How My Life Has Changed Since Being Self-Employed

February 20, 2018

Meghan Donovan talks self-employment

I hope you all had a good weekend! I know not everyone has President’s Day off and despite my best efforts to take it as a holiday, I failed – ha! I ended up shooting some looks and getting a lot of work done as I have a very, very busy week ahead. To be fair though I did next to nothing all Saturday & Sunday and it was pure bliss. So a bit of balance I guess you could say.

I’m excited to share today’s post with you guys because a lot of you have expressed interest in knowing more about how my life changed when I made the move to work for myself. I will caveat that, before I made the leap to self employment, I did a lot of research. I’m what you’d call risk-adverse. So taking on a career challenge that involves sometimes not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from isn’t exactly something I took lightly. I prepared a lot and even penned this piece on steps to take before you pull the plug on corporate life during my first six months of work & reflection.

Meghan Donovan of wit & whimsy in a Mackage Coat and Loeffler Randall Boots

On June 1st I’ll be ringing in two years of self employment and I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much my life has changed since I began working for myself running a PR consultancy and wit & whimsy full time. I’ve had this post brewing for some time and kept coming back to it adding in things. My life has changed so much with this career chapter and I am forever grateful for the happiness it brings me. Today’s post is a peek at what all has changed and I hope you enjoy it!

I’ve had to become more adaptable.

I’ll admit, going with the flow has never been my strong suit but man have I improved since working for myself! When you are your own admin, operations, client service manager and every other role under the sun you have to be more flexible by nature. I’ve allowed myself to be more willing to go with change and to expect the unexpected.

I’ve learned Nothing is guaranteed.

I’ve had countless projects and prospective clients that seem like they are going to come through and in the beginning you start to count on the money coming in before contracts are signed. I’ve since learned you will do a lot of prospecting that won’t actually materialize into work contracted and checks issued. You’ll share a lot of ideas for free and do a lot of work that ends up being an investment that never goes anywhere. It comes with the territory and teaches you to be nimble and work on not getting your hopes up.

Meghan Donovan of wit & whimsy in a Mackage Coat and Loeffler Randall Boots

I’m less anxious.

Corporate life had made my anxiety a little off the charts in my last few months of working at a PR agency. I wasn’t sleeping well, I was spending so many hours during the week in a toxic-feeling environment, I was surrounded by constant complaining and I was feeling annoyed all.the.time. When I broke free from that life and set out on my own, I slowly saw my anxiety dial itself down. I realized how much my flexible schedule gave me a sense of calm and ownership that was empowering. And I lived for the feeling of being accountable only to myself and to my clients without a lot of the bu!!$h!t that came with internal politics. Of course, I still have nights where I lay awake and question everything but overall I’ve become more calm and less anxious in my work. At the onset of self employment I even came off anti-anxiety meds I’d been on for over a decade. I haven’t looked back since and I sleep better and instead rely on meditation when I’m feeling overwhelmed or stressed.

I’ve learned to admit my weaknesses.

In every book and article I read in preparation for working for myself I heard the advice that you should hire out the tasks you’re not strong at. Hiring an accountant was one of the best things I’ve done for myself and also having a lawyer was crucial. In the beginning I was tempted to take on projects that I knew I could most likely figure out but didn’t necessarily play to my strongest skills. I’ve realized taking on those sorts of projects cause way more stress than they are worth and instead I have learned to focus on work where I can really meet and exceed expectations.

Meghan Donovan of wit & whimsy in a Mackage Coat and Loeffler Randall Boots

I’m more empowered.

When you work for a larger organization often it can be hard to feel like your voice is being heard or that your opinions are valued. It can be so easy to feel like a cog in the machine that’s being overlooked or undervalued. As my own boss I feel incredibly empowered to pursue the types of projects and clients I want to work with and I love the feeling of knowing I am master of my own path.

I trust my gut instinct more than ever.

Ever since going out on my own I have felt so in tune with my gut instinct. I’ll turn down business if my gut is telling me it isn’t something worth pursuing or I’ll trust myself when I get a feeling from a person that they’ll be really difficult to work with. It’s always hard to turn away money when it is on the table but I’ve realized how much better off I am working with people that will be good partners and see our relationship as mutually beneficial. I’ve never been more grateful for that little feeling inside giving pointers.

Meghan Donovan of wit & whimsy in a Mackage Coat and Loeffler Randall Boots

I rely on the energy from my network.

Not having co-workers has been one of the biggest changes for me. It’s strange to work from home and not have people you see day in and day out and cultivate rapports with. This is why I’ve found it so crucial to regularly meet up with fellow consultants and bloggers to brainstorm, vent and feed off of. I get really energized from these meetings and I’m lucky to have a very supportive network on which I can rely.

I’ve built a team to support me.

To build off the above, when you work for yourself you are often a party of one for much of the time. But there comes a time when you must decide to grow your team when you feel it’s right. One year into my business I realized much of what was taking up most of my time were the tasks I could assign out to an intern. They were tasks that were not affecting my bottom line but were necessary to the clients I was servicing. Doing these tasks myself was sucking up time that was crucial to my growth and expanding my business. In July of last year I brought on an intern for my consulting business and it was the best decision I made. I had to admit, no, I couldn’t do it all well. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to play every role from account associate to senior vice president for my businesses. Since being self-employed I’ve run a million errands and done tasks I haven’t done since I was 22 as an assistant account executive. That comes with the territory! But I had to realize those tasks were taking me away from other crucial aspects of making my businesses prosper. I now have three people on my team across both my businesses and every day they remain some of the best decisions I’ve made. It can be really hard to give up ownership but sometimes it is necessary.  Even better? Growing my team has allowed me to get back to mentoring which is something I knew I’d miss dearly when I left the corporate world. I’ve been a manager since I was 24 and I loved fostering growth in those I manage. I really believe in taking time to be a good boss and growing talent and having team members allows me to play this role once again.

Meghan Donovan of wit & whimsy in a Mackage Coat and Loeffler Randall Boots

I live for the hustle. (It’s necessary!)

I’ve always been extremely motivated to perform at work. I have been hungry almost my entire career. I wanted to work hard, be acknowledged. I want to be seen as a top performer and as someone that would go above and beyond. Nowadays, I have a different kind of drive. I have to hustle for my businesses in a major way. No one is going to do it for me so I have to be “on” all the time. I have to secure clients, secure blog sponsorships and I have to perform. I have to want to go the extra mile all the time because when the buck stops, it stops with me. There’s no one to share responsibility with if a client or brand isn’t happy.

Meghan Donovan of wit & whimsy in a Mackage Coat and Loeffler Randall Boots

I’ve had to standup for my worth. Over and over again.

Setting my rates and getting clients and projects that will accept them has been such a hard thing to fight for as a party of one. When you’re not seen in the setting of a large office or with a large team people try to undercut your prices left and right. They try to make you feel like your efforts won’t be worth the price tag you’ve applied to your services. Whenever I’m talking to prospective clients I get pushback and have to stand up for myself and let me tell you, it’s hard. Just like it’s hard to negotiate a salary, it’s hard to prove your worth and prove what you know your time is valued at. That being said, the plus side is when you work for yourself you’re not dictated what your income will be. It’s both empowering and frightening. This is something I am still working on when it comes to measuring what my work is worth but I’ve gotten a lot better with practice. (And with listening to things like podcast episodes on the business of negotiation if you can believe it!) I work extremely hard for my clients and for brands and I often go above and beyond what is asked for. It’s because of this I know every dollar I make was a dollar I earned.

All Black Outfit with a Striped Tee

I thrive off OF the flexibility.

My flexible schedule is no doubt one of my favorite perks. I love being able to work whenever, wherever. I feel very empowered by the variety in my work days. I love that no two days are the same, that I have no regular commuting schedule and that I am not required to conform to being at a desk during certain hours or having to tell people where I am. I’m available to my clients when they need me and I remain incredibly responsive but gone are the days of feeling like I always had to report where I was, if I was running late, etc. This took some getting used to of course but I thrive with this atmosphere. The one challenge is overworking. Some days and weeks I feel like I can’t “turn off” or I work way too much because I’m not clocking in and out of the office. But I’m sure a lot of you have similar days and weeks that feel like this, too, right?

There’s no such thing as a proper vacation.

Despite having a team to help me nowadays, I still am the only person who is brand and client facing for both my companies. This means that when I travel I can’t log off completely. I have to check in so that I don’t miss deadlines or important happenings. This can be a real downside to self-employment. I’ve lost a lot of sleep as a result of having to check in and catch up. It’s worth it in the end but eventually I’d like to figure out a way to really take a totally unplugged trip.

So, as you can see…a lot has changed. This past year and a half I have learned an immense amount and feel like I’m thriving with the change. It’s a great way to feel after over a decade in the work force. I pray that my career can continue in this form and I remain grateful every day that I get to do not one but two jobs that I really, truly love!

Mackage Jacket (old; very similar here) // Jeans // Boots (I’ve been wearing these non-stop! So comfortable) // Nordstrom Striped Sweater // Bag // Celine Sunglasses via TheRealReal (they have a great selection!)

p.s. another neutral outfit perfect for winter & recent changes made to wit & whimsy.

And finally, in case you missed Friday’s post, if you want to get new posts into your inbox – you can sign up here! (If you currently get them you’re still going to have to sign up – I’m sorry! Changed out my vendor and by law I’m not allowed to sign you up even if you previously subscribed!)

[Carter Fish Photography]

what I'm wearing

8 comments on “How My Life Has Changed Since Being Self-Employed”

  1. You go girl!! There is a lot of maturity in your reflection. I’m very proud of the woman you’ve grown to be. Thank you for always sharing your best self. xoxo

    1. Thank you so much, Nanc! Forever grateful for the examples you set for me in my very first job! How far I’ve come because of amazing influences like you!

  2. Looking fierce in those shades and sweet leather details!
    Thank you so much for sharing such inspiring words! Particularly the bit about managing anxiety. Type A, driven, detail oriented, reliable, consistent, organized, that’s how I’d honor my “best qualities” in my 20s. In my 30s, it’s hard to keep up with the panic of proving those qualities, and spinning that hamster wheel without running out of steam. I know I need to change something to fuel my next few decades. You remind me that it IS possible!!! You look so happy and centered. I’ll have what she’s having!

    1. Aw, Claire – THANK YOU! Your comment made my day because it reminds me we are not alone in our anxiety!! It is really hard to find motivation, balance and joy the longer we work. I am grateful to be able to do this chapter right now as it is a unique situation that has led me to it. I hope you find the path to your next chapter & that it is a lovely one for you!

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