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  • Writer's pictureCajvanean C. Alexandru

Stairways to Self-Employment. Can You Stay Sane While Navigating the Highs and Lows of Freelancing?



Stairways to Self-Employment



“Learn boy, else you gonna become a shepherd.” Our parents used to say to us when we were back in elementary. Quite a common threat I would add. As if, becoming a shepherd, is the worst thing that can happen to a man. Almost spit my tea out as I busted out laughing. In case you were not playing nicely “If you are not behaving, I’m gonna sell you to the gypsies.” Yes, the gypsies used to roam around in their horse carriages through our villages and ask for all sorts of things and sometimes they even sold their craft.


I played nicely, I behaved and got good grades, and thankfully - bless my parents - they didn’t throw me away nor did my life turn into the tragedy of becoming a shepherd. It’s even worse now, I’m a damn self-employed designer tormented by the desire of giving it all up to become a shepherd and live like the gypsies inside tents or sleeping under the clear sky. Fuck, I miss seeing stars at night, as moving to a city got that away from me. I can barely see one or two now and then due to all the light pollution.


It is the eternal condition and our damnation to never be happy nor fulfilled of who we are and where we are in life. If I were to be a shepherd on some hill, making cheese and stargazing every time the sky was clear, I would have thought, damn, if I were to spend a little more time learning and listening to my parents, maybe I would have gotten a bit further in life. Maybe, just maybe, I would have become a self-employed bastard. Ah, I can only dream as I gaze upon my 300 sheep and while I count them one by one, I fall into a deep sleep and in my dreams, I dream of the life I live now.


SELF-EMPLOYMENT COVER GRAPHIC DESIGN BY CAJVA

Over-Glorify Self Employment


Is the grass hex code hexier on the side of self-employment? I guess. At least it seems to be from the perspective of someone who has never been there. So you have to see both sides of a coin. I had the opportunity to go through both worlds and while I can say that there is no right answer, I can share some ideas.


In my experience it is never the work, is the people who are fucked. I believe we can do pretty much any type of work and labor out there if the people around us are understanding, kind, and compassionate. I even worked a seasonal job at a farm. I wasn’t bothered by heavy labor, I was loving it. In fact, one scorching hot day, I was out in the fields picking up potatoes. We had to get rid of those sticky rotten potatoes and pick only the healthy ones. I was enjoying the work even with all the sweat, stench, and dusty air until the boss came around. No amount of putrid potatoes and rancid sweat could make my stomach ache as his words and attitude did. He was done for.


Similar experiences I’ve been through different jobs, same kind of people. Entitled bosses and toxic co-workers were for the most of the time, the only downsize big enough to make me quit. By the way, I still love potatoes to this day, I’m just like Sam from Lord of the Rings: “Boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew! Lovely big, golden... chips with a nice piece of fried fish."


Of course, I was in a privileged position where I could quit and I’m glad it was that way. What I’m trying to say is that people can put up with lots of shit if they have to, but most of the time, it’s not the work itself as the adversity is artificially created and artificially inflated by other people.


I didn’t choose the self-employed life, I just grew into it. In college, I was trying to make some money and freelancing seemed like the natural thing to do. I told myself it’s a good thing to gather experience and while it wasn’t much, it was honest work. I later started a small company of mobile video games that lasted for a year and I also worked in a marketing a design agency.


Now, I’m working by myself and no one can challenge my supremacy. -laughs maniacally-


Being self-employed, I could be my own boss, you see? Boy was I wrong. As a self-employed person, I’ve had more bosses than I could count. Each project I’ve worked on made me part of a team, and at least temporarily, the client was the boss. Although in the service industry, the client isn’t always right as is the case with products where the client is right in a matter of taste, the client remains the client.


Talking by yourself as a form of internal staff meeting


Intellectual laziness can destroy your career for good. It requires a high degree of self-awareness which puts you in a position where you can evaluate and reevaluate what you are doing. Everyone asks where is Cajva but no one asks “How is Cajva?”. So you need to ask that yourself. No one outside of yourself can ask, provide, and support you with direction or improve your services.


Now and then, you need to reassess your situation, draw conclusions, draw your maps, and compare your results. Do I need to formulate this email better, but how? Are my design skills enough? What else should I focus on? Endless lists of questions and barely an answer. So, like the judgmental being you are, you need to perform autopsies on your behavior and on your work.


I truly believe that in order to get better at something you must always assume that you don’t know anything about that something. I don’t assume anymore, I know I don’t know. So I’m trying to listen. Listen to others who seem to do it better, who seem to get the hang of it. Listen to my client's problems and try to figure out how can they be solved. Listen to the people who care about you. Listen to yourself because your gut instinct knows exactly what it wants. My gut went straight feral and got me an ulcer when I was dealing with a situation that I should’ve been out of earlier. Be in tune with it and if you get a feeling in your gut, time to thread carefully and listen.


Years from now, I will look back and wish I worked more overtime.


No one tells you about our self-destructive nature and how we can fuck our lives up faster than any other person. Having no schedule can make your work chaotic, and you might find yourself in a position where you have no time for yourself. Funny, isn’t it? You wanted to be self-employed just because you can have more time. A successful form of self-employment involves discipline because discipline is freedom and I can’t stress this enough.


So I believe a little discipline and self-awareness are enough to get you started at least on working by yourself. In time you will learn (or not) how to manage stress, how to deal with clients, how to negotiate, how to promote yourself, how to build a brand, and how to find balance in life. Who knows, maybe you will get to find enlightenment. And maybe then you will get to be more kind to yourself.


Some days you can’t bring yourself out of bed and that’s fine. Take advantage of this.


Enjoy your privileged position and take a free day every now and then not only for your mental health but because of anxiety, stress, and the overwhelming nature of business. Saying that you don’t care anymore and going to your desk to work anyway is a form of abuse. Pain should move you into taking action not into making yourself suffer more. Taking action means also relaxing and not working yourself to death.


The capitalist culture romanticized work to the point of making money the core of human existence. I’m not saying money is a bad thing, not in the least, but think about yourself and how a few months of bad business can put you on the wrong track and how a few months of good work won’t even make you a rich man. We are ever so close to the brink of destruction, one or two tragedies away from poverty or bankruptcy, disaster or pain and so we must learn to be compassionate towards others but firstly to ourselves. Just like on a plane where you have to put your oxygen mask on yourself first and then help others. So feel free to serve yourself here, have a free day, have two, and take care of yourself.


Solopreneur means solitude most of the time.


First of all, you want to be self-employed so you don’t have to deal with other people. Loneliness is not being by yourself or being alone. Loneliness is having no one to care about you or to even feel forgotten altogether. You can also have so many people around you but to ever feel alone, means that you failed somewhere along the road, you adopted the wrong virtues, or believed in the wrong morals. This calls for a paradigm shift and is one of life’s most beautiful things.


Animals always shed their old skins or fur, time for us to become more and more adaptable. Self-mastery is something to aim for because a well-fine-tuned mind and a trained body can withstand the hardships of life. Don’t self-improve. Self-destruct the shite person you are, and inevitably you will become different, and, in the process, you will never feel lonely.


The people pleaser


Being a people pleaser works wonders in the service industry, your services get better, and the people benefit wonders from your lack of dignity. If there is something that fucks me up as a self-employed man, is me trying to please all the people all the time. I care what others think of me, and that puts me in a very difficult position to do work and make money. It is, after all, my image, my brand, and myself in this.


I’m better than I used to be but I care too much, still. I also don’t believe that all the impulses to please other people are self-interest. Sometimes might be altruism, although this is extremely rare.

I’m somewhat of a recovering people pleaser myself so I’m going to write a few words.


Don’t be afraid of criticism. “A critic is someone who enters the battlefield after the war is over and shoots the wounded.” - Murray Kempton


Not everyone is going to like you so better speak up and stand for what you believe in. You will be amazed how many people think like you but don’t show themselves because they are either trying to stay on neutral ground or please others as well.


You will grow to accept, and at some point, you will love to be called the bad guy. Have boundaries, especially in business. If as an employee, your boss can deal with clients, you, as a self-employed, have to deal with both the client and the work. Being in a position where you can say no, is essential for your mental health and for those around you.


You can’t deliver service and at the same time be degraded. So speak up, learn to talk, learn to defend your expertise, and your vision, and learn how to translate it to others. Next time when a customer asks you to work for exposure you either don’t think anything of it or prepare to end that man’s whole career. Don’t let it consume you.


There is a saying by Sappho that goes like “What cannot be said will be wept.”


Build a Network around you.


I will go into details on this topic in another blog post but I will mention it briefly here. Hone your connection skills and gather around you as many people as possible. Anyone you meet is a potential buyer who can benefit from your work. Your skills serve the world and the world will buy from you. If they know you, that is. So get social and reach out to people. Build strong work relationships with your clients that will last for years. That means, understanding your customer's problems so you can deliver the best solutions. Your client doesn't need a new logo, he wishes to be seen, he wishes to establish a presence, and he would like to be recognized.


Last but not least, the great tragedy of being self-employed, a solopreneur, or just “not being able to cope with others so now is this”.


The sadness of paying your own taxes, feeling how the government takes it away, and then going on to read the news and seeing how they use it for personal issues and stealing it without having to answer for it. It just breaks my fragile little artist's heart leaving me hollow and thinking that I shouldn’t do it the legal way anymore. But I want it to be better, I believe in a better world, even if I give away more than half of what I make and some days I don’t even have money to get some milk.


It is the way I am as an artist, just wanting to make everything around me beautiful on different levels. I’m one of the worst kind of people. The kind that knows deep down in their hearts that everything is the way it is, terrible, unfair, and corrupted. I know it’s all bullshit but I secretly hope that someday will be different.


In the end, you will still have to deal with people and so many other responsibilities. Being self-employed means trying against all odds. It means becoming and it means changing your perception. It is a struggle but in the end is transformative.

_______


Don’t fake it until you make it, be authentic.


I will close this entry by quoting my man Charles Bukowski and his words that might touch and rejuvenate your shriveled and dusty soul. I said “might” because words work on organic living matter only.


“If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery--isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you'll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is.”


_____________________


Send me your ideas or start a conversation.


I write on this blog almost weekly and you can find details about my graphic design work and get in touch on my website.

4 Comments


Rusciac Sania
Rusciac Sania
Apr 20

❤️

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Cajvanean C. Alexandru
Cajvanean C. Alexandru
Apr 20
Replying to

😍

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Cosmin Mirza
Cosmin Mirza
Apr 20

How are you Cajva?

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Cajvanean C. Alexandru
Cajvanean C. Alexandru
Apr 21
Replying to

Hard to say. I think this calls for some socializing so we can go through all of it and dissect this and that, plus, I always like hanging around with you, especially if there is a nice place with good music. Some good food would also do. I like our little routine rituals, with food, drinks and quality talk and if that isn't nice, i don't know what is.

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