2 min read
You may be one of the 150 million workers who has opted out of the stability of a more predictable corporate job to be self-employed—foregoing steady paychecks and reliable health insurance.
And why not? Despite some of the anxieties that can accompany being part of the “gig economy” (i.e. being paid by the task or project), you have what so many covet —independence! But being on your own without structure can be risky—you may have spent 12 hours at your co-working space but only accomplished 4 hours of substance. This can be the result of distractions or disorganization.
Fear not, there are tools at your disposal that can help get back on track. A Harvard Business Review study found that the most successful independent workers “cultivate four types of connections—to place, routines, purpose and people—that help them endure the emotional ups and downs of their work and gain energy and inspiration from their freedom”.
So what can you do to foster these connections?
Step back when you start to feel burnout or a lack of direction. Taking time to regroup and remind yourself of the reason you really started the venture can be just as valuable as getting the job done. Consider even writing your mission statement that you can consistently return to for inspiration.
Be the Boss
If you think of yourself as a business, rather than an employee, you are more likely to take ownership of and control your freelance business. Experts featured by Fast Company have suggested “setting regular performance goals, such as a weekly revenue tally to see if you are hitting the necessary billable hours or marking out time to earn a qualification.” You decided to go out on your own for a reason, didn’t you?
But, Don’t Go It Alone!
Find a co-founder, colleague or similar side-hustler you can bounce ideas off of, or even just vent to. Most humans need daily social interaction. What some consider the “loneliness epidemic” can not only affect the output but also reduce one’s lifespan (equivalent to 15 cigarettes a day!).
Routine is Key
It’s easy to get distracted without structure. Develop routines into your schedule, and stick to them. Routines enhance focus – it has helped athletes, scientists, artists increase productivity and performance. Common examples include the location (decide where you are going to work every day) and timing (set hours for your business—it doesn’t have to be 9 to 5 p.m. anymore). We suggest looking at James Clear’s blog or his book “Atomic Habits” for ways to build your habits.
Plan for the Future
Planning is an antidote for the uncertain. Just because you are not tied to a company does not mean you shouldn’t secure your future. Entrepreneurs have great alternatives to the traditional 401(k), including:
· A SEP (Simplifed Employee Pension Plan), which allows even the self-employed to contribute up to 25% of their annual earnings.
· A one participant 401(k), which allows the holder to elect to defer up to 100 percent of their income.
Also, diversify that portfolio in more ways than one. Retirement saving doesn’t need to be just about financial gain. You can even find a way to invest your retirement portfolio responsibly and in line with your values. The positive emotional return you get from sustainable investing and watching your retirement savings grow in a sustainable way can be invaluable.