we needed a crisis meeting when he got home… All he replied was ‘we’ll talk when I get back’. *gulp*. Luckily I (somehow) bagged myself an incredible man who came home and talked me off the ledge. He told me how well I was doing and not to give up. He’s got the finances whilst I work on building a future for us. He keeps repeating that I’ve got until the end of the year to make it work THEN we’ll review. So I wiped my eyes and went back to my desk and was more productive than I had been all day. I’m extremely lucky I have a down to earth partner who can correct my wobbles, let’s just hope I don’t let him down and make something truly amazing of my business OrigamiGlobe before the year is out. Thanks Kate for making me realise I’m not alone. Suki

    • We all need someone to talk us of that wobble ledge. Thank goodness for your lovely partners.

      But in all seriousness I don’t think it’s a defeat if you go back to work in some capacity. I know many business who support their own business by doing other jobs. Not every busy hits the ground running. I think it took me 4 years to stop fretting, and as you can see from above, even after seven I still have the odd wobble.

      A brief stint at real work can renew your passion, inflate your bank account and help you take another crack.

      Stay strong Suki! You got this!

    • Oh what a great partner! And so nice to know that you have a certain amount of time to get it to all work out xx

  • I love this. Sometimes we get so bogged down in the smoke and mirrors of how well everyone else seems to be doing, that we’re not honest about the fact that SOMETIMES IT’S BLOODY HARD!! Thanks for your honesty Kate.

    • Yep.
      Social media: RA RAH SUCCESS SUCCESS SUCCESS!
      Reality: Sobbing, gently banging head on desk.

  • BuyAustralianMade.com.au

    I know the feeling well.

    • Yep, wobbles are more common than we think.

  • It is quite possibly that time of year. I am trying to track down clients that gave confirmations prior to Christmas regarding commencement of websites. But it all seems a long time a go.
    There are plenty of jobs on the books but we do need the content from the client to complete or indeed start the job. Not too many invoices went out in January.

    • Yep a lot of people are saying that, this has been a spectacularly tough Jan for many businesses, those school holidays were a killer too for parents. Here’s hoping we all SMASH February. Thanks for reading @[email protected] Design:disqus

  • I can so relate to this situation Kate. Have been wobbling regularly ever since taking on this solo gig. But frankly, the flexibility it allows, particularly in relation to being able to spend time with my kids, means I wouldn’t go back, perhaps not even for my dream job (whatever that actually is).

    • Yes i’m not sure what mine is either these days @CassInSA:disqus

  • So glad I read this this morning – just what I needed!

  • Great share Kate, and yes indeed, I have had said wobble often enough! It was most recently on Saturday when i caught up with my big executive, corporate banking, best buddy who has a nice car and a fat bank account! She told me all about her investment property portfolio, her recent $150k investment into some guys business (note: not in my business, cos its not a proper business)! We also reminisced my very poor choice of ex husband! Geez, it was a doozy of a catch up!

    Best of all, she asked me why I don’t just give up and go work for a big company as a Chief HR Officer and collect said, fat salary, sick leave and annual! My answer said it all: Because, if I work for one company then i only help one! If I stay in my business and grow it I can service 10 companies and help them all grow through their people which is what my passion is!

    I didn’t remind her of all the failed relationships she has had or that all that she owns actually belongs to the bank! As Dory says in finding Nemo: “Just keep swimming!”

    • I love Dory, particularly her short term memory issues!

      Yes those rich fat cats with nice cars and posh suits and property portfolios. Sigh. But are they happy? *
      I tried the corporate path and hated every living second of it. I’d rather be scruffy and ride a bike than return to the path of doom. Each to their own I guess.

      The keyword is passion I think. I had no passion in my corporate job, and now I have it by the bucket load. Thanks for reading @kchr1

      * probably but let’s ignore that.

  • MacushlaB

    Kate – all credit to you for being honest about what is a fact of life for all people in business, solopreneur or not. It is not possible to be positive 100 percent of the time. and to think otherwise is an illusion. Therefore it is wise for us on the days my friend calls “slump days” to keep doing what is necessary and what Buddhists call “chopping wood and gathering water”. There will always be a balance of highs and lows and managing our emotions and mindset is probably the most challenging aspect of the inevitable fluctuations which we experience simply as a function of being on the planet. I’m very glad to hear – as I’m sure others are – that you’re back on track. Keep going.

    • I like that ‘chopping wood and gathering water’ – today I’m doing admin and drinking coffee which is my version of that Buddhist call.

      As my dad says, handle the highs gratefully and the lows gracefully. Thanks for reading.

  • Next time you have a wobble I’ll fashion you a bespoke set of training wheels.

    The solo world needs you Kate.

  • Blimey! If you have days like that, then there’s hope for the likes of me. Thanks for sharing your experience, Kate. Your rabbit hole sounds so similar to mine, although mine includes vexing low self esteem and anxiety… (whinge, whinge, gripe, gripe). I’m going through a bit of a wobble period at the moment, actually. I realise there’s SO much I still have to do to get my biz running more smoothly: SEO, T&Cs, systems and procedures… I ask myself: “What have you been DOING all this time??” I can’t afford to outsource anything, yet, and doing it all is exhausting, which then creates a vicious cycle. I know there’s a light at the top of the rabbit hole, so I’ll keep going. The idea of going back to an orifice job just fills me with abject terror!

    • How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
      Yes there is SO Much you could do, but you just have to break it down into what you must/can do. We’re all just chipping away at the iceberg. Eat our giant to do list back of crisp one crips at a time. Writing too many analogies in blog comments.

      Thanks for reading. And I’ll see you down that rabbit hole sometime.

  • Thanks for the post Kate, I had one of those days last week where I had to meet with the accountant and therefore really scrutinise the figures. When things looked a little disappointing I think I said to my wife “stuff it – might as well just go and get a normal job”.

    Actually a week on I kind of still feel like that 🙂

    But then being able to take the kid to his first day of school and pick him up yesterday afternoon did start to make it seem worthwhile again.

    Thanks again – now if I can just find my way off this ledge ….. 😉

    • That’s it isn’t it? yes we could be rolling in cash, having long lunches and beers on Friday. But we’d be stuck in a cubicle, working for the man, commuting and missing school drop off. It’s all compromise. Repeat after me. NORMAL JOBS SUCK!

  • Love your honesty as always Kate. I think all soloists feel this way from time to time. Working for yourself is a tough gig, but I don’t think I could go back to working for anyone so I’ll just have to suck it up when the going gets tough 😉

    • Yep I do a lot of metaphorical sucking it up. We gotta keep on keeping on. And it’s good when you have a community to cheer you up on dark days.

  • Hang in there Kate. You know you are NEEDED by all us other wobbly soloists. Love you work!!!

  • This is me to a tee at present. I am questioning what I have given up to have what I thought would be a lifestyle business. I worry I left a career that was just starting to give me return for the hard work I had put into “the man’s” business; what skills have I lost because of this decision. My husband and I purchased a General Store three years ago in a small regional fishing community, 350 permanent residents…we provide basic groceries, bait and tackle, alcohol, fuel, ice, a range of clothes and general convenience store items. It is hard keeping your head above water in these economic times and it seems that our business our operations our everything is the topic of far to many peoples daily conversation which is frustrating. I crave the need to use my financial management, project planning and governance skills to assist this community progress but alas they just appear to want our counter space for raffle tickets. I do hope my reality jolt kicks in very soon and I regain the passion and drive required to live and work in this beautiful location.

    • I feel your struggle. As someone who grew up in a small community with only one shop (and everything shop) I know how important it was to the community. When it closed everyone was gutted, but then when you spoke to them about whether they shopped their they said ‘not much’!

      Hopefully the SHOP LOCAL movement will benefit you.

      I genuinely wish you every success and hope that passion and drive returns soon @flyingsolo-cc78557cbad9fa1968a244bd68faaca0:disqus

  • I’ve started my same business twice. Once in Los Angeles and once in Perth, Australia. From my personal experience, sometimes taking a temp assignment in a parallel role or unrelated role does something good for your headspace.

    When I started my computer training business in 1997, I would take temp assignments as an office admin between training assignments (not for the big money, but for the office interaction). I learned a lot by working for investment companies, recruiting firms and the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum.

    I met a lot of people who later referred me onto other clients. I was happier and less negative towards weak leads or mismatched requests in my own business.

    Does this only work in Los Angeles (or the US)?

    Temping works in Australia, too. Right before I left Perth, my husband was putting a lot of pressure on me to “just get a job — any job” because he’d been out of work for 4 months. My income, like most freelancers is a huge, seasonal rollercoaster of work, feel broke, collect, and start the ride again.

    http://perth-write.com/blog/how-much-money-did-i-make/

    My graph shows that I earn the money and work the hours about equal to 60%-70% of a full time job with a huge cycle of financial highs and lows. This has been pretty close to my typical pattern for over 15 years. What is funny is the tax years I’ve grossed the most money are the years that I’ve punctuated my sole trader business with *temp work*.

    Temp work isn’t beneath any of us. In fact I worked less than a week as the temp receptionist for a national community service organisation and found

    * My attitude towards my own future work changed
    * I found a sense of belonging and focus
    * I shared and gained introductions to people that lead to my next real jobs

    The reason why you work for yourself isn’t lost. Think of temp work as therapeutic (you’re getting paid for the therapy instead of paying a lot for it). If you put “your why” towards making the people you interact with at the temp assignment better off, the work flies by and you gain some humble, valuable understanding of yourself.

    I’ve heard from colleagues in Perth that they have paid the recruiter! Oh no! Just like finding good clients, you need to shop around for agencies that have mature, experienced staff (even if your first point of contact is the intern recruiter straight out of TAFE).

    Build a friendship with the recruiters you like – even if they don’t land you a job. Maybe you can pay it forward by networking the recruiter with your colleague who fits the role? Be clear that you aren’t looking for temp to perm – most clients will want to keep temps who are entrepreneurs after they’ve worked with the temp.

    Be patient. Recruiters (especially in a weak market) are dealing with an overload of desperate people (who don’t have the dream of their own business). Be willing to take a role a little lower than what you think you can do – it’s only a temp assignment and you are there for the enlightenment and to give back. Temp work is a waypoint.

    Consider offering to do temp work for your clients. I’ve done temp work at a lower rate ranging from entering and updating inventory in an e-commerce website — to covering for an account manager whilst she was off to her wedding and honeymoon. State the work is temporary and that the fair rate is only for the temp work. Covering for the account temp work actually led to additional writing for 2 clients at my regular rates.

    • Wow that’s a blog in it’s own right. Understanding your WHY is so important.
      Thank you for your thoughtful advice @shaunamkinney:disqus

  • Dave Hall

    Thanks Kate
    Very honest and resonated with me too
    I’ve being self employed out of a home office for over a decade now and the flexibility has been a way of life for too long I think to ever give it up.
    But yes, I have dark days like yours too – especially when I’m sleep deprived (two small kids). I crave the financial freedom and leave your work at work attitude of a steady job a lot… but never quite enough to snap at it like a hungry fish … besides I know many jobs have the same pressures I find challenging in a world where we all sing for our supper.
    The flexibility of being able to drop my daughter off for her first day of school was a particular treat today (albeit a teary one)
    Thanks again,
    Dave Hall
    [email protected]

    • Thanks Dave, yes the small humans don’t help do they. I think you’ve hit the name on the head. There are still pressures at real jobs, they’re just different ones.

      My son is in year 1 and after a looong school holiday any tears I had, I must admit, were tears of JOY!! Thanks for reading @disqus_LClNPDwEak:disqus

  • Bron

    I think if you don’t have a wobble every now and then you wouldn’t be human – it’s certainly happened a lot to me lately…as recent as yesterday!

    • Yep to wobble is to be human. That’s a good meme! Thanks for reading @Bron:disqus

  • Wow, clearly everyone has those wobbles at one time or another! I feel much better now…last week was ‘one of those weeks’ for me as well. And then I realised that sometimes it’s okay to spend a day binge-watching the Good Wife – as long as you back it up with some billable hours and new business the next day! Why else do we work flexibly…am I right? 😉

    • I spend MANY a day binge watching netflix (clients don’t read this) – I think it feeds some part of me that needs a break from the cut and thrust of being a hard nosed, hard bottomed freelancer.

  • This popped up in my email inbox this morning, and as a lot of other Soloists have said, it was perfect timing. Going through a really tough patch at the moment, probably the toughest I’ve had in my business so far. But compared with a real job? I still wake up every day and thank my lucky stars that I don’t have to do the ‘daily grind’. Running on 4 hours sleep, fighting morning traffic (remember rainy winter mornings at 7.45am in peak hour traffic??), being underappreciated…
    Running a small biz is not for the faint-hearted, it’s very tough at times but I’d still rather have my current challenges compared to the normal slave-wage ones.

    • I think we can officially call it WOBBLE JANUARY.
      This “Running a small biz is not for the faint-hearted, it’s very tough at times but I’d still rather have my current challenges compared to the normal slave-wage ones.” is my quote of the day @flyingsolo-80b25acbedd18fe93e0fcb24a57970b1:disqus

  • Kate, I think you were channelling me when you wrote this one!! Thanks for sharing and inspiring me to stand strong!

  • Paying all those taxes that we do really does make us think about a 9-5 job…

  • I had more than a wobble 🙁 I applied for – and got – a 3 month contract job, starting tomorrow, and today I feel like I’ve let myself and my business down. I wish I’d stuck to my original plan of getting a part time job, not just feeling great for a moment, that someone thought I was worth hiring. Anyway, onwards and upwards.

    • Ah but those three months will be over like that – and then you can return to your business with renewed vim and vigour and a meaty bank account. Or you might find that the job is what you need right now. it’s onwards upwards and backward sometimes.

  • Rohanne Young

    Hi Kate and all solopreneurs – sooo nice to know that I am not alone in having a small (or not so small) wobble. Mine isn’t serious enough to get me back to working for ‘the man’ but there does seem to be more outgoings than incomings at present! Especially our ‘beloved’ tax office, but as a colleague once said to me “be grateful that you earn enough to have to pay tax”. As for someone to talk me off the wobble ledge, I couldn’t do it without my Business Coach who has seen and done it all before me. Highly recommended. Cheers Rohanne

    • Yes it’s hard to be grateful about paying tax though isn’t it. Grateful is not the word that springs to mind! 🙂 I have never had a business coach but I did once have a very good chat with the wonderful Robert Gerrish and his wisdom has kept me going – and semi wobble free – for years.

  • Kristin Sinclair

    Perfect timing. Please do not feel alone – every time I have a big client emergency that leaves me with stomach pain and sleepless nights (every few months), I start wondering about getting a real job… but I always wake up….

    • Yes waking up from the ‘nightmare’ is the best bit. Thanks for your nice comment @disqus_VmpOLmU0lG:disqus

  • I am in this boat right now only difference is I do have a job and a home business, but I am trying desperately to get my business off the ground so I can leave my job. But part of me is thinking I won’t be able to do it and I’ll be a failure, the other part is saying just take the leap.

    • I think TAKE THE LEAP. You’ll never regret trying and there’s nothing worse than wondering what if. I know several business people who have tried and failed several times before they hit a steady flow.
      My own business as changed out of all recognition from what it was. I hope you push on through.

  • Yup, yup and yup! Just before Christmas I started researching jobs. I was sick of the quiet weeks between the busy ones. Sick of feeling like I’m getting ahead just to save myself when I fall behind. Sick of the countless hours doing social media marketing and networking and blog writing that doesn’t actually seem to get me anywhere, not even sure if anyone is reading it. Sick of all the hours of work at home that doesn’t pay a wage. Sick of family thinking I don’t work when I’m at home. Then my wonderful husband told me to stop and think of what life would be like if I had a ‘real’ job, and asked if I’d really be happy. And the answer is a big fat NO. So I’m pushing forward, with him behind me all the way!

    • Ah these great husbands and partners are a life saver right? Just being able to come out of our bubble and get a sanity check is sometimes all we need. I’ve been in Sick of sick of sick of land for a while. But now I’m sick of myself worrying about it, so I’ma gonna keep on keepin on

  • Kat Hunter

    I know all too well the feeling of wobble. Occasionally when I’ve had a bad week of clients cancelling sessions and the financial unpredictability that comes with running your own business, that reliable “normal” job looks so enticing. It’s moments like this when I need to remember the key things:
    1. Why am I in business in the first place?
    2. In what positive ways am I helping clients improve their lives?
    3. In what positive ways can I use the FREEDOM of self-employment to live my life more authentically and with joy? It takes a while but eventually I manage to pick myself up and keep on keeping on.
    Incidentally, Kate, I’m doing your SEO challenge right now, and it’s helping me improve my business! Love your work! 🙂

    • Ah well you see. With that comment you’ve answered question 1 and 2 for me. Thanks so much @disqus_EmD4KGiPs8:disqus

  • Great article Kate. For me however, with an interest in freelance writing, I have not made a single dollar after more than a year of pitching prospective clients and even having some of my work published. Consequently, I wouldn’t have a clue what a good day is from a bad day in business! 🙂 Fortunately I have a full-time job in the public service.

    • can I ask out of interest are you a freelance copywriter or a feature writer? From a copywriter perspective I can help you!!

  • Pauline Morgan

    Not wrong Suki, that is how I have been feeling too! My husband is always saying I don’t give myself enough credit and sometimes I do sit there and say “Have I made the right decision”, but then I look at what I have accomplished and the amount of problems I have sold and realize, I am good at what I do. It is so good to know other business owners feels the same way.

  • Thank you for your article Kate! It was great reading it and all the comments from all the others. Made me realize that I am far from alone in feeling this way from time to time. x

    • Yes the comments are better than the article! Thanks for reading.

  • Thank you so much Kate for sharing this. The wobbles have arrived at various times in our household. They normally occur when a large bill arrives and the bank balance is lower than we’d like! Two years in business and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Flexibility is why I do this!

    • Flexibility is the thing for me too and not having a boss. I love deciding how my day should pan out. Thanks for commenting.

  • Duly noted Kate.

  • Freelancing, there will always be days like this; I had many as a copywriter. Sometimes there is another option besides a job, like a better business. I am now giving authors a chance to get into print without taking all the costs and work on themselves. Some of the income is from royalties and I love a bit of a gamble on someone’s talent & cred. It also benefits my own marketing.

    • Agreed. I’ve diversified into Copywriting Courses and SEO training as well as a lot of public speaking. It certainly breaks up the monotony and gives me fresh challenges.

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