I’ve always been bad at growing things.
Like, really bad. They’d always start out doing well. I’d set a basil plant up in a sunny spot by the window and it would begin to thrive. But at some point in the process, I’d begin to forget about it. Or I’d go on vacation and come home to realize I forgot to ask my roommate to water it. Or I’d overwater it and it’d grow mold (true story).
Despite that, I’m trying to grow my own garden this year. I knew when I planted it that it didn’t have a very good shot. And a few of the plants did the predictable thing: they shriveled up and died. But surprisingly, most of them have instead begun to bear fruit.
I started the garden a bit late in the season, yet as of this week I have several baby jalapenos, a baby cucumber and an array of herbs growing on my back patio. I’ve let go of those plants that died and instead focused my attention on those that continue to grow.
Yet I’ve been having a problem doing the same when it comes to freelancing.
Ready to Call It Quits
Monday night I was feeling so frustrated I began browsing “wanted” ads on Craig’s list. Freelancing seemed easy when I was planning out this first year—I was going to avoid all those mistakes other freelancers mentioned. I’d make sure to set aside income each month for taxes; I’d avoid going paycheck to paycheck and the usual “writer’s up-and-down” by paying myself a steady salary… on months that I made more, it would go into savings. On months that I made less, I could draw from my savings.
But then reality set in.
On Monday I spent the day focusing on my business—and by the end of the day, I was very aware of how different reality was from the expectations I’d had before going freelance. Of course, I’d known the two weren’t really matching up, but it was easy to push it out-of-mind while I’d been swamped with client work. After all, I was busy; that meant I was doing well, didn’t it?
Except I was busy because I had to be just to earn enough to live on—without setting aside money for taxes. And rather than establish a set pay rate and save, I’d been simply using the money I made in a given month the following month; that is, the money I made in June is money spent in July and the money made in July is spent in August—because otherwise, it would be a real struggle to pay bills.
Trying to Get Back On Track
Now, almost a year out of the hole, I’ve finally raised my rates (though probably not enough) and am learning how to maximize my productivity during working hours. I’ve actually figured out what I need to make in order to set up my finances the way I’d like (so that I can pay myself a steady paycheck and set aside money for taxes). And I’m finally beginning to make enough so that I don’t have to struggle to make ends meet.
However, I’m still stuck playing catch up from all the months I was doing that “making ends meet” thing. In other words, when it comes to my business I’m still struggling to save those dying plants. And honestly, I’m not sure what to do about it.
I know I need to let go of what’s already gone—but how do you “just replant” with a business? I can’t simply write off most of this year and chalk it up to experience. I still need to even up with Uncle Sam come tax time. And I’m just not sure how to go about it.
But here’s what I’m betting: I’m betting that a few of you have been where I am. Maybe you have a few words of advice. Maybe you just have a sympathy story. Either way, I’d appreciate you to share in the comments—and in return, I promise to share where I go from here.