One of the main reasons people work for themselves is because it gives them freedom. But what exactly does ‘freedom’ mean? Six soloists share their stories.
What’s the most beautiful thing about freedom? The fact that it represents such different things to different people and is something which can evolve depending on where you’re at in life and what your personal goals are.
But being a soloist is hard! And sometimes you find yourself wondering whether the ‘freedom’ is worth it. With that in mind, we thought we’d chat with some members of the Flying Solo community and see how they balance the concept of freedom of self employment with the unique challenges soloists face.
Bert, Blitzing Backyards
In a previous life I was doing the big corporate 9 to 5. Actually, it was more like 8 to 6 plus a 90 minute drive each way. The dollars were good, but as you can imagine, there was no family life. And when you have two young children, this is not ideal.
So I took the solo plunge. Naturally this involved a big drop in earnings, especially at the very start. But suddenly I was in a position to spend much more time with the kids and could even do kinder/school related things with them.
And ironically, not long after going solo there was a big change in family circumstances which resulted in me having to do a lot more of the school and kid things. Had I still been working in big corporate there’s no way I could’ve done this as big corporates don’t understand the concept of having six hours between school drop-off and pickup, or a child being sick!
These days, I might have certain clients who don’t understand that my kids come first – but I have the ability to sack those clients (and I have!)
So for me, freedom equals flexibility. Money doesn’t bring happiness, but going solo has. I could go back and earn many times more than I do now, and the job would be a lot less physical. But even when the children are older, I wouldn’t do it knowing what I know now.
Paul, MD Commercial Cleaning
As a Manager in a corporate environment for over 10 years, I had a lot of success, paid off my house and my child went out in the world on her own.
As much as I had my job down pretty pat and worked close to home, I just wasn’t feeling it in the same way as in the beginning.
So I opted to “semi-retire”.
I was the ultimate soloist for 18 months, playing poker for a living (it only required about 20 hours per week and was always able to fit into a normal life schedule). In the end my wife decided I was having too much fun and insisted I either go back to corporate life or buy a business.
So I chose a business in which I could be part-time but was still scalable.
At times, the business has been anything but part-time (seven days a week anyone?) But at other times, I’ve had a great deal of time to take nanna naps and explore the inner me.
Like Bert mentions above, the dollars have been, until this point, less than what I’d been earning in corporate life, but the flexibility has been much greater.
That said, this yea I will smash any previous years’ earnings and, touch wood, it looks like my business has a great future. And I’m now planning my next venture (to run concurrently with my existing business. Exciting times.)
I always have ideas for new businesses and now I have the freedom to act on some of them!
Colleen, Berrigan Motel
Like others, I came from a corporate position that was taking too much of my life away. It had a huge impact on my health so I made the decision to take a major step back and re-assess my priorities. And my priorities suggested it was time to leave the corporate world!
I still needed a way to support myself however so I looked to small business.
Is the money great? Not at all. And the hours are long as motel guests expect someone to answer the phone at all hours of the day and night, even in small country towns that just can’t afford to staff a 24-hour reception desk!
So there are definitely frustrations related to being a soloist but what does freedom mean to me as a soloist?
I get up each day knowing I’m not going to be bullied by a sociopathic boss. I get to choose which of my many hats I’m going to wear each day – am I going to be gardener, cleaner, accountant, pool person, marketer, entrepreneur, handyperson etc. Or am I feeling the need for variety today so will wear all of those hats?
Freedom is having a home that is also my business so I am with my dogs (my family) all day (one of them suffered greatly from separation anxiety and is now sane for the first time in eight years! That’s a big deal for me!)
I love that as a soloist I get to use all of the skills I learned in the corporate world as well as my current MBA studies. And I love that I’m learning new things through my work all the time.
Kelly, My Sassy Business
Freedom for me is the choice to work when I want, as hard as I want and to be available at times that work for me. Technology has been huge for me in this regard!
As a soloist I have the ability to work any of the 24 hours I like in a day, but I can also take time off in those hours too. I’ve always been self-employed for this reason and truly believe that right now, there’s never been a better time to be a soloist and achieve the work-life balance you crave!
Hobidi Bob, Humdrum Home Services
Since I was 17 I had a goal to be “financially free” by 30. (I’m now 28.)
I learned how not to be free when I was a teenager as I watched my mother work five days a week for a company that didn’t value her. I watched my father own a business where he would leave at 4.30am Monday morning and get home at lunch time on Saturday or Sunday. My relationship with my dad was almost non-existent as he was never home.
So this brings me to the first definition of freedom: I want to be able to run my own schedule so I can be with my kids when I need to be. And not just my kids, my wife too.
Money is also a huge factor. Freedom is being able to provide for my family and not be worried about where the next dollars are going to come from to pay for bills, sports, entertainment, education, travel and other opportunities.
Currently, my wife and I are not soloists as certain events have forced us back into salaried roles. But we know what freedom looks like, and we intend to be back in the soloist world by the end of the year as that’s the world that gives us the freedom we want.
My definition of freedom has definitely changed over the years.
It used to be just financial; that ‘weight off your shoulders’ feeling of being able to pay the next bill. But recently, I’ve come to think about freedom as so much more. Yes, there’s the ability to be there for the kids. But now it’s more about being confident in myself and being able to deal with rejection and any hiccups along the way. Freedom for me is also about having the support of a partner who has sacrificed his own dreams (for the moment) to help me follow mine. It’s also about wanting to work on a Saturday night because I know I’m helping someone with their own dreams (and knowing I can have Monday off because I’m up to date with my work).
Starting out as a soloist, I’ve taken the ‘safe’ route of combining that work with a ‘day’ job (and of course working nights and weekends to fit it all in.) I enjoy flexible hours in my ‘day’ job however and now that I’ve done the hard yards, am getting to a place where I can enjoy the freedoms of flexibility, creativity and joy that my solo role gives me.
It’s harder work but funnily enough, more enjoyable. So there is freedom in that too!
So now we’ve heard from our community members it’s your turn! Tell us in the comments below – what does ‘freedom’ mean to you … and has the solo life given you that freedom?