musings on self-employment
i am still here, content and pondering
It's been a while since my last letter. Was digesting quite a bit, and didn’t really know what I had to say. I still don’t really know tbh, but I’m going to try. We’ll see how it goes. 😌
Sooo it’s been around 10 months since I started freelancing as a product designer. I feel like such a different person from before I quit my full-time employed job. It took me a while to feel comfortable calling myself a business owner, and I couldn't help but feel a little weird when my local business license form required me to put my name under "CEO." Whenever people ask me how it’s going though, I gush about everything, even when it’s hard. Here are some feels from the journey thus far:
Death to hourly
Putting a price to my labor has been less scary than I thought it would be. Maybe it’s because I’ve been taking on shorter-term contracts, but I find that there’s less pressure for me to get a number right (unlike negotiating for salaries at full-time jobs). Plus, I can give myself a raise anytime I want, without adhering to a review cycle.
In this experimentation, I’ve really learned to put hourly rates to rest. I don’t even charge by project—because who knows what things outside of your control may push a project longer than it was meant to go. Instead, I’ve fallen madly in love with weekly rates. This allows flexibility in invoice cadence, taking time off during a contract (vs. charging monthly), and accommodates the fact that I just work really fast at this point in my career. I acknowledge the value of my labor, rather than the output of hours.
Working less is the new normal
After experiencing burnout, I had to accept that I’m not the same person I was anymore. I’ve been using this metaphor a lot lately, where burnout to me has felt like a physical injury (and there are actual physical effects to burnout!). When you have a shoulder injury, you can get physical therapy to function relatively normally day-to-day—but you always have to be careful about stretching it properly, avoiding certain workouts altogether, and much more frequent fatigue.
The same goes for me and product design work. I can’t work the same hours anymore in a tech environment. To honor this, I work a max of 20 hours/week, 4 days a week. Taking Fridays off has had a profound effect on my overall health, because it’s my blocked off time to do nothing. Time where I don’t have to feel guilty about doing nothing, because I’ve already accounted for it in my weekly pricing! ✌🏼
Relearning to say no
When your income isn’t as stable as a full-time job, it’s reaaaaal easy for the scarcity mindset to creep up more often. Relearning how to say no to potential clients, even if my calendar for the year is yet to be filled, is so difficult.
Looking through my lamenting journal entries, I most often ground myself by asking how I want to feel. Well compensated, but working for a product that doesn’t interest me? Satisfied by interesting problems, but hitting past 20 hours a week? Stable and relaxed, even if it lowers my projected yearly income? I get to really center my priorities with every client I take on, without feeling guilt for the fact that I’m human and priorities change! But that can only happen by saying no to the opportunities that don’t light me up.
I get to experiment with everything
If it wasn’t super obvious already, my favorite thing about being independent is the ability to experiment with how much or how little I work, what type of work I want to take on, and how I check-in with my present-ness. All with the goal of caring for myself and sustaining energy in this still-pandemic, capitalistic environment I live in.
Almost a year in, I’m at a point where I feel comfortable experimenting with what I offer beyond IC product design work. I’m still letting that all marinate, but I have IDEAS and I’m EXCITED! So hopefully you’ll hear from me more often. 💌
And please let me know if there's anything in particular you're interested in having me write about next!! I need some ideas to motivate me Take care, everyone.