Modern Self-Employment versus the Antiquated Nine-to-Five: The Difference between Freedom and Boredom

‘I cannot fathom how people accept the dribble of an ordinary life.’ (Another Friday by Zaheera Mayet)

A friend and colleague of mine made that statement in one of her blog posts (check out Zaheera's blog).  It struck me, not because I thought it was anything new, but because once again I was being confronted with a concern that many people have and few have the courage to voice. Yet, we carry on in the rat race, declaring ourselves powerless to the way the system works.

We need to realise that the power is in our hands to change our lives.  You do not have to be miserable five days a week at a job you hate, just so that you can spend the other two days enjoying the things it affords you to buy.  The thing about working 9-5 all your life is that it cultivates a certain type of ignorance.  I’ve seen it when people get laid off and then have no idea what to do with their lives.  Also, when people with comfortable paychecks lack the vision or creativity to see what life could be if they did things a little differently.  These people often also lack strength and adaptability, which are assets in any business.  When you’re self-employed and things don’t go as planned, you make another plan.  You have to write your own paycheck.

‘[T]he cubicle that so many inhabit, ironically sharing the dimensions of a prison cell, acts as the tunnel vision needed to ignore the light at the end of a completely different tunnel.’ (Another Friday by Zaheera Mayet) 

I knew the moment I left high school that I wanted to run a business and take charge of my own life.  The reasons for this began when I was a little girl – I saw that my father, who was self-employed, enjoyed more freedom and generally had more money to spend than other parents.  One day my best friend and her brother came over to our house to play, and my father sat down at the dining room table to count money and sort out coins and bills for his weekly bank deposit (something he often did as a result of running a cash business).  My friends’ eyes grew wide when they saw this and they told me that they had never in their lives seen so much money. I decided then, at about age 10, that when I grew up I wanted to be like my dad and have a business that generates money.
Of course, that was one of the advantages of the kind of life my father lived.  One of the major disadvantages that came with running a small business was the long hours.  When I was a little girl, I’d sometimes lie awake at night, fighting sleep, because I knew that my dad would come give me a kiss goodnight and tuck me in when he came home.  I wanted to be awake for that (although still pretending to be asleep as I’d be in trouble for being awake so late).  I wanted to feel his presence because I knew that by the time I woke up the next morning to get ready for school, he’d already be gone.  It’s sad that only when my father’s business declined and he made less money, only then did we get to spend more time with him.  So, I altered my life plan.  I wanted a business and I wanted money, but I also wanted time.  Enter the internet.

I love the internet.  It has revolutionised the way we live and my life is a product of that revolution.  I can work anywhere in the world, provided that I have a stable connection and my laptop.  I don’t have to commute to and from work every day like my father did, pay high running costs, or try to get as much as possible done by myself.  I can quickly pick the right freelancers and employees to do what I need to get done from a global pool of professionals.  All this makes my life so much simpler and more satisfying than it would have been without the internet.

For years, my family and friends tried to talk me out of this crazy idea of writing and running an online business.  I received dozens of emails with links to job postings that I was thought to be suitable for, and I was criticized for not pursuing these opportunities.  There were times when I just wanted to give up, stay under the covers and accept that I just wasn’t ever going to reach that ‘work from home dream’.  The reason it took so long is because I spent too many years listening to the naysayers and not simply focusing on my passion.  I also lost a few years studying for towards a law degree – knowledge and skills that have come in handy but I will seldom use on a professional level.  Thankfully, I can now proudly say that I’ve learned to listen to my gut and I earn a full time income online.  How did this happen?

‘One day when I’m all successful, I’ll say that I had nothing better to do.’ (Maja Dezulovic, 2009/2010)

This was a self-fulfilling prophesy.  When I wrote it five or six years ago, I was still freelancing on a part-time basis and earning pocket money for it.  Last year, when I started writing full time, I did it because I had nothing better to do.  We needed the money and my husband and I had a goal – to live life on our terms in our own house in Croatia.  We had to push to make that happen, which meant paying the expenses to get and stay there.  So, why did I start taking writing seriously?  It was the only marketable skill I had under the circumstances.  Simply put, I had nothing better to do.

I feel that is the way we need to look at things.  If I find myself counting the hours or constantly thinking of other ('better') things I could be doing, I know that I am not living passionately and I am not free.  Freedom is being able to do what you want without having to worry about what you need.  Freedom is not boredom as a result of necessity.  If this Friday marks the beginning of a two-day 'freedom', you are not free.

Maja Dezulovic

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