Things I’ve Learned Since Saying “I Quit”

Exactly six months ago this Monday, just before starting this blog, I said “I quit.” I quit steady pay, enviable benefits, a few weeks of paid vacation, and I quit working for someone else.

Since leaving my job, I have been reminded of the “magic fridge” phenomenon. When I lived at home, whenever the fridge emptied, it magically refilled with my favorite drinks and snacks. Then, when I moved out on my own, I realized how quickly I ran out of these kitchen staples.

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Being self-employed is just like learning to live without a “magic fridge”—I don’t have a ready-made list of tasks, I have nobody to remind me to “get to work,” and I actually get to choose which projects I work on and which I decline. Here’s what I’ve learned in these first six months.

  1. There’s no longer a ready-made to-do list at work.

Every job has difficulties—that’s for sure. But in many positions, the employee shows up to work with a to-do list from their boss. They have a set of tasks outlined based on the project they’re assigned, they are given responsibilities based on their position, or a combination of the two.

While some positions are more independent than others, there is a back-and-forth between the supervisor and the employee about assignments, expectations, and performance.

On the other hand, working for myself means that my to-do list can consist of alphabetizing my book collection or binge-watching the latest Netflix original show. But that means I don’t get a paycheck.

Unlike during my 9 to 5 job, I don’t get paid while taking a five-minute Facebook break. Anyway, I still have to-do lists, but I make them myself—and I still have projects, but I have to market myself and find new projects to take on.

  1. It’s a lot easier to be disciplined when you are putting your own name on a project.

While adjusting to the extra work that comes with not only finding new clients but being the sole writer of the to-do list, I found that it’s much easier to stay motivated at the end of the day. At my previous jobs, any client-facing document would have my supervisor’s name or the company name on the “From” line.

Of course, my name shouldn’t have been on those documents—but now, my name is the only name that would, could, or should be on my work. Let me tell you—that’s an awesome feeling. I didn’t realize how disheartening it felt to work on something for an entire workweek under someone else’s name until I saw my own name at the top of the document.

  1. The only person I am accountable to is myself.

This is the biggest double-edged sword of all. If I miss a deadline, there’s nobody to chastise me and serve as a buffer between myself and the client. There’s nobody to send me a “getting close to the deadline—how’s progress?” reminder, and there’s nobody to do a quick edit of my work before the client sees it.

That means that if I didn’t do my best work, and the client isn’t impressed, I’m the only one to blame. Yep, if I mess up, it’s on me. But, on the other hand, when I do a great job, I’m the only one that receives praise. It’s on me when I do a bad job, and it’s on me when I do a great job.

  1. It’s not worth doing if I’m not taking advantage of it.

Taking advantage of working from home is not something that always comes naturally to me. I feel guilty if I go out to lunch, or take an hour to do some reading. It took a few months and a few stern “talking-tos” from my husband to realize that the whole point of working from home is to have flexibility—the flexibility to write a blog instead of billing any hours this morning, or the flexibility to head to the beach on a sunny day.

I often pressure myself to “be productive” every single day—and, worse, thinking that means “working” all the time. Being productive can also mean visiting a grandparent or walking my dog, and that’s more than okay. It’s the whole reason I chose this lifestyle to begin with.

  1. The best feeling in the world: being able to say “no” to a project.

My first instinct was to say “yes” to every single thing that crossed my path. That meant taking projects that just didn’t feel right in order to make ends meet. That also meant sacrificing quality to finish each project by their respective deadline.

Finally, I realized that part of offering value to a customer is knowing when to say “no.” Every client in the world wants a quality project—and part of being successful is being able to choose projects that are the right fit. It’s a wonderful feeling to be comfortable and confident enough to say “thank you, but no thank you,” and I think it’s the most important part of owning your own business. You’ll love the sanity it provides, and your clients will love the quality it encourages.

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