“How’s working for yourself going then?” It’s hardly surprising that since making the leap from employment this is the question I’m being faced with quite a lot. What is surprising though is the difficulty with which I find myself trying to answer it.
There has long been a heavenly association with the premise of ‘working from home’; ditching that calamitous uniform you’re made to wear, waving good riddance to that boss that never had a clue – you’re your own boss now, you set your hours, you set the daily plans and you control the music at long last! And I think all of these wondrous connotations are why I struggle to form an answer for people where I try to explain that I’m actually not fully enjoying ‘working from home’.
Going full time with the business was something I’d been encouraged to do and been mulling over for a long time, but one major factor that held me back was the idea of being on my own all day. I knew the contrast would be startling and it has been a shock to the system. Sports Direct saw me help lead a team of around 6-10 staff on average and interact with hundreds of customers every day. An average day at SWB often sees me interact face to face with just one or two people, and I find that really, really hard.
I’m someone who looks ahead in months/years, I rarely look day to day. So whilst the first couple of months I found okay, I returned from holiday at the end of July and could not grasp how I was going to cope with this long term. Prior to going away I’d been able to use the holiday as something to work towards, and, combined with high workload in the opening weeks I’d not had much time to think about being on my own. But it hit me one Monday as I said goodbye to my wife and she left to go to her office job; that this was me now. I didn’t have a workplace to travel to, indeed I didn’t even have a commute, no colleagues to catch up with. I was on my own all day, working with myself, by myself, and where was the fun in that? More to the point, this was to be my working week, every, single, week.
“Exactly! HELLO. That’s the dream you ungrateful whiner.” Herein lies the issue for me. For a long time I’ve thought myself introverted; I’m not particularly sociable, terrible at meeting new people and am a perfectionist when it comes to work meaning I struggle to delegate and let others take the slack. So I should see it as ‘the dream’. But I don’t. A fair bit of me is extroverted and can’t handle being isolated for extensive periods of time. I like separating home and work, I like going to a workplace even if it is a bit of a bin, and I’ve come to realise that being with colleagues that you can have a laugh with is something you should never take for granted, even if you don’t get on with everyone! If you’re on your own and don’t get on with yourself then you’re screwed.
How I feel varies from week to week and whilst I’ve found it better the past few weeks it’s something I’m still working through. Grace has come home plenty of times to find me sad and miserable, feeling like utter crap. It’s so easy to suddenly feel very lonely and isolated, which in turn drives motivation down to next to nothing. But I’m finding ways to prevent myself from getting into those situations. I’m trying to diversify my week by working in different places, trying to meet up with people for lunch or in the evenings; trying to exploit the opportunities that this move has provided me and letting that opportunity, those positives, outmanoeuvre the negatives.
So if I were to choose my favourite positive it would have to be time. I have a life back, and I don’t say that lightly. It’s been and still is a learning curve figuring out what is productive to do with my time, after all I’ve gained 30+ hours a week. I’ve been able to pursue things I’ve never had time for, such as this blog. I can see my wife, family and friends more often, take on hobbies I’ve given up over the years. Time is not something you can fully appreciate until you step out of a life of overworking. You can recognise that you work too much, but they are two different things.
I now set my own working days and hours, which has mixed results. I started with 8-5s which haven’t lasted – I’ve stuttered back to the classic 9-5. I’m terrible at planning my week or even day, I tend to do things ad-hoc. You don’t realise how much you have to learn and retrain yourself when you go self-employed; some things transition naturally, others less so.
A bonus of this business is that it runs 24/7 without me. That means I can wake up having sold things through the night, theoretically meaning I’ve been paid to sleep – IKR. But when the sales aren’t rolling in you notice it, whether it’s a day on or day off. Quiet days happen, but they are harder to cope with when you know you’re relying upon the sales to pay your salary. When I worked at SD, that store could be quiet for a month and they had to pay me the same at the end of it regardless. It’s all on me with this business and having that hanging over me is something I’m not fully comfortable with just yet.
It’s all a learning process though and I’m constantly trying to figure this out and adapting as I get used to working with myself. I’ve not covered all the highs and lows by any means, but these are some of the low/high-lights as it were. When I made the call to quit my job I gave myself a year minimum to give this a go. This is my four month check-in and I’ll be updating how I’m getting on again before the year’s out, but I’d say so far it’s been an experience, one that I appreciate the opportunity to have.
End note: whilst business is something I’ll be talking about more in this blog I am also going to be delving into other topics and areas that interest me. To keep up to date with new posts you can hit the ‘follow’ button that should appear bottom right, or I also pop updates on my Instagram, Twitter & Facebook pages.