I’m a part-timer.
I mentioned to a prospective new client the other week that I don’t work in my business every day during the week, meaning that his request for a week-long training project on-site with his talented team wouldn’t be in the most available hands with me, unfortunately.
His response to this statement was a genuine but somewhat surprised, “Ohhh, so is agoodwriteup just part-time for you, then?”
Part-bloody-time?! I was seething, yet I had absolutely no right to be, because given the statement I’d just made to my new friend, it was a fair and rational question to raise – and it deserved a calm and collected response.
It’s just a fact – I don’t work every day in my business. I never have done.
In the early days, this was because I physically couldn’t fit in that level of working commitment. I’d quit my full-time job with the intention of going full-time with agoodwriteup… but then 3 weeks later, I found out I was pregnant.
This meant that the presence of extreme ‘morning’ sickness for nine months, followed by the presence of a morning-noon-and-night human baby for every day that ensued since the sickness stopped, took me away from having any kind of full-time availability or approach to my work.
As my mother had always been keen to remind me, there’s no such thing as maternity leave when you’re self-employed, so given the fact that my business was going through as much of an infancy as my child, I’d felt like I should get back to work pretty much straight away after the birth to tend to it.
I’d like to point out that this is something I wanted to do, as well as in some way feeling that I should do. I suffered terribly with anxiety and massive feelings of inadequacy after Lily’s birth (something that will never leave me now she’s approaching school age, I fear), and I wanted not only to be away from having to to ‘cope’ 24/7 with my child and all the challenges she presented.
But I also wanted to feel like I was doing something, achieving something, and being valued within something away from this maternal role that, honestly, I’d never fully envisaged stepping into.
My other half ran his own business at the time (and still does) so we worked a messy split of parenting and working between us in order to make things work. Traditionally and typically (even though neither of those words often describe me), my half of the split felt more ‘parent’ than ‘business owner’, but any time I found myself ‘available’ during those parental moments, I ploughed everything I had into agoodwriteup.
I needed to feel like I could do this, and I really wanted to get stuck in with some work. For me, although the hours were part-time in the traditional sense, it was still a full-time business, because it was the only non-parenting thing I was working on and thinking about – and the only thing responsible for bringing me an income.
Today, with parenting having become a bit easier for us, and with the child banished to nursery for a couple of days a week, we’ve still kept the routine of having time during the week where we don’t work, and instead dedicate the time to a mummy-daughter or daddy-daughter day or two. It’s what we want to do and it’s what we’ve already proved can work in our own particular situation.
Does that mean I’m working all available hours of life into the non-child days, desperate to make the time up in my business? No. I used to do that, thinking that any time away from the baby was best spent building the business and earning money, but as time has gone on, I just don’t want to do that. At all.
In the early days, milestones in business were all financial for me, so – make enough money to pay the mortgage, make enough money to match my old salary, make enough money to feel that jacking in a good job and going it alone was definitely the right idea, and so on. If I paid attention or respect to half of the shit I see from self-proclaimed ‘successful’ people on social media, my milestones would still all be financial to this day, because as we know, it doesn’t matter how much you have to give up your life and dignity or sell your soul to do it, you’re nothing without the cash – even less so if you don’t splash reference or evidence everywhere to highlight the fact.
I don’t listen to those people, though. Well, I do – I’ve got no choice when they seem to shout louder than anyone else on social media – but I give them the classic ‘eye-roll and scroll’ manouvre, and thank the lord that I’m content enough in my business that I have nothing to prove to anyone else at all.
This is not to say I don’t want to earn good money and that I’m not proud of it, deserving of it, or planning on doing anything but enjoying it (in whatever form I define that to take). Over the years I’ve raised my prices in line with my offering to enjoy the comfort of cash, but I’ve also enjoyed the fact that this brings me the opportunity to work with fewer people on fewer projects, and allow me to be choosy, meaning that all the clients I do work with make me feel like it’s not hard work at all in the first place.
It’s long been a mission and personal marker of success for me to gain more time than money – and to get where I am now to be able to comfortably go against the grain.
You see, I’ve come to realise, that although I originally wanted to have a crack at running my own business because I was sick of making other people very wealthy as a result of all my hard work, I also wanted space and time to think, to breathe, and to have a nice little life.
I wanted to be free from worrying about deadlines I’d had no agreement on, or wondering what kind of mood my boss was going to be in whenever she descended from the darkened rafters, having spent seemingly hours feasting on somebody’s soul, wrapped upside down in a cocoon of her own wings…
Right here in the present, there are times in my week when I’m neither a mum nor a business owner. Sometimes, I go to the gym and take care of my health. Sometimes, I sit on the sofa in front of daytime TV and eat crisps. Lunch out with friends, a trip to the shops, taking time to do something I’ve wanted or needed to do for a while, getting the car serviced, binging on Netflix, spending time with my mum and dad (I’m closer to them now than I’ve ever been), walking the dog, writing my book, or planning lovely little trips out with Lilster. That’s what I want with that ‘time I could be working’. Yes, more work would bring more money, but if I end up with no time or energy to spend it, what’s the point?
Part-timers – just like full-timers – can earn whatever they want based on their own model, pricing, and client base. They can do really bloody well financially, and that’s just brilliant role-modelling. Personally, I’ll never be a six-figure earner – and neither do I want to be. My tax bill is high enough already, thanks. Really, though, you wouldn’t have a clue if I was or I wasn’t making that money anyway, would you?
Anyone could make that shit up, couldn’t they? I think some people forget that turnover isn’t profit, and that a lack of VAT registration speaks volumes if you’re making six-figure claims, and that it doesn’t matter what you say on LinkedIn when your Companies House profile says something very, very different…
The whole concept of not wanting to hustle my way five – or even seven – days a week to an arbitrary figure seems surprising to some, which is fine, but it seems beyond strange for a lot of people, too, and so that’s why I reluctantly understand that people will indeed view me as a part-timer, and may even have the notion that this is all some kind of side-hustle here at agoodwriteup.
Over-all, I don’t mind what people think or say about the situation, because a) I’ve got the work-life balance that everyone bangs on about, and b) I now earn more money in two days than I did when I worked for someone else in five, so why would I push myself? I think the only thing that annoys me about the situation is when people still expect me to be available based on their full-time hours or philosophy. Quick tip for work and life in general – please don’t confuse someone’s free time with their availability. They’re two completely different things.
How do we even define ‘full-time’ in the modern workplace these days, anyway? Are we basing it on 5 days per week? And if so, do those days have to be full so that we’re taken to the classic 37.5 or 40 hour work week? What if we do all the hours, but only across a shorter number of days (as I was desperately if not deliberately trying to do when Lily was born)? Does that still count?
It seems to me, that despite those parameters being set in days were the workplace looked very different to how it does now, and set by people working in traditional businesses in traditional offices, we’re judging the self-employed by that same ‘full week equals full-time’ employment standard benchmark, and for me, that’s not right. It’s arbitrary, and seeing as none of us can be full-time anything in life given all our responsibilities, and that we could all always be doing more if we really had to, we’re all part-time, anyway.
I put it out there that the term is flawed, outdated, and not representative of modern business practices. Indeed, there will be plenty of people out there glorifying hustle, claiming that 40 hours is a slap in the face against their hundred-hour weeks, but for me, providing that all your work-based focus and passion is levelled at it, you get all the work done that you set out to do, and you get enough money from it so that you never feel that you need more… it’s a full-time operation, in my book.
The term is subjective, rather than standardised. Like I said, arbitrary. I doubt Richard Branson* spends all day every day ‘full-time’ in the office, otherwise his purchase of his own fucking island was a monumental waste of resources, wasn’t it?
I doubt very much we’d call him a part-timer if he clocked off early on Mondays and Tuesdays and didn’t work Fridays, either.
The way I see it is that if it’s your main thing, it’s your main thing. How you choose to apportion your time to it is all part of the operation of being a modern business owner.
*Other billionaires are available.
First published on agoodwriteup.com