Over the last decade, I’ve transitioned from freelancer, to business partner, to full-time employee. My recent leap back into soloism has completed the circle, and given me a renewed appreciation for the joys of working for yourself, from home. Let me count the ways.
The early days of solo life were amazing. Leaving ad agency land to be a freelance copywriter and help raise a couple of babies was a dream come true.
Then came the inevitable 7 year itch.
The urge to be part of something bigger led me to partner with Robert and Sam on Flying Solo for several years, which provided a great balance of flexibility combined with a team and business structure.
Then, about two years ago we were pleased to be welcomed into the bigger Pinstripe group. Along with that came a ‘real’ job – city commute, ironing shirts and all the rest of it. It was a great opportunity, in a beautiful office, with clever people, in a sector I love, but the tantalising call of Soloville eventually wooed me back.
Three months ago, the wonderful Lucy Kippist took over controls of Flying Solo and I went back to the third bedroom to freelance once again, with Joni Mitchell singing in my ear “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
What’s so good about running your own show?
Flying Solo surveys over the last 10 years have consistently shown that the top four benefits of soloism are flexibility, control, ability to work from home and lifestyle. In a word, it’s about freedom.
Of course it’s not all palm trees and siestas. There are many valid and well-documented highs and lows of soloism, and it’s not for everyone. But there is something uniquely exhilarating about running your own show from a home base.
If you’re doubting your journey or in greener grass territory, here’s a few things I‘d forgotten about:
1. Work when you are most productive
Much has been written about the benefits of working in blocks at times when you are most productive. Most people are naturally more night owls or early birds, however an 8am-6pm existence supports neither of those. And try telling colleagues you need 2 hours of uninterrupted silence each morning to eat your frog. The ability to work until 2am if you’re on a roll, and start again at 11am is a productivity turbo boost and home-based luxury.
2. Exercise is effortless
Yes, I know you can exercise when you’re working in an office full time. Call it being too busy, the hassle of changing, or just plain laziness, but at the office not once did I go for that run at lunchtime. And rarely did I summon up the energy to head out at 6am or 8pm. Since being in control of my own schedule, the excuses have fallen away and exercise has been part of every day – often with the dog.
3. Long hours without resentment
Running any business requires hard work and can mean long hours. When you’re the one booking the work, with the option to turn it down or agree on timelines, you no longer have that feeling of obligation and resentment that can come from late nights in the office. After all, you’re the one with the whip.
4. Get your piece of the action
The flip side of worrying about your next pay cheque, a downside of self-employment for sure, is the thrill of signing up a new piece of work. Rightly or wrongly, when working for someone else, pulling in a new project can feel a bit like ‘more work to get done’ rather than an exciting win.
5. “It’s raining. Let’s skip the commute.”
In the early days of Flying Solo we’d work in the office most Tuesdays and Thursdays. More than a few times, faced with a blustery winter’s day, we’d send a text pulling the pin on the office. This doesn’t go down so well with most bosses.
9. Owning success, and failure
As an employee, it’s easy to fall into the victim trap of blaming everything out of your control… managers, policies, decisions, strategies. When you’re the boss, the buck stops with you. While this is a big responsibility, it eliminates the energy-sapping negativity that can come from office politics and disgruntled staff.
7. Incidental family moments
Listening to your daughter whinge about the HSC biology exam, mowing the lawn for old mate Alan across the road, smashing all the washing before the weekend, loading up the slow cooker, chatting while the kettle boils, doing the school run… all these moments add more to life than I remembered.
6. The famous work-from-home toastie
Otherwise known as ‘leftovers in the sunshine’, there’s something deeply therapeutic about opening the fridge, piling whatever random food you can find between two bits of bread, toasting it up to a golden flatness and taking to the back step for 20 minutes. The $14 city salad bar is objectively better, but not as nutritious for the soul.
8. Beating the Friday traffic on the freeway
I’d forgotten about the pure joy of packing up the car and heading out of town on a Friday by 3pm, without permission, leave forms or sneaking out the door early. Feeling one step ahead in the queue of life, it’s a small but significant moment of freedom and independence I’d missed.
I remember writing about this during my first solo stint: The life of a solo business owner, especially one working from home, can easily be glamorised into a life of freedom, leisure and balance. Clearly, the reality is that as a soloist you certainly escape a whole bunch of problems, but you also inherit a few of your own. Like finding customers, cash flow, overwhelm and wearing too many hats.
While many of the realities are strikingly similar to a ‘real’ job – it seems evident that hard work, occasional stress and uncertainty are part of any ambitious role – the difference is in the control and autonomy you have being your own boss.
For me, being a solo business person is about freedom and possibility as opposed to security and predictability.
Flying solo is not a way to escape problems but it is undoubtedly a way to find unlimited opportunities. You take the risks, but the rewards are all yours too.
What moments do you love about being your own boss?