Home » The Business of Writing » I’ve been a self-employed independent creator for 10 years. I don’t recommend it.

I’ve been a self-employed independent creator for 10 years. I don’t recommend it.

26 July 2017

From Medium:

Today marks my 10th year as a self-employed independent creator. I don’t recommend it.

It all started when my boss called me into a conference room. As I followed her down the hall, I noticed she was carrying a manila envelope. I could sense what was coming.

It was a short meeting. She told me I was terminated, and I felt relieved. I got up and thanked her. “July 17, 2007 will be a special day in my life,” I told her, smiling genuinely. I rode the antique elevator and stepped out onto Market Street, walking confidently one more time past the tourists in line for the street car. I descended into the Powell Street BART station.

I felt sure that I’d never work for someone else again. My will to “work” was gone. I cashed out a big chunk of my retirement fund to buy myself some time. After all, I had spent years eating 80-cent Banquet® meals for lunch, saving for this moment.

The next morning, I opened my eyes to vastness. There was nothing but time to be filled, like I was just floating in space. I could do anything I wanted with that vastness — build a startup, write a book, or play Guitar Hero and eat nachos. That was every bit as scary as it was exciting. My mission was to reconnect with my curiosity — that feeling that I had had so many times, alone in my room drawing or reading, the time passing so quickly I’d forget to eat.

I wanted to find that again. If I could just find a little snowball of curiosity, I imagined that I could keep rolling it, it would get bigger and bigger, and it would fill up the vastness. Eventually maybe I’d have my own planet to stand on.

That was ten years ago. I’ve stuck with my mission, but I never imagined it would take this long.

. . . .

The plan was to make as little money as I needed, with as little of my time as possible, and use the rest of the time to discover and pursue what gave me that feeling of “flow” I had experienced as a child.

Since I had spent as much of my savings as I was comfortable with for now, first, I would freelance. My goal was ten billable hours a week.

With the rest of my time, I would explore ways to make passive revenue.

As I made passive revenue, I would reduce freelancing hours, and spend time on whatever I was curious about.

Eventually, what I was curious about would make money. I would use that money to explore the next thing. And, I’d repeat.

. . . .

It’s true that we tend to rationalize things after the fact. It’s quite possible that there’s some parallel universe where I stayed in my hometown with my friends and family, or I somehow mustered the strength to to remain a designer in Silicon Valley. Maybe I’m even happier in those worlds. That’s hard for me to imagine.

I remember early on in my quest, my dad asking me “so, at some point will you decide to get a job?” It’s the kind of question you’d expect from a guy who held onto the same job for 37 years. I thought about it for a minute. A complex web of potential causes and effects unfurled in my mind. Every day, I was learning something new, and each one of those things would branch off into three more things. My answer was a clear “no.”

. . . .

I want to make a living creating. I don’t want creating to be merely a marketing strategy for other things. Is that completely insane?

Link to the rest at Medium

The Business of Writing

14 Comments to “I’ve been a self-employed independent creator for 10 years. I don’t recommend it.”

  1. “I want to make a living creating. I don’t want creating to be merely a marketing strategy for other things. Is that completely insane?”

    It helps to have at least some idea of what you’d like to do/create; rudderless boats don’t go a lot of places – and never where you intended.

    YMMV – as did his.

  2. While the headline is depressing, the ending of the article is quite optimistic. Thanks for the read PG.

  3. I’ve been a self-employed independent creator for 16 years. I highly recommend it. 😀

    Freelancing sucks monkey balls, since it’s really just another kind of JOB, and there are so many other ways to make a living in the era of the internet. If you can do it writing fiction, and that’s your passion, that’s awesome. I didn’t get there until 6 years ago. Before that, I created content-based websites on subjects I was interested in and made money from advertisements and affiliate marketing. I never had to answer to anyone else and that alone made it a dream job for me.

    Not making it with fiction yet? Check out Pet Flynn’s Smart Passive Income podcast. He has tons of interviews with people who are finding their own route to financial independence.

    The key is to find something you love doing (so you’re not just trying to make money doing something blah so you have time to do the thing you love…). It’s possible. Really.

    • T.S. Starkenberg

      I really think you need to write a post for Medium as a response. After all, you’re creating fabulous content in multiple platforms–no one is more qualified. 🙂

  4. First Mistake: Quit your day job; unless it is a hell hole
    Second Mistake: Cash in your retirement account; even if you are old
    Third Mistake: What you love to do will make you money; not really, but it will make you happier if you have money
    Fourth Mistake: After quitting your job find yourself; do that while you have a day job

    • Fifth Mistake: Live in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities on the planet.

      Nothing against the place, but planning on working “ten billable hours a week” while living there means either an interesting billing rate or being independently wealthy in first place, to the point where you wouldn’t really need those hours.

      • Dexter von Dexterdorf

        But when someone thinks they are a lot more creative than they actually are, they feel like they have to live somewhere that a lot of other aspiring creative types live… which incidentally has a much higher cost of living.

        Maybe we’re not giving the author credit. Maybe it’s a situation where they expected to do billable work for Silicon Valley companies and thought they needed to be close to the industry center to attend meetings and be more visible.

  5. Just another blue sky salesman pushing a retread of “Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow.”

  6. If you are the kind of chap who even jokingly suggests spending lots of spare time ‘playing Guitar Hero and eating nachos’ despite being 30+ years old….well, I can guess how this story ends.

  7. John Auber Armstrong

    I feel like I just read the intro to the piece – what happened?

  8. Having read the whole article (on a wide-release platform—not a personal blog), I can’t help think that there are an awful lot of links (all tracked) to book projects, patreon pages, and affiliate products… quite a bit, in fact, for someone who doesn’t “want creating to be merely a marketing strategy for other things.”

    Maybe I’m missing the point or perhaps I’m just overly cynical, but while reading this, I couldn’t help but feel like I was being sold something.

    • Right. The title is click-bait because if you read to the end really he does – it’s the “don’t create unless you can’t not” argument.

  9. By the time you discover why, it’s too late to go back.

    This sums up my struggle between creativity and fear. I don’t mind taking risks if the consequences seem recoverable, but what if I get into a place I can never retreat from?

    And yet from what I hear, that step into the dark is the only way to truly make it.

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