When you say no to orthodox employment and the 9-5 work paradigm, you may find that you’re inviting trouble into your life.
Working for yourself means that you need to find motivation, encouragement and inspiration to keep on doing the work that you feel you have to do (your art). It is hard when that choice is not understood by those closest to you.
I never made an explicit decision to cultivate a portfolio career, but my circumstances have led me to become self-employed, and to run my own business. I do freelance creative work (design and video editing), writing, and spend time on my biggest passion, music production. When needed, I also take on jobs which are not explicitly related to my creative projects.
I don’t have a job in the traditional sense. I have clients and an online platform but I don’t “go to work” at the start of the day, and “come home from work” at the end. Work happens how and when I make it happen.
I have continued along this path because it makes sense for my life, work, and art. My lifestyle and work flow have enabled me to build multiple streams of income and to dedicate time to developing a business around the skills and pursuits with which I feel I add most value to the world.
Unconventional choices are often misunderstood
While this system is perfect for me, my career invites difficult conversations with people close to me who don’t understand what I do with my time or why I refuse to find what they call a “proper job.” Other peoples’ perception of what I do becomes hazy because I am outside of the commonly accepted framework of employment.
For members of a community such as Puttylike, it’s easy to forget that you are not the norm. You are exceptional. You are remarkable. And you are an inspiration to me.
If you are building a business around the stuff you love to do, you are not like the rest of the world, especially if your business combines multiple interests. Most people see this as a fantasy and as a risk not worth taking.
Common remarks on unconventional career paths
Those of us on this unconventional path often come up against well-meant but ignorant comments about the way we choose to live. As you recognize the following remarks, remember that other people’s lack of understanding is not a valid reason to stop doing something. Don’t succumb to the pull to quit, don’t just settle, and don’t re-appropriate yourself to the status quo just because some people don’t get why you need to do what you do.
1. When is he going to get a real job with security and a stable income? He’s being a bit selfish, isn’t he?
What is job security? What is a stable income? You’re never going to have an absolute sense of either. Most people in employment are, at most, three months away from being unemployed and without income or control over their situation.
I try to work with at least four or five clients at any one time. If I lose one, I can pick up another without much trouble. I don’t rely on any single stream of income. This feels more secure to me.
In this day and age, building a business platform around your skills and relationships seems more sensible than hedging your bets with one company, organization, or employer.
2. He doesn’t have a job, so he can do me a favor on Thursday morning
When you work for yourself, people often assume that you sit at home, watching daytime TV, and getting fat. If you don’t set boundaries and expectations, your time can very quickly become seen as public property, and you may find that people come to you whenever they need a favor.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t help people. In fact, one of the benefits of working for yourself is that you are able to offer a hand from time to time, and support people when everyone else is at work. But it is important to have autonomy and independence over those decisions.
Be ruthless with your calendar. Make sure to schedule in time for all the work you have promised to do (for both clients and for yourself). Block out time for creative projects, building your business, and developing your craft.
When your calendar says you are busy, you are busy. It doesn’t matter that you are at home, or that you are your own boss. That just makes it even more important that you do the work because no one else will.
3. You’re so lucky. You don’t understand how hard it is for the rest of us
“The harder I work, the luckier I get.” – Samuel Goldwyn
Some people believe that, because I don’t have a ‘job’, I float through life, not doing much, and getting the odd bit of luck and some paid work every now and then. This is not true. I get up every morning at 5.30am to write for two and a half hours before I start my work. As this article about the paradoxical traits of creative points out:
Despite the carefree air that many creative people affect, most of them work late into the night and persist when less driven individuals would not.
Several people have pointed out that it’s my choice to get up that early, and that no one’s forcing me to do it. But this attitude just shows that some people simply don’t get it. They don’t understand why you would be so dedicated to your work that you would choose to get up two and a half hours before you need to. These are the same people who think that if you don’t have a job that you hate, like them, you’re not playing a fair game.
The accepted paradigm of work is that there is no choice and no genuine autonomy, and that it is more honorable to be subservient to an authority than it is to honor the work that feels deeply ingrained in your soul.
The truth is that, like anything good, autonomy comes at a price. Sacrifices need to be made: energy, time, sleep, effort, and patience. While a lifestyle like mine may have an external appeal to those who don’t see what’s going on under the water, for those of us kicking like mad beneath the surface, it is a necessity.
If you’re brave enough to go for it, good on you
Be encouraged. Know that you’re doing an amazing thing. Don’t be disheartened if the people around you don’t get it. They may not know it but we all need you to carry on creating your art, doing your work, being yourself, and injecting some of your unique passion into the world.
Do you ever feel discouraged by the attitude of the people closest to you? How do you keep going when it feels like you don’t have their support? Let’s keep each other buoyed up in the comments!
Andy Mort is a UK based musician and writer. He is the founder of SheepDressedLikeWolves.com; a Blog and Podcast encouraging Highly Sensitive People and introverts to embrace their creativity and push against the strange assumptions of an often overwhelming world. Andy has been described as having a “daring and innovative approach to creating and releasing modern music, which has proved him and his alter-ego Atlum Schema to be a bright beacon in the depths of British music today.” Find a link to his music through the blog.