Writing on, and about, an island

The First Step to Working for Yourself

In Career, Freelance, Tasmania on January 27, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Want to make money from your art, craft or your writing? Want to turn your creativity into a small business or a freelance career? I truly believe that it’s possible to move from whatever you’re doing right now that’s not doing it for you… into a custom-designed career that you really love.

So, what’s the First Step?

Simple. Streamline your lifestyle.

There’s a social trend at the moment to downsize debt, and to cut clutter. This is good because, as a general rule, we are fed a diet of information that tells us that we must consume more to ‘be’ more. In order to consume more, we must make more money; in order to make more money, we must work harder; in order tow work harder, we must give up more of our creative energy and  personal freedom – and so we lock ourselves into a cycle of work and consumption that is ultimately unsatisfying. Sure, buying new stuff makes you feel great for a moment, but there’s little long-term gain and no creative product to show for it.

So how about challenging that idea that you must keep making ever-more money? If you genuinely want to find more freedom for yourself – the freedom that leaves you open to creating for a living – you’ll need to sacrifice short-term gain for long-term rewards.

Just let go.

Let go of traditional expectations about how you should make money, and how much money you should make.

Want to have more time to write, paint, whatever? Then accept a part-time job that allows you that creative time. Yes, you’ll probably earn less, but if you make the choice to stop going out for dinner, to stop buying new clothes, to stop expecting expensive holidays, to stop buying your lunch everyday, you won’t be needing that extra money

Everyone has choices, everyone can make the decision about how they make and spend their money. I know everyone’s situation is different, but if you’re not prepared to make sacrifices in order to gain freedom, then you simply don’t want that freedom badly enough.

Small steps work.

Your ultimate goal might be to work for yourself, and make a living out of your art. That might seem impossible right now, but if you take small steps towards streamlining your life, you will eventually reach a place where you can spend a little less time being an employee, and more time on what matters to you – on creating.

Getting to this point is very satisfying, and it becomes addictive. Being less dependent on others/your bank/your conventional income means all the more independence for you and your creativity. Once you have a taste for freedom, you want more freedom – and it’s at this point that thoughts of working for yourself, and making money out of your art, become not only tempting – but possible.

I’m not saying this is easy to do, but it’s possible. You just have to make the decision that it’s a lifestyle worth working towards.

I can say this stuff, because I have done it.

I was in debt when I left Sydney for Tasmania. Despite having a high-paying magazine job in the Emerald City, each week had seen me slip further behind. Not for any outrageous reason. But, regardless of the reason(s), they are nothing more than excuses. You must take responsibility for your situation in order to change it.

So, I did. I moved to Tassie to give my son a better childhood, and myself the opportunity to create again – specifically, to write a novel. An interesting bi-product of that move has been a total turnaround in my finances, a turnaround in my attitude to making and spending money, and a turnaround in how I plan to work in the future…

In order to get rid of the debt, I worked very hard and lived very, very frugally for about 18 months after arriving in Tasmania. Catching the bus was considered an unnecessary expense. I bought no new clothes for more than 12 months. I would challenge myself to spend zero money on the weekends. We ate a shiteload of potatoes (from our vegie garden)… I was envious of my friends who were spending money on fun things, but I kept the goal of financial freedom in mind, and I rarely wavered. (I hope, however, that I never again have to go through a Tassie winter without heating. Absolutely appalling!)

Despite now being in a good financial shape (with only a small mortgage to tend), those 18 months changed my outlook forever. I’m not going back to ‘spending’, and therefore having to earn lots to keep up. I am happy to continue to live frugally, to only buy second-hand clothes when necessary, to grow our own vegies, to walk whenever possible, to not own a credit card… because I know it grants me the freedom to choose what work I do, and where and when I do it.

In fact, I want to take this concept even further this year ­– to depend less and less on making money the conventional way, and to create more and more space and freedom for doing things my way.

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