“What are you going to be next? Are you going to be an artist, a life coach, a retiree? You get to decide. My belief is that it’s fun to make up a new identity every time you lose an old one.” – Martha Beck
For the first time in 53 years, or in 38 years of working, I applied for partial unemployment when the pandemic hit. From the time I moved to Boston at 22 years old, I have worked for myself. Many people see the entrepreneurial choice as a risky one, but I see it differently. I never thought betting on my own ability held much risk at all.
In my life I have been a steady strategist, prepared for what might come. As a hard worker, I was not afraid to work when the work was there. I knew I would show up, commit to the job, and do my best, then look for more opportunity. Betting on myself seemed the most stable and trusting thing to do.
Here are some examples of the “risks” I took:
In 1990, After working for two crazy Boston salon owners, I knew I needed to make a choice. I would either change careers or open my own place. With $15,000 on credit card advance, I opened a hair salon in Boston’s Financial District in the same space where other salons had opened and failed.
With his hand on my check for first and last month’s rent, the landlord said, “You know, other beauty shops haven’t done well here.”
Then he pushed the lease in front of me to sign.
“We’ll see,” I said.
Things went well. Our clients worked mostly in finance, and many were men.
“This is a good little business you have here,” they would say to me. “What does your husband do?”
Or, “As long as you keep hiring these beautiful girls, you’ll stay in business.”
“You’re so right,” I would answer.
About two years after we opened, some big businesses began to restructure and many of our big-wig financial clients who thought they were working for stable companies either lost their jobs or got relocated. But people’s hair kept growing, and so did my business.
My lease ended and I found a larger space with a nicer landlord around the corner.
When I got pregnant with my first child, I decided to sell the business. At a profit, to everyone’s surprise. I had worked hard and was a good hairdresser and a great businessperson. That profit allowed me the cushion we needed so I could stay home with my kids.
Then I got divorced, a hairdresser with a mortgage on a house bought with a doctor’s salary. I set up shop in what we lovingly called the “Dungeon de Beaute’” in our basement. I took a second gig as an art awareness presenter for a small company my neighbor owned. I worked for her as a contractor, and for the most part worked independently.
I saw as many clients and did as many presentations as I could fit on my calendar around sports, theatre performances and doctor appointments for my three kids. Why? Because I could. Working for myself gave me that flexibility.
Did I work on weekends? Yes I did. Did I work at 7:30 am and until 10:00 at night? If I had to, yes. But the opportunity was there because I worked for myself, and I created it. And I never missed a performance or sporting event.
Now I’m a writer, another career that many think is unstable.
“Oh gee, that’s a tough thing to make money at,” a few friends said.
“We’ll see,” I said.
I have not been without business since I began writing for a living, not even during the pandemic.
I’m not sharing this personal journey so you can be impressed, I’m sharing it so you can be inspired.
If you are unemployed at the moment, and have always had a secret desire to work for yourself, this is a great time to take that leap. There are so many resources available, and groups that offer education, networking and support.
It’s a great time to bet on yourself. I think you’d make a great boss.