I have been taking a few tentative steps into self-employment this week. Nothing major, I’m not quitting my job; this is just a bit on the side, pocket money, essentially. But the pocket money is coming from jobs of work that came to me because I put myself out there first. I didn’t apply for work: I offered it. And people accepted my offer.
It wasn’t much of an offer, the first one; a handwritten note on an index card in the bulletin board at the local grocery store. Gardener available, I wrote. Reasonable rates. (They are very reasonable; I chickened out from stating what I actually think is reasonable when someone called. I’ve told myself she gets the ‘first client’ rate; and the second job of work is at the wage I think is fair rather than cheap at the price.) And I got work.
I used to say, working for a developing gardening company in Calgary, that I would never want to own a small business. I wouldn’t want to be an entrepreneur, I thought, because I’m not good at finances, not good at selling, would be terrified of keeping track of overhead and running costs, taxes and materials, and the bugbear of finding clients. I can do the work: it was the rest of it that worried me.
There were other things I said to myself I would never do. Be a competitive athlete. Live with boys. (Not romantic partners, just as roommates; they were too messy.) Decide to try to make a living as a writer. Go to Spain. (This wasn’t a strong anti-inclination, I just always wanted to go to Portugal and was never particularly interested in Spain.) Take up running.
And yet, you know what? In the twelve years since I graduated from high school, I did live with boys — four of them, in my fourth year of undergrad. (They were messy. But so was I.) I was a competitive athlete, a Varsity one no less, even if I was the very, very bottom of the Varsity atheletes in fencing, my sport. I have gone to Spain — in fact, I walked across a good chunk of it — and not Portugal. I have at least started running, whether or not I continue remains to be seen.
I’ve spent a year and a half learning about finances, how to do my taxes, even writing about the subject on a personal finance blog. I’ve paid off my debt, started an RRSP (never mind how small it is at the moment), been saving quite aggressively for my nearer future as well.
I’ve learned the basics of budgeting and running an organisation, too, by dint of helping start a journal in my graduate department and a union at my university. I have learned about contracts and collective agreements, something of the costs of physical space and labour, something of how people work.
I have, at least, an increasing desire to move towards trying to make a livelihood as a writer, and since I know that will take me five or ten or more years to make happen, I am also thinking of other things that will let me write and live at the same time. Gardening first, one day a smallholding, possibly copy-editing.
The small steps this week, of offering work and having the offer taken up, is an incredible boost. All I want is pocket money at the moment, a little bit to stick towards my savings goals, to use towards living well in the moment without compromising those saving goals. But like the writing I do over at Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s Other Voices blog, these small successes are enough to keep me enthusiastic about the next steps.
(Possibly, the fact I’ve been sleeping better also helps.)