Self-employment has been my way of life for close to three years now. It allows me to retain control of my schedule, organizing my days around the times when I best see fit to do house work versus work work. I like being able to make those decisions for myself, rather than being tied to office hours and letting someone else determine my schedule. And as my Uncle Stub told me a while back, “Better to earn your own livin’ than to earn someone else’s livin’ for ‘em.”
Some may say it’s a luxury to have this kind of self-employed make-my-own-choices lifestyle, but I work hard to be able to maintain it, and really, there’s nothing luxurious about my tiny duplex with no tv, internet, or dishwasher or the amount I have to pay each month to purchase my own health insurance. There’s give and take in choosing to be self-employed — that choice is the key. I choose to give up certain things in order to gain others.
After spending the past couple of years writing full-time, I moved back to Texas to be close to my then-boyfriend now-fiance and began looking for a part-time job to tide me over during this transition period before we get married and share bills. I wanted to do something that would help pay the bills at my duplex but wouldn’t be a huge time commitment after the wedding, so that I would still have time to keep house and cook for Stephen and his four boys. And write, of course.
But nothing worked out. I sent in several applications, interviewed with a couple of places, but nothing. The past years as a writer have taught me nothing if not how to handle rejection, but still it was perplexing and disappointing not to be hired right away.
And then Stephen and I saw the solution right under our noses. I began helping him with his online resale business, learning the basics of FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon). I’ve learned how to scout for products to buy at retail stores, thrift stores, and garage sales, as well as how to process them for shipping to Amazon. My help has enabled Stephen to speed up the turn-around time on his purchases, just in time for the end-of-the-year gift buying season. Our goal is for me to put in enough hours to increase his business to make up for (or exceed!) what I could have been making at a part-time job, but still have time to work on publishing the three book projects I have underway (more on that in the next blog post).
The past few weeks of trying this experiment have been wonderful. We’ll see how much our profits increase over time, but it’s been a huge relief to be able to maintain my self-employed lifestyle and choose which hours I want to work on the business and which I want to work on other stuff. I also love the fact that, unlike my writing career where I’ve poured my heart into my work day after day after day for month after month without seeing a direct financial benefit at times, the FBA business gives me a quick return on my time investment. We’re not going to get rich quick with this business, but we do see that however much effort we put into it is how much profit we’ll get out of it. That kind of business model is way less insanity-inducing than the starving artist business model I had before.
I’ll be very honest, too. This gig has a huge perk. My boss is my fiance, and I really like spending time with him. I’m blessed by God (really, it’s a direct answer to prayer) to be able to make the choice to work beside Stephen each day. He’s a gifted teacher and leader, and I’ve learned a lot about business from him already. I’m reminded of the themes in Wendell Berry’s novel Hannah Coulter, how Hannah and Nathan worked their land side by side and did what it took to build a home and a family together. I like that Stephen and I are working together to build our business, home, and family. It is work, but it’s also a joy to work with the one you love.
And at times it’s just downright fun — recently we instituted a monthly trip to Arlington to do some buying at several thrift stores, which we’re going to combine with lunch or dinner at a different ethnic restaurant each month. I love this new job.