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The Delightful Insanity Of Being Self-Employed

Let’s face it – you have to be insane to leave the world of the employed and choose the path of starting your own business. The uncertainty of where your next paycheck will come from. The constant marketing and self-promotion. Always sporting a happy face at 7am or 5pm, even if you don’t want to be at that networking event. The paperwork, the financial risk, the lack of structure, support and security. How does one do it?

If there is one thing you can count on in these uncertain times is that you can count on nothing except yourself. I’m not saying to trust no one, what I mean is that we are living in a time of accelerating change. What you can count on is that the way things are now can change in an instant. I sensed this in my own life fifteen years ago when I stepped out of the career track and into self-employment, and I feel the pace of change accelerating exponentially from year to year. So how to move forward without losing your way?

Being self-employed means being able to let go of the orderliness of knowing what you are going to do today, this week, a month from now, five years from now. Because most likely something will pop up today that could have the ability to completely change your life: a new client, a new opportunity, or a new situation, bad or good, within your control or outside of it.

The responsible thing to do is to earn a living. There are far easier ways of doing so than being self-employed.

A couple of years ago I was attracted to an amazing woman who had a couple of university degrees and could speak at least four languages quite fluently. She had beauty and brains. (I love smart women!) But her problem is that she had a very difficult time finding a job, because she was frankly over-qualified for most of what is out there. When I met her, and as she got to know me, she decided to try the self-employed route and set herself up as a consultant in her field.

Unfortunately she did not get far, and I quickly realized why: she was looking for stability and certainty in a lifestyle where there is none.

As a solopreneur, we want to know that someone will buy what we offer, that all this effort and money and time that we devote to our business will transform itself into an income stream that provides some security. The insane part of this pipe dream is that we know that this is a fairy tale, that there is no security to be found in self-employment. Yet we persist as if it were true. Yes, that’s insane.

The only certainty you can cling to is the belief in your personal vision, your own purpose, your drive to change the world and shape it in your own image. Without this missionary zeal for what you do, you can’t move forward. You need to be an evangelist for your vision, to detach from reality and to create a Jobsian “Reality Distortion Field” where everything about what you do is incredible, awesome, great, cool, outstanding, world-changing, fantastic, amazing, beautiful, unbelievable…

Put two equally qualified service providers side by side, and I bet the one who succeeds is the one with that delightfully insane passion for what he does. A person I know loves his work and is good at it, but he has trouble getting and keeping clients. It’s not his competence, it’s that he doesn’t fully believe in himself as a solopreneur. Every few months he starts asking around for job openings. He may be the greatest at what he does, but would I entrust an important project to him if I doubt that he may not be there in a couple of months because he has found a job?

To be a solopreneur, you can’t keep a Plan B. You have to burn the boats and look only forward. Act as if success is inevitable and that it is your birthright. It’s insane, but it works.

The only thing certain in this life is death. Between now and then, shouldn’t you do everything you can to express your full potential to make a positive difference in the world?

For more information

Steve Jobs and his Reality Distortion Field:

A moving commencement speech by Steve Jobs at Stanford, 2005: “How to live before you die”

Image Credit: Photo by Abby Chicken on Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/redbettyblack/10241646/
Used under Creative Commons 2.0 licence

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