How to reconcile these two conflicting statements?
1) Working for yourself, especially while traveling, is not as easy as most people think. The fantasy and the reality are quite distinct, and it takes a lot of work to be successful.
2) Working for yourself, even while traveling, is awesome! The freedom is great, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Both statements are completely true, but naturally, we tend to view the idea of self-employment and extensive travel through only one of the two statements. I’d like to look at it a bit deeper.
Fantasy and Reality
I’ve always been skeptical about marketing messages that highlight “just how easy” it is to take your work with you wherever you go. If you look at the ads in the back of Entrepreneur or Fortune Small Business, you’ll see a common motif of bathing suits and laptops at the beach. These images do a good job of “selling the dream,” but the problem is that the reality is more complicated.
Maybe you’re better than me, but I have never found self-employment to be that easy. I take my laptop and usually do some kind of work even on vacation, but does anyone take it to the actual beach? I mean, wouldn’t you get sand in the keyboard?
And of course, the deeper message between the beach-laptop hype is even more concerning. The message is:
How would you like to do nothing all day except log-in to check bank statements and send a few emails? This can be your regular routine, after you invest in our program. (And by the way, if it doesn’t work for you, you must be doing something wrong.)
Artists of all kinds hear similar kinds of messages too. I don’t spend much time at the beach, with or without laptop, but I do try to combine travel and work as much as possible. Over and over, I hear the same thing from different people: “Well, you have all those hours on long plane flights to write.”
I hate to break down the illusion, but most of the time the fantasy about this is better than the reality. I do a lot of brainstorming, outlining, and journal writing on planes – which is very important, don’t get me wrong – but I am rarely able to do much real writing even on an 8-hour flight. The travel is tiring to begin with, and most of the really long flights take place during the night.
Then on the other side of arriving in Pakistan or wherever, I have to deal with being on a faraway time zone while figuring out how to get to the city without paying a lot of money, and then staying somewhere that isn’t usually up to Marriott standards.
Please note that I am not complaining about this. It’s part of the adventure. I’m just saying that there are plenty of times when not much gets done.
But On the Other Hand
I am also resistant to the idea that it is impossible, or even unlikely, to construct a life that allows you to do what you want. I like working for myself, and I like travel – so who’s to say there’s not a way to do both?
I’ve chosen to do this, and I believe in personal responsibility. If you have a business of any kind, you have to be responsible for it no matter what the circumstances. Sometimes I work at home and my internet connection stops working. I have to figure it out there, so what’s the difference if I’m somewhere else?
I’ve had so many amazing experiences since deciding to spend most of my time working on this. I’m getting my first book proposal together and I already know what I want to write the second book about.
Many people who read this site have similar stories or aspirations or aspirations of their own. If that’s you, please be advised of the following:
Life is good.
The freedom is good.
If you really want to work at the beach and can avoid getting sand in your keyboard, you can probably make that happen.
It takes hard work, but it’s worth it. Don’t believe anyone who says otherwise.
My Very Small Business
Next Wednesday I’ll launch my second information product, the Unconventional Guide to Working for Yourself: Creating Freedom through a Very Small Business.
I expect that a number of people will buy it, although I don’t know what that number will be. On Monday I’ll announce a fairly unique guarantee, but since I’ve already explained why not to give me your money, the guarantee will be for those who do buy the guide.
I think you’ll find it interesting, and I’ll also explain how we’ll make this fun even for people who don’t care about self-employment at all.
Actual Sales Figures
By the way, a few of you have asked how things are going with the sales in general. Here’s the no-B.S. answer: since I released the first Unconventional Guide two months ago, the sales have been about $1,000 a month.
Granted, I can’t make a living on $1,000 a month — not where I live, and definitely not with the travel — but there are two cool things about this:
#1: I just started doing this in March. There are now a few thousand of you who read every day, and as of now I only have one product for sale which is admittedly not for everyone. Expansion is certainly possible.
#2: As I’ll explain in more detail in the Working for Yourself guide, the $1,000 a month figure is an important tipping point. It usually takes about as long to go from $0 to $1,000 a month as it does to go from $1,000 to $5,000 a month.
This is a rough guideline, and of course there are no guarantees in something like that, but the principle is sound. Getting started takes a fair amount of work; continuous improvement takes less.
There’s Just One Small Problem
The problem is that I don’t know if I want to spend too much time on building this business. My primary goal is to create a lifestyle that allows me to focus primarily on writing, working with small groups, and travel.
I also enjoy working on entrepreneurial projects, but I’ve noticed that those activities require the same kind of energy that writing does. In other words, the more I focus on money-making endeavors, the less energy I have for writing.
Hmmm. I’m honestly not sure what to do about that.
I suspect that whatever I end up deciding, I’ll still travel, and I’ll still find a way to do some kind of work from anywhere on the planet. The fantasy of self-employment and international travel will probably remain over-hyped, but that’s OK – because those of us who are determined will keep doing what we like to do.
Image by MacGirl