A number of years ago, as he was delivering some packages to me, a UPS man came into my office, sat down at my chair and put his feet up on my desk. He sat and relaxed and looked totally at home while I stood there, a little dumbfounded at his movements. What happened next floored me, and spurred me into action. He leaned back in my chair, a rickety used rolling chair that I had gotten from the St. Vincent De Paul’s thrift store. I was worried he might break it: he was a pretty big man. He put his hands behind his head and let out a long sigh and said, “Man, this is the life, owning your own business. You get to just sit back and relax while everyone else does the work. I can’t wait to open my own business someday so I can do this.”
I had been rooted to the spot in uncertainty, a little in shock about some dude coming in and just sitting down at my desk to relax without even asking. But his words broke that spell and I said incredulously, “Are you kidding me?! Do you have any idea how hard this is? I never get to just sit around while other people do the work. I’m in charge of everything; I work harder than my employees! If I don’t work, no money comes in! I never get to just sit back and watch the world go by. I’m doing this every day. You’re lucky, all you have to do is deliver packages and collect a paycheck. When your shift is done, you get to go home and never think about your job or feel worried or unsure where your next paycheck is coming from. You’re the one who has it easy dude! Now please get out of my chair so I can get back to work.”
He looked at me like I was crazy, sauntered out of my office and drove off. I’ll never forget that encounter. It bubbles up now because I am working harder than I have in a long time, and while I’m nervous and worried about where the money will come from to pay taxes, pay some part time help, and God forbid, pay myself a little bit, I also know I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Being self-employed is one of the toughest jobs you’ll ever have, but it is also one of the most rewarding. I’m reminded of the story An Acre of Diamonds, an inspirational speech from the turn of the century about a farmer who sold his farm and traveled the world seeking riches and diamonds. He was tired of the hard work of farming and wanted an easier life. The farmer who bought the farm was so grateful to own that piece of land, he lavished love and hard work on his crops and ate the fruits of his labor and was grateful for all he had. One day, during a particularly tough day tilling the fields, he discovered a diamond mine buried under his crops, and became rich beyond his wildest dreams.
I think about that story on this damp foggy morning as I get ready once again to go out into the cold garage and finish up the inventory and accounting necessary to keep my business going. I love that my schedule is my own. I love that I can stop when I need to and take my two beautiful dogs for a walk around my neighborhood, enjoying the grand old oak trees and redwoods that tower above the little mid-century modern houses that fill the old part of Elk Grove where I live.
I am so grateful that I don’t have to come up with extra money to eat out each day, but can go to my refrigerator and heat up some left overs from the night before. I love that when I need some inspiration or comfort, my shelves of records are just in the next room and I can go dig out whatever music I want to listen to and get my batteries recharged. I am so grateful I have a boyfriend who loves what I do and wants to help in any way he can. A supportive partner is hard to find, especially when the time needed to run a successful business cuts into plans to do something fun on his day off.
Working for someone else has many benefits: A steady paycheck, paid holidays, a regular predictable schedule, health insurance and paid vacation time. When you’re self-employed, there is none of that. You have to create it for yourself as well as creating the finances, time and products to keep growing your business. But honestly, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I am totally free to pursue projects that capture my interest. I love the flexibility, I love that whatever I decide I want to pursue I can. I love connecting with a community of people who are enthusiastic about what I’m creating. And I love making stuff that makes people happy.
When I put these things in the balance sheet, they more than make up for the security of working for someone else. I am grateful every day, even during the rough times, that I have this opportunity to follow my heart.
Rock 'n' Roll/Automotive Journalist, Influencer, Editor and Publisher of Gearhead Magazine,