Striking Out On Your Own

One thing that I didn’t address in last week’s post about finding a museum job was heading out on your own. Consulting is definitely another route that you can take to work in museums. A lot of places use contractors for everything from education to exhibit design so it is a potential option.

For me, starting a company was the right move. I wanted only part-time work and I had a contracting job lined up already.It has been exciting to get to try new projects, experiment a little with areas I’m not as familiar with and push myself to do some writing and publishing.

That being said even part-time work, without the pressure of being the breadwinner, is not always easy. I do a lot of work early in the morning and late at night. I often feel like I’m doing BOTH of my jobs (Mom and Educator) poorly.  You have to get creative, be flexible with your time and cut yourself a lot of slack. Like that time I had to take a conference call from my car as I sat in the library parking lot (so I could use the public WiFi)…..

If you are thinking about striking out on your own, take into consideration a few of the unexpected things I’ve discovered about working by (and for) yourself.

1. No coworkers

If you have a long term contract, you will be able to have a network of co-workers through that. However, if you are mostly doing solo or short-term work…you are mostly on your own. This can be tiring and isolating and it can be hard to go without someone to bounce ideas off of. Remedies can include professional networks (entrepreneur groups, organizations in your field) and engaging online with others like you.

2. No finance, marketing or human resources department

Setting up my LLC was one of the most daunting things I’ve done. Trying to track tax information, liability insurance, keep up with social media and marketing sometimes leaves me feeling like I’m not doing any of my ACTUAL work…just the logistics work to allow me to do the work.  I have to be very careful that my busy work (necessary as it is) doesn’t take up all my time. Also, finding help for the legal and financial side was critical and the best resource I had was the Women’s Business Center. Even with that I am convinced I’m doing something wrong. (Dear IRS: I really am trying….really!)

3. Finding work can be its own full time job

There is a definite feeling of “hustle hustle” as you try to fill your plate. You have to be completely shameless about cold calling, leveraging contacts and just outright asking if you can help. If you are bidding on federal contracts it is a complicated process all of its own! Of course, as you become established (or…hooray! Land a longer term contract) this eases a bit.

I’ve been lucky that I am not the sole breadwinner for the household, but even I feel like I am not pulling my weight if I am spending on business and childcare expenses without pulling in something. A lot of this is just in my head and sometimes I need to step back and boost my own confidence, everyone has their tactics for organizing their time and getting past low spots…be ready to use them.

Now, this isn’t meant to be a “whoa is me” post, or even one to detract you from trying the consulting thing yourself. I just figured that all of the people who asked how I did it deserved and honest answer!

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