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Monday, December 30, 2013

Saying "No" and Finding Freedom

 Self-employed people tend to be self-motivated people.
You have to be if you want to pay your bills and feed your family. 
I've been self-employed in some capacity since I was eighteen and realized I could either sit around waiting for someone to give me a job or I could go out and create a job for myself. When I moved to a place where jobs were scarce and jobs in my field practically non-existent, I decided to take the risk of throwing myself 100% into freelance writing. A few months later, I opened a brick-and-mortar business (HMAC). I've lived and supported my family (with varying degrees of success) off of those self-created* jobs exclusively over the past two years, but not without a lot of hard work. There's no such thing as a salary raise without enrolling more students, teaching more hours or writing more words. Sick leave is non-existent and health insurance has been a continuous nightmare.

While I don't think anyone would fault me for wanting to make a decent living, sometimes I admit my fear of not making it becomes a little bit of an obsession. I've got a little Scarlett O'Hara in my worldview and that's not usually a good thing. Sure, business owners should want their businesses to grow and be mindful of profit, but in the past year or so, I've stretched myself too thin trying to keep my head above water. 
This past week, I did something I've never done before:

I turned away students. 

I couldn't figure out a way to squeeze extra bodies into an already-full class without the quality of the class suffering. I couldn't figure out how to manage an extra class in my packed spring schedule. 
So I said, "No." 

Saying that word felt terrible. I apologized profusely and made sure to give the prospective dancers information about early enrollment for summer. For hours afterward, I couldn't shake the guilt that I'd both disappointed a small child and turned down a potential opportunity to grow my business. 

Then, I felt relieved. One simple "no" had made me a little bit freer. I realized that I don't have to say "yes" all the time to be successful or well-liked or responsible. 

I think I'm still going to tend to overbook myself and that's okay; I like busyness. But I'm learning to be open to new opportunities without feeling enslaved by them. I hope, when the time comes again, I won't be so afraid to say "no."

*Self-created is a funny term because I really couldn't have made these businesses work without the help of many, many people. Especially my clients. But y'know. 

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