Business

Confessions of an Entrepreneur with a “Designer Lifestyle” by @DIYMFA

Portable "office" in a tote bag.
Portable “office” in a tote bag.

by Gabriela Pereira | Featured Contributor

By all accounts, I’m living the “designer lifestyle.” I run an online business and have the flexibility to fit my work schedule around my  life. Forget about packing a suitcase, most days I run my whole business out of my purse. And as a mom who squeezes her work hours around the schedules of my toddler son and newborn daughter, my workweek sure seems like it only has four hours in it, and I can’t say it feels all that glamorous.

There’s lot of hype on the internet about entrepreneurship, location independence and running a business where you want, when you want. A lot of people think this means sending out your newsletter while hiking through a rainforest or checking email from a lounge chair on a white sand beach. Well, last time I checked, the rainforest doesn’t have WiFi, and if I tried doing email from the beach all I’d end up with is sand in my laptop.

Here’s the truth no one tells you about this entrepreneurial “designer lifestyle.”

1) Be prepared to defend your time with your life.

Does this sound extreme? That’s because it is. You must defend your time because no one else will defend it for you. Since you can work anytime, other people will automatically assume that you have all this extra “free time” during the day. The truth is, we all have the same twenty-four hours to work with but no one sees the hours you work early in the morning, late at night, on the weekends, or whenever else you get things done. This makes it all the more important for you to protect those precious work hours from interlopers. Also, because you can work anywhere and anytime, you may be tempted to work all the time, no matter where you are. Do not give in. Just as you must protect your work hours from interruptions and distractions, you must take care of your non-work time as well.

2) There is no such thing as work-life balance.

It’s impossible to find this balance because the scale constantly tips from one extreme to the other. Our brains are not built to multi-task. All we can do is shift our attention from one thing to another. This means that in any given moment, either work or life will demand ALL your attention and you can’t give it to both at the same time. The best thing you can do is accept that there is no balance and embrace this crazy roller-coaster ride.

3) It’s not about discipline, it’s about force of will.

When I tell people I run my own business from home, the most frequent response is: “Wow, you must be so disciplined.”  I will tell you right now I am one of the least disciplined people ever. If I relied on discipline to run my business I would probably fritter my days away eating bonbons and watching bad TV. Instead, what gets me through my day (and my to-do list) is sheer, bullheaded stubbornness. I don’t have a secret system that makes my business magically run itself. I don’t have some magic bullet solution that will somehow make entrepreneurship easy. I’m just unbelievably stubborn and I refuse to give up until everything gets checked off the list. And when that happens, I make another list.

The truth is…

The designer lifestyle is much less about style as it is about life, and by life I mean real life, with all the mess and muck and magic that goes with it. And there IS a magic to it that I wouldn’t trade for anything: like sharing a mid-day snack with my toddler son, or having an afternoon cuddle with my baby girl, or knowing that I can go on vacation and still “check in on the office” because that office is my purse. All you need to make this magic happen is a little appetite for chaos, and a really sturdy handbag.


 

GPereira-AuthorPic2Gabriela Pereira is the Creative Director and Instigator of DIY MFA, the do-it-yourself alternative to a Masters degree in writing. Gabriela earned an MFA from The New School and is the author of several articles on the process and craft of writing. She has taught writing at various organizations throughout New York City.

 

10 Replies to “Confessions of an Entrepreneur with a “Designer Lifestyle” by @DIYMFA”

  1. Kristi Holl

    I’ve been self-employed for 34 years, first while raising four kids and now with lots of grandkids nearby. I love the honesty of this article. I would never trade this for a 9-5 job, but it’s harder than most outsiders think. Most of the online entrepreneurs who say otherwise are either single or they have a wife taking care of the children. You are doing both, and my hat goes off to you. You won’t regret this. You’re getting the best of both worlds, and so are your children.

    1. Gabriela Pereira[ Post Author ]

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Kristi! I agree, I would never trade this crazy life for a 9-to-5 but I think it’s important to be honor the reality of what it really means to run a business from home. Especially since there is a lot of hype about entrepreneurship out there.

      In all fairness, I should say that I’m super-lucky, because the kids are really cooperative. Lady Bug sleeps in her bouncy chair while I work at the computer and the Little Man loves spending hours in his own “office” (i.e. the play yard) every day. Yes, there are the occasional tantrums and fiascos, but isn’t that true in any job? 😉

  2. Judy Yaron PhD

    The best part about your article, Gabriela, apart from your “purse” 🙂 is your honesty.

    Sadly, many who “glorify” the easy-life of the entrepreneur have ulterior motives. It’s a sales pitch and they have something they want to sell you and this is how they get you to buy in.

    Indeed, being self-employed (whether you are an entrepreneur or running a traditional business) has its challenges, but then again, so does working 9-5.

    It seems that you have made the right choices – to balance your time around your family. That for me is key.

    Good luck. HUGS <3

    1. Gabriela Pereira[ Post Author ]

      Thanks Judy! I totally agree that it’s all about making the right choices. And what’s most important about those choices is that they be right for that particular person. For me, choosing a career that fits around my life as mom was a no-brainer, but another person might have made a different choice.

      That’s the danger with all those “best practices” that people talk about. Chances are, a best practice that works for me might not work for someone else and vice versa. Not to mention that by the time a best practice begins to pay off and show results, chances are things have changed in the industry or business and the same tricks or shortcuts won’t work again.

      In fact, the only “best practices” I can 100% endorse are hard work and persistence. Those are two things that will always work. No matter what. 🙂

  3. Dina Burke

    Gabby I love how far you have come with this. It ‘s all about accepting the reality of the moment while keeping your eye on the big picture. We are the ladies who launch not the ladies who lunch and you can quote me on that. We get #%^* done. And I wouldn’t trade an afternoon cuddle for anything!!! Xoxo Dina

    1. Gabriela Pereira[ Post Author ]

      Thanks Dina! Love that: Ladies who launch, not ladies who lunch. 🙂

  4. Monica Ricci

    Preach it, sister! I am nearly famous for the phrase, “I have no life balance” but at the same time, I don’t feel resentful or burned out so maybe this IS my version of “balance” – great post!

    ~ Monica

    1. Gabriela Pereira[ Post Author ]

      I totally hear you, Monica. This entrepreneurial life is like a roller-coaster: a bit chaotic with the ups and downs, but definitely a fun, wild ride (and so worth it in the end).

      So glad you enjoyed the post!

  5. Eric Deeter

    Great insights, Gabriela. My wife & I have run a home-based business for 20 years. We still have to guard against working all the time. We have learned to switch quickly from “work” to “not-working.” The hardest is to not think about work when we’re not working.

    1. Gabriela Pereira[ Post Author ]

      Totally! It’s especially hard not to think about work all the time when you really LOVE what you’re doing. The trick, I’ve found, is using distractions that I love just as much as my work.

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