The driving force behind so many self employed women of this generation is our desperation to answer to ourselves.
Women of the 1960s had nothing more to hope for in their lives than a chance to bag the boss at whatever Investment Banking firm they were typing for. Women of today are hungry and desperate to bag themselves the boss too, only, not by marrying him, but by being him.
It’s a fantastic time to be alive, it’s a fantastic time to be self-employed.
But the pressure has never been bigger.
For a lot of us the regular 9-5s that we grew up expecting to partake in are dead and gone. We don’t sit for hours every day on the sweaty commute across London, dreaming of nothing more than a bubble bath and a huge glass of wine when we get home. Because even if we do pull the Dolly Parton shifts, there’s a sizeable majority of us with a side hobby waiting for our attention the minute we’re out the office.
And I’m not just talking about bloggers. A friend of mine is a housekeeper who works as a picture framer after hours. I have another friend who works as a nanny, but has taken up taxidermy in her free time. I know a guy who works as a gardener during the week and a fireman on the weekends. My flatmate gets home from her job in the city having listened to business podcasts the whole way home and spends her evenings working out how she can get out of the monotony that is her day job and finally be her own boss.
Why work to make someone else rich, when you can work to make yourself rich?
That’s the mentality of lots of millenials.
It wasn’t my mentality before I became self employed. But it sure as hell is now.
A lot of people ask me how I find the motivation to be self-employed. They tell me if they worked from home they would never get anything done, they’d play with the puppy all day long, take long lunches, get distracted by a messy kitchen.
I tell them they’d have the motivation too if they realised that if they don’t do the job, no one else will do it for them. And with no one to do the job, there’s no one there to pay the bills.
What I don’t mention is the crippling fear of failure that comes over me once a day, the fact that online I am surrounded by women who are killing the game and the repeated use of the term ‘girl boss’.
I don’t tell them that the pressure to be the best in my field, or at least a serious competitor is all-encompassing. I don’t tell them that I spend huge chunks of my day questioning whether or not I will ever make it. I don’t tell them about the fear, the fear of not being enough, the fear of getting it wrong, the fear of failing. I don’t mention the guilt. The guilt I feel if I’m not grinding every minute of every day. The guilt I feel if I take a weekend off. The guilt I feel when I sit on the sofa. The guilt I get for letting the emails accumulate. The constant guilt.
And I certainly don’t mention the imposter syndrome. The feelings of ‘how did I get here?’ the ‘do I deserve this?’, the ‘am I really as good as the others?’
To be honest when I talk to people about work I mostly just shrug my shoulders, tell them it’s g-r-e-a-t-t-t-t and insist they tell me all about them.
The thing is, being self employed is great. Writing full time is not just a dream come true but an utterly bonkers reality for me. I adore it and I mean it when I tell people that I am so happy with my job.
But emotionally, mentally, it’s draining. Because you are never going to be good enough. Or I’m not at least.
The term ‘girl boss’ is one that we hear a lot of these days. My friends in ‘normal jobs’ never use the term, but my gals online hashtag it daily. It’s one area of self-promotion that we’ve got absolutely nailed down, an expression we are actively encouraged to apply to ourselves.
Working hard has never been sexier. The grind is exhilarating. The concept is the thing fuelling domain-holders the world over. We want to get up earlier, we want to work into the night, we unashamedly ask for more money and get a buzz when we blow our friends off for dinner because we’re just too busy.
We’re a generation that needs to be tired and it suits us.
I for one don’t want to admit to anyone that I’ve had a slow day, the notion gives me shivers. I want to be stressed, I need to be stressed. I rely on a to-do list as long as my arm and I’m bitterly disappointed if I wake up one morning with a bit of a cold, no inspiration and no emails to reply to.
I’m scared of the slump.
I’m scared of someone asking me how my day was and having to tell them that it was fine, but a bit quiet. I’m terrified, constantly terrified that I’m not working hard enough. Mostly because I’m normally not.
Not compared to the other bloggers. The ones that are at events every night, working every day, uploading beautiful photos to Instagram every day, updating their stories at 11pm still sitting at their desks, writing from the beach on their holidays.
And certainly not compared to all those ‘normal folk’ that have to get up at 6am, squeeze a run in before getting dressed, putting makeup on and sitting on the tube for an hour to go and work at a job that I not only don’t understand but simply couldn’t do.
Whereas I spent the majority of my teenage years doing ‘just enough’, terrified to admit to my friends that I actually revised for a test or gave a shit about my homework, I’ve spent my twenties discovering the giving a shit and working for something is just about the coolest thing you can do.
I worked hard to be just enough. I worked harder to never be enough.
And that’s a good thing. That drive, that panic. It’s the thing that keeps pushing me forwards, opening my laptop, getting me out of bed at 7am.
Although it’s exhausting, utterly utterly exhausting, fighting a battle that you cannot win, working towards a finish line that is inched around another corner every time you feel like you are getting close to it, it’s the thing that keeps so many of us going.
The idea that I would one day be my own boss is mad. The idea that one day women, the world over, would be able to not only make a living but thrive under their own leadership is phenomenal. And that is, perhaps, why the pressure is so big. In being our own bosses, in paving our own way, in answering to ourselves, we are creating a world brimming with possibilities not just for each other, but for every girl that comes after us.