Three Ways Leaving the 9-5 for Entrepreneurship Improved My Life

entrepreneurship improved my life

By Elise Perkins, {grow} Community Member

Stress in the workplace remains a top trigger for the everyday aches and pains that plague the American employee. A recent Deloitte study further illuminates the reasons why this occurs: worries over making mistakes, challenging workloads, “urgent” projects which add to the daily deliverables, excessive hours, and face-to-face interactions.

While each individual’s stressors are sure to vary based on their personal situation, I’d like to share with you my story.

As someone who has now owned a business for two years, I am very vocal about the numerous benefits and opportunities entrepreneurship has afforded me –  flexibility, continued education, financial growth, to name a few.

What I don’t speak about as publicly, is how entrepreneurship has greatly improved my life on physical, mental and emotional levels.

I’m happy to share this now.

Before I left my steady and very comfortable position as Director of Marketing and Communications for a D.C. think tank, I sought a lot of advice from current and former entrepreneurs. I wanted to hear honest opinions on what “life on the outside” was like; the benefits it allowed; the stresses it caused; the emotions felt when becoming the one true decision maker.

Here are some of the things they told me:

  • Losing benefits will be shocking. Yes, leaving on a Friday afternoon with a matching retirement plan, health care, and paid vacation – and waking up on Monday with none of those was a bit jolting. I managed to work in the months leading up to my departure to design my own plans so that I continued with coverage. But, holding myself to those goals continues to be one more thing on my plate.
  • You can’t count on a steady income. This is the classic feast-or-famine mentality of consulting work. Sometimes you are flush with clients, and other times you hear crickets. I encountered this during the first two months when the holidays “suddenly” hit and email boxes went radio silent. I should’ve known.
  • You’ll miss your colleagues. I hadn’t realized how working from home might impact my productivity, or happiness. How the brief conversations I had when I walked the halls for coffee or left for lunch would now be gone. Was I comfortable with that?
  • You’ll work nonstop. One man told me that he had trouble putting an end to the workday, and often found himself over the weekends picking up little projects. As someone who had usually been pretty good about setting boundaries, this hit a nerve. Would I turn into a workaholic?

And while all these cautionary tales remain true – I’ve found great pleasure in discovering the many wonderful things that have happened in my life over the past two years because of entrepreneurship.

These three things happened:

My stress would subside, dramatically.

Of the numerous things that caused me stress at work, here is the shortlist: my two-hour daily commute; meetings that went on for hours; ever-changing deadlines; lack of sunlight; and emails that came in morning, noon, and night.

When I think about all of the wasted time my “40-hour” work week included, I feel tremendous about what I can now accomplish in half of that time. This recent Washington Post article still hit me hard as I remembered my former life. The headline alone says it all: “Stop touting the crazy hours you work. It helps no one.

My marriage and relationship with myself would greatly improve.

Instead of zoning out through repetitive conversations because I was drained of energy, eating quick meals in front of the television, or bringing my bad mood home with me – I now had time to do things that brought joy to myself and others. I implemented (mostly) daily exercise, began to cook more (and could grab groceries during the week, instead of Saturday morning with everyone else), and picked up real paperback books to read (not just articles on my phone).

Today, as we look forward to welcoming our first child this winter, I am so excited about the new home life I have worked hard to build for him.

I would stop complaining (for the most part).

I used to complain – a lot – and the worst part is that I didn’t even know I was doing it. The story lines were cyclical, and I didn’t have a solution in mind. I just wanted to rant about everything: my commute, office politics, or inability to move forward on a project. It dominated most of the post-dinner chatter. It was awful. Amazingly though, when I began to work for myself and could actually run things the way I always envisioned – I now had total control over making all of the trains run on time. Lots of responsibility, but lots of control. I’ve never felt so much satisfaction in my work.

Is this all pie in the sky? Maybe a bit.

My story is not the same as others – but, it still remains true. I am happier, healthier, and more fulfilled as a consultant than I ever was as an employee.

Screenshot 2016-09-11 20.56.51Elise Perkins is owner of ep communications, a consulting practice that helps build brands for businesses and people, using a savvy mix of content and influencer strategies. She sits on the board of Washington Women in Public Relations.

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and O&J82

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