The Work-for-Yourself Conundrum

Rosie the Riveter of ColorI’ve been working hard on my own road to success: planting herbs and jalapeños in my back yard, expanding my Web design/programming skills, talking to a handful of friends about The Hustler and what direction it should take, what it should look like/sound like, and whether the fact that I’m 23 years old means I don’t have enough experience to be writing about sustainable unemployment. (Mind you, I’m unemployed and barely sustained…)

To get some ideas on how to frame The Hustler, I’ve visited various other sites geared toward people who want to quit their day-job and pursue their passions. I’m all for it. I wholeheartedly believe that persistence leads to success. A lot of these work-for-yourself blogs will tell you this. However, few address those who are currently unemployed, many are littered with blanket statements, and none of them seem to talk about how personal situations create varying problems for various peoples. For example, most people who write these blogs are previously employed white males who, due to their whiteness and their maleness, have much fewer hurdles to cross than say… a perpetually unemployed queer black natural-haired lesbian/recent college grad with an obscure degree.

So here’s the question I’m asking myself: how do I effectively pinpoint applicable solutions for those of us who exist outside the culture of power? And the question that I’m trying to answer for all of us: how does someone who’s not a white male effectively navigate unemployment and succeed at supporting themselves?

There are as many answers as there are people. I can only speak from personal experience. Here’s my moderate list of solutions that I’ve realized so far:

For 99.99% of us, there’s no quick solution to earning money. If you’re unemployed, trust that now is (BY FAR) the easiest time to put everything into your passions. Depression and negativity will only slow you down. The sooner you say “eff it,” and get out there, the sooner you’ll see the fruits of your labor. (You can still apply to jobs while you do this.)

Whatever you’re doing now, figure out how to do what you love on top of that. It’ll do wonders for energy, drive and contentment.

Ideas oftentimes have to evolve (if not change all together). That’s normal; that’s the fun part. Embrace change.

The journey has varying levels of difficulty based on life and unfortunately, how others perceive you (i.e., race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc.). But the only thing you should be worried about is how you perceive yourself. If you don’t believe you’re good at what you’re doing, and if you don’t believe you deserve to be paid for your services and knowledge, no one else will either.

Meet people. Meet people. Meet people. I did this by getting an unpaid internship… best decision I’ve made for myself since moving to Atlanta. People are often better search engines than Google.

Use the public library. I checked out books on Web design and taught myself HTML and CSS in a couple of months. I’m now learning programming. Self-employment is a self-education.

If planning works for you, go for it. Just don’t get hung up on goals; they’re distracting. Start somewhere, then, go!

This ish is hard! If you’re ready to quit, you’re close. So, don’t. Do what you must (cry, scream, go for a walk), then get back into the game.

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of gearing up to execute new ideas. I just completed a Web design project and have been living off the money from that. But as I begin to make new things happen, mistakes will be made and doubt will surely creep into my head. As I navigate my underpaid life, I’ll be sure to give you all the goodness. Maybe some wisdom will come of it…

Money should be the servant of your visions, not their master.” -Alan Cohen

2 Responses to “The Work-for-Yourself Conundrum”
  1. Sondra says:

    the more I read your blog, the more I LOVE IT. Maybe it’s because I can relate to so much of what you’re saying: I’m also a 23 year old black queer woman and I’m fixing to quit my job and move to the Atlanta area in the next 3 months. (Okay, maybe it’s creepy how similar we seem to be) I’m a writer and I plan to begin my own freelancing business. Tell me, since right now you’re a bit ahead of me in your hustlin’ life, do you have any advice?

    • Lydia says:

      Hi, Sondra. Thank you, that means a lot! It’s exciting to hear that what I have to say is relevant to others. Atlanta is great. I’ve been here almost a year now and it’s definitely won a piece of my heart. I do freelance Web design and I’m still trying to navigate it as I get better at it. But how I got started was obsessive amounts of research and taking at least one step forward everyday. Since you know exactly what you want to do and you already have skills (I’m assuming), fill your head with as much knowledge of how to do it as you can. Read about other freelance writers (their failures, successes and advice), study various ways to make money doing it (and know that the money often doesn’t come as soon as we’d hoped), find other people who are freelance writers and keep in touch with them, trust yourself and your skills, and most importantly, get out there and make mistakes. Some of this might seem like a no-brainer or vague, but the absolute best thing you can do is to just do. Everyday. I hope that helps. Good luck!

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