Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Report From the Self-Employed

It's been four months now since I quit the day job. I like to think that I stopped working for "the man." Of course, now I work for myself, and some days, I'm more demanding. Then again, some days, I give myself ice cream and walk along the beach. I guess it balances out.

Here, in no particular order, are some things I've learned. I'm guessing they also apply to any of you who've retired.

I'm a little lazy. I cut myself some slack right after I quit my job, and I spent a few weeks relaxing. That meant sleeping, reading a lot, watching television, and lunching with friends. And then yet more sleeping and reading. I figured my natural inclination for resting would taper off.

Maybe not so much.

Naps are good and bad. Don't get me wrong, naps are fantastic. Some days you wake up thinking, "not quite enough sleep, I'll nap later." And sometimes they sneak up on you. But I've found that often naps take twice as long to recover from as they last. And that can really throw a wrench into your whole day....

I do actually want to work. Maybe it's the diminishing bank account. Maybe it's the desire to interact with people once in a while. Or maybe it's that I do want to use what I've learned in my 20+-year career. Probably all of the above.

Don't get me wrong: I don't want to work too much. Just some.

I will actually exercise, write my next book, and talk to friends and family. I worried for a little while, because the lure of my bed, the sofa, and my bookshelves was awfully strong. But after detoxing from the load of people and expectations I'd been under, I have found some energy and will to do all the things that are either good for me (exercise) or that I want to do (book and talking).

It's hard to remember what day of the week it is. When you don't have to get up and get dressed for work, it's not easy to remember it's Tuesday. Good part: Mondays don't have the same sting. Bad part: remembering to move the car for street sweeping on Wednesdays.

Or, as my husband puts it: "Every day is Saturday."

Some days I need to put on makeup to feel less like a slob. I shower every day, but I don't always dress presentably. Let's be serious: I wear yoga pants every day. Unless I've got a customer visit or lunch with someone, I don't bother styling my hair or putting on makeup.

Until I reach an epic low of sloppy attire (usually because I need to do laundry), and then the next day I get dressed, blow-dry my hair, and put makeup on, even if I'm not going anywhere. Just to feel like a functional adult.

I am grateful, happy, and smug. Some of this sounds insufferable, I know. But I also know many people wouldn't want to work from home and some can't spend six months building a business. I'm so grateful I can do all of those things. And I'm in a good place.

How about the rest of you? Does this list ring true for anyone?


  1. Oh yes. I haven't reported for full-time work in five-ish years. I no longer have a "work" wardrobe (only a few conference clothes). And if you make me do my hair, it had better be worth it. The other hard part has been learning how to go "off work," which is especially hard for writers, I've decided.

    Here's to a choice that seems to be working for you! May you continue to have such a great boss!

  2. Exactly! on the hair. And yes, extraction is still tough. Thanks!

  3. So absolutely spot-on! I live for conferences because they give me an excuse to doll up for a few consecutive days and interact with people. I play more computer card games than I should. I still have a hard time reconciling not working as hard as I did when I had a FT job, hours of commuting time, and still managed to write. And yes, I miss the regular paycheck. But still...! Welcome to the club.

    1. I know! I keep wondering how I ever did it all, because it seems to take all I have now to do less. Glad I'm in a club.

  4. I ask my retiring clients what their plan is for retirement. They say, "well, isn't that what you're for?" I say sure, for the money part, but what are you planning to do with your time?" They usually look at me slightly confused, and then maybe a littl panicky, and maybe get a thousand mile stare.
    When I tell clients they should schedule even their downtime, at first they think I'm a little nuts. I relate it back to an email tag line I received that said "Live life with purpose". I thought a lot about that and since I work at home, I've found it's very important to make sure I have a purposeful list of things 1) I definitely want to get done today, 2) I would like to get these done today, and 3) wow, if I got these done today, I could take tomorrow off and go golfing, napping, lunching, etc.
    So at the end of the day I sit down and plan out the next day. I build in time to work and play with the dog, do office work, run chores, and play Bejeweled Blitz or a slot game. Sometimes there's nothing on the "definitely want to" list. I find I'm a lot less stressed at the end of the day...and the dog is happier too.

  5. I've started doing a similar thing, Dave, but with a little less structure than yours (I might try your plan out). I'm using Trello for task lists, and I make sure they're updated the night before a new day. It does help!

    And I like the tag line. :-) Working on that!

  6. Yoga pants are IT! And oh, yes, sometimes I don't know what day it is. On a more serious note, yes, it does take time to work out what daily rhythm works best. My day-job retirement sort of sneaked up on me, as my profession disappeared, but now my writing is my job. I am self employed...and my sole employee is sometimes too easily sidetracked. Writing has to come first.

    It does sound like you are figuring it all out.

    1. Working on it, Triss. Thanks. Glad to hear you've found a balance--makes me more confident I will!


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