The One Thing That a Self-Employed Worker Needs

“What do you think is the secret of leading a great freelance life?” I received this question yesterday from a friend and my answer was this: to wake up each morning afresh. Or to distill it to its essence: to be born again each day.

I have only been in the self-employed life for just over a month and have hardly achieved anything, so my answer is not about how to have a successful freelance life (yet). It is more about the necessary attitude to maintain a self-employed life toward creating my own career path where nobody can “replace” me.

One thing that separates a self-employed life from the employed one is the absence of stand-ins. If I take a sick day off, nobody is going to respond to my clients to renegotiate the schedule or even do my work for me. I have greater freedom in exchange for greatly reduced safety guards: paid vacations to take my stress off, colleagues to cover me up, supervisors to clean up my bad scores, human resource division to arbitrate legal issues.

Therefore, my biggest concern as a freelancer is not the level of my skills, the amount of my savings account, or the list of my clients. It is my health, physically and mentally. I did not realize it consciously, but my body already knew that importance and started to adjust my life right after I jumped into my new self-sustainable (hopefully) life. I started to wake up at 5:30 without the help of an alarm clock, drink 3 liter of water every day, and eat less quantity but higher quality meal. All those changes just happened without planning.

And sleep is by far the most important of my daily habits. I am not talking about waking up at the same time each day: that sounds nice on theory, but in practice our schedule, metabolism, and most importantly inner clock do not exactly work in sync with 24 hours. My wake-up time fluctuates accordingly. But one thing does not change (and must not change) is that every time I open my eyes, I completely reset what happened the day before. Yesterday is gone, hello today.

When I go to bed, no matter how sweet or brutal that day’s incidents were, they all rest in peace. Sleep is small death. When I wake up, I have memories of the events from the day before, but they are officially gone: I am reborn, starting my life afresh. Every day brings new hopes as well as challenges, and I can use the wisdom and encouragement from my “past lives” but cannot depend on them. I need to give complete focus and attention to the new day/life that slowly unfolds in front of me. If I were to stand up and walk firmly on the ground of now, I cannot sink down under or go over the top depending on what happened in the past (life).

The ability, or the mindset, to be reborn each day is my most important skill set as a self-employed man. And to be precise, it should be that way no matter what type of life I choose to live. But the choice of self-employment made it vastly easier for me to realize that important truth, and for that reason alone, I know I made the right decision to forge my own career/life path.