On Being Self Employed: Freedom from Motivational Posters

Vickers Ranch Hwy 149 Lake City COThis has been a rough week at the ranch. In the span of three days, two workampers quit, the chef got into an accident and might be out for the season, and some guests are being a challenge. I see the look on my boss’ face, and I can relate.

Back in the day, whenever things would get rough while we were running our old business, I would read this quote on the wall above my computer:

“I’d rather be the captain of my own dinghy than a junior officer on the Titanic.”

Dr. James Chan, Author of “Spare Room Tycoon; The 70 lessons of sane self-employment.”

It was a constant reminder of why Jim and I were working countless 12 hour days, jumping through flames to deliver impossible client demands, and barely stopping to catch our breath to show Jerry some love. Yet, despite the endless agonies that go along with being self-employed, I’ve never been happier while making a living.

It took me a long time to figure out that I was meant to run my own business.

I think I went through eleven different office jobs between the time I finished college, in 1992, to the time we got our business going, in 1997. I wouldn’t say I was a bad employee, just easily bored. At almost every place I punched a clock, I hated being expected to fit into a predefined role, and towing the company line. Oftentimes, I wanted to throw a brick at every motivational poster that plastered the cafeteria walls. So I became self-employed. The mistress of my own dinghy.

Gold Hill Vickers Ranch CO

I’m Wearing the Other Shoe Now
But after a few years of running our business, it didn’t take me long to gain a real appreciation and understanding of what my former employers went through. Money worries. Taxes. Technology. Unappreciative employees (if any of my old bosses are out there, I wholeheartedly apologize for any bad attitudes and laziness I might have expressed while working for you!).

Yet, despite the headaches that come along with running my own company, I’ll never go back to punching a clock again. If I have one for-sure goal in life, it’s to always stay self-employed.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my boss Paulette continues to roll with the punches. She keeps on smiling, and her positive attitude will help her and everyone else get through whatever comes our way this season. Like small business owners everywhere, she does what needs to be done to keep the business galloping along.

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5 Responses to “On Being Self Employed: Freedom from Motivational Posters”

  1. Hi Rene,

    I can definitely relate. I am extremely lucky though, since I only worked at one agency before I went solo. Graphic design has been my passion, so even when I was working at the agency it was never like “work” to me. Most of the time, I need to remember to stop working.

    During our move to San Antonio, Jeremy mentioned that I should officially start our own LLC design studio. That was it, no turning back. The joy and pain of dealing with clients comes with the freedom of being your own boss. One year later, Jeremy quit his full time job and joined me full time with the business as the web programmer and photographer.

    Now we are happier than ever. Business is doing really well even without any marketing. Our schedule is however we want it to be.

    Like Eric said, there are so much more overhead that comes with owning a business. We seems to manage to keep the business extremely efficient and simple. I want to stay small, like a “boutique” design studio, so there is not much pressure on expanding and managing employees. We want to focus on few projects, and deliver high quality products.

    Your adventure got me really thinking about a second career. At the moment, I don’t think that I will ever get tired of designing. And I know I am not the “retire” kind, I always need something to do! But, what if one day I do get tired of designing website and brochures~

    Since we are in Bartlesville, Oklahoma right now, where there are lots of horse ranches… maybe we can try working at one for a month and see how we like it and learn something new!

    PS: Little update about us, our stick house is under contract, yay~ Hopefully the inspection went through and we will close on the 15th. We will be “houseless” then!

  2. As always Auckerman, awesome advice.

    Jim comes from an entrepreneurial family. I don’t. Thus, I never knew I had it in me to run a business. The corporate life always bored me to tears, but it was the easiest way for me to make a living. Still, from the time I got my first real job in college, I always thought any work sucked, and I hated all of it. The only job I ever really loved was when I worked for a very small design firm, and was in charge of so many different elements of the business. None too critical, but still, that was the turning point for me, when I realized that if I could do that job, I could probably run my own show.

    Who knew I’d love having gigantic kinds of responsibilities on my shoulders? Hell I couldn’t even balance a checkbook when we started, but when I became CFO, I knew that our survival was up to us, and us only. It was enough of a kick in the pants to seek help, and make our business thrive.

    Yes, being self-employed means a lot of sleepless nights and stress. But it’s worth it to me. I love the idea of being self-sustaining, and not at the mercy of some fascist corporation or individual signing my paychecks.

    For anyone even thinking of starting a business, I say go for it. Start up wisely though, like you said. Take some classes, talk to people who’ve been there, and do what you do best and outsource the rest.

    You’ll never know what you can really do, or like to do (or don’t like to do) until you break the shackles of corporate oppression and strike out on your own!

  3. Eric Auckerman August 5, 2008 at 3:36 pm Reply

    Hmmmm, your story sort of explains money laundering, drug trafficking, and host of other careers well outside the bounds of so-called conventional work.

    Rene, whenever I hear someone say they want to be their own boss I have to take pause and catch my breath so I don’t bury them with an avalanche of bile-tasting responsibilities they will come to know and embrace – like it or not.

    Self employment is tre cool but man it will shake the laziness right out of your bones. In other words, if you were a lazy employee then self-employment is probably the last thing you should be considering. I’ve never met a lazy person whose successful save for those who’ve made enough money to afford they’re own brand of laziness.

    There’s an old Swedish proverb, “If you want a helping hand look at the end of your arm.” Man when you’re self-employed you will be responsible for everything (taxes, payroll, collections, new accounts, materials, infrastructure and so on).

    There’s a difference between hobbyist incomes and that of self-employment and as such I would urge anyone considering self-employment to take small steps while mastering a few fundamentals such as bookkeeping and taxes.

    Until then, enjoy your jobs, get out on weekends, and visit Hawaii on your paid vacations.

    Over and out – Eric

  4. Rene,

    You and I must be twins! I get easily bored with conventional jobs and have found owning my own business to be so liberating! I’m not one to let the grass grow under my feet and am always looking for new adventures and opportunities! Right now, I live vicariously through folks like you who had the courage and the ability to hit the road and see what’s out there. BTW, a few days ago, I sent an email to your address associated with your Simple Living forum account, which is where I first heard about your journey. We live in Colorado and would love to meet up with you and Jim when you hit the road again. Best of luck!

    -Lilla

  5. I understand what you say. I always felt teaching was the perfect job – at least for me. I NEVER got bored, I was kind of working for myself with a steady pay check. I was responsible for making the day good, bad, whatever. Even tho I worked like a dog when I worked………I sure loved all those days off!

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