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The Biggest Disadvantage of Being Self Employed

Even though I grew up with two self-employed parents, I didn’t even really get it until I started working for myself. It’s something that you don’t really think about if you work for someone else, but it’s a daily thought if you’re your own boss. What do you think it is? Discipline, hard work, no boss to keep you on track? Nope, it’s…

Finding work.

That’s the killer. Getting enough hours is the bane of most self-employed people’s existence. My friend Sergej who does freelance translation says that he spends 70% of his time translating, and 30% of his time finding new clients. My father, who runs the business Timberbuilt, spends large sums of money to get new clients every year. And he always says to me; “We can handle more work, first we just need to get it.

Employed vs. Self-Employed

In my own experience, getting enough hours to make the kind of money I want has been the hardest part of working for myself. For example, my hourly wage is a respectable $25 to $30 at the moment. That’s great and I’m happy with it, but if I only get 10 hours a week it doesn’t matter how good it is, the guy making $10 an hour, working forty hours a week, is still doing better than me.

When you have a normal job with a boss and a water cooler and coworkers you don’t like, you take it as granted that you’ll always have work. In fact you probably wish you had a less steady supply of the stuff. While I don’t think it’s fair to look at your workload as a blessing, it is something that you might want to appreciate to some degree. You can do your work without having to worry about whether you’re even going to have any hours at all next week.

Is it Worth it?

Of course, there are many self-employed people who never worry about getting hours. They regularly turn down jobs. However, I believe this is something that typically comes once you’ve been in the game a while and the quality of your work is high. If you’re in the beginning stages it’s more difficult. Getting work is a big part of the grind, and the constant search can grow tedious.

So if you’re thinking about working for yourself, or starting your own business, be aware in advance that a large part of your time is going to be spent finding new clients. It’s easier for some people than others, but everyone has to anticipate this arrangement to some degree. Despite this, I think the advantages heavily outweigh the drawbacks, and I encourage everyone to take steps to start their own online business today! You can read my post: How to Make Money Online, or check out all the other resources available on the internet today.

Making Borsch on a Commune in Ukraine

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I took the train to Bakhmach and got off at the wrong stop. On the wrong side of the tracks, I walked around the back of the train and what I saw has been burned into my memory since then. To the right was a grey stone building. Two stories tall, it looked like an abandoned house for railway workers. Cutting in front of the house, parallel to the train tracks, was a dirt road. There were several people riding ancient bikes, and further down a handful of instantly recognizable, one story “Продукты”. This translate exactly as “Products” and if that draws comparison to the type of stores we had in the 1800’s, that’s a more apt analogy than a convenience store. They carry everything you’d expect, like Pepsi and beer, but they also sell meat, fresh bread, and whole frozen chickens.

The train gained speed and pulled away from me, while I stood motionless. It was the most vivid manifestation of time travel that I had ever experienced. Scanning the road I saw a young man riding a bike, with a beautiful girl in a fluorescent green dress sitting on the handle bars. It reminded me of a scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kidwhen Paul Newman shares the future with Butch’s girlfriend.

Recovering, I walked to the Продукты, my back sweating in protest of the overweight backpack. Facing the woman working there, I used my limited Russian to ask for two things. Cold water and the number of a taxi. I took the slip of paper from her hand, paid for the water, then staggered out of the store like a gawky teenager.

After a phone call and a fifteen minute wait, I’m sitting in the front seat of a taxi. Leaving the village behind, we drove down a road that cut massive green fields in half. Fields far larger than any I’ve ever seen in the eastern United States. My driver, Alexei, abused the throttle and we hurtled past horse drawn carts. Discordantly, this took place while Drake was rapping about bitches and success on the blown out speakers. The world outside the windows of the Russian made taxi suggested that the industrial revolution was just over the horizon. The music inside reminded me that places like T-O-R-O-N-T-O exist and that women are abundant there.

What’s Smaller Than a Village?

In English, short of saying “outpost” or “colony”, we don’t have a good word to describe anything smaller than a village. In Ukrainian and Russian they do. It’s called a “Хутор” (Hooter) and they look something like this. My hooter was a collection of about a dozen houses, arranged along a quarter mile of well paved road. The houses were all one story, built the same way that they’ve been built for hundreds of years. We passed by massive gardens, horse stables, free range children, pig pens, and pulled up in front of the place that I was going to stay.

The first thing I noticed was a fence running in front of the buildings. It abolished the view so that I could only see the top half of a barn and a home. As I was pulling my ignorantly packed bag from the trunk, a head popped over the fence. On top of head is cap, which didn’t seem to do much as the face had picked up a healthy tan from working outside.

“Hey” said the face, with a smile and Russian accent that you could stick a fork into.

“Привет” I replied . I had learned that if I wanted to practice my Russian, I needed to speak it even when people addressed me in English. I traded my taxi driver 200 Grivna for the twenty minute ride, then off he went. Back in the direction of relative civilization. A bustling city by comparison to my new home.

Meeting the Ukrainians

Two days later and I had met almost everyone living at the farm. Besides me there was one other volunteer, named Olga. She was several years older than me, Ukrainian, and spoke English to put my Russian to shame. Leonard, the head of the household, was a filmmaker and at a festival in Poland. He left behind his very pregnant wife and their two daughters. Finally, there was Mama Luda. Leonard’s mother and the senior member of the mismatched crew. Mama Luda was a lovely person and I spent a great deal of time helping her around the kitchen. For example, the water situation was interesting. While there was running water, it wasn’t a fully developed system yet. Water came out of a plastic spicket and my job was to fill up the five gallon pail of water for the kitchen. I also had the privilege of filling up the hand washing sink, and the large plastic containers that we used to wash dishes.

Another job was lighting the large wood burning stove in the morning, and keeping a fresh supply of firewood in the kitchen. Life at Obirek was traditional and fun. I’ve always enjoyed work that feels meaningful. Working as a cashier in a supermarket and bussing tables in a creperie never offered me any satisfaction, and I often felt like shit after my shift. On the other hand, when Mama Luda is cooking dinner and had to have water, that was satisfying job to see to. Especially when I knew the results would be delicious.

A lot of people are surprised when I tell them that I really enjoyed Russian food. Most assume that all Russian food is pickled, scaled, or somehow associated with Vodka. While there certainly is that subset, there’s more to it. Mama Luda consistently cooked delicious dishes that would convert any skeptic. Green borsch, red borsch, dumplings, potatoes, kasha, and shuba. I ate well every day, and enjoyed the experience of eating traditional food, prepared by a seasoned cook, made in the most antiqued kitchen that I’d ever lit a fire in.

Second Language Cooking Lessons

Despite my appreciation of the meaningful work, after ten days I was ready to leave Obirek. My feelings about gardening were mixing with a craving to start working online, and I knew it was time to get back to Kiev. However, before I left there was something that I really wanted to do. Using my limited abilities with the Russian language, I explained to Mama Luda that I would jump at the chance to cook Ukrainian borsch. Would she be generous enough to teach a young American how to prepare the best soup in the world?

I knew this would be an interesting experience because of the language barrier. My conversational Russian was decent, but I was lost like a tourist in New York when it came to verbs like cut, grate, slice, peel, boil, fry, and almost every other food related action. Determined to make the best of it, we gave it a try.

Every new word Mama Luda taught me pushed out an old one that I had learned five minutes ago. The whole thing would have been a mess if I hadn’t had a notebook with me. Writing half in Russian, half in English, I began to record the experience of cooking borsch. I wrote an entire post with the recipe and cooking instructions, so I won’t get into details. There I was, a twenty-three year old American, learning how to cook a famous Russian / Ukrainian dish, from a grandmother who grew up under the Soviet Union. Thankfully countries change and barriers are broken. Grudges are forgotten and swept under the rug of time. I spent thirteen months in Russia and Ukraine, and in that time I was never greeted by anything but warmth and good emotions. I learned how to cross country ski, curse in Russian, drink vodka with pickles, and cook borsch. And most of all, I learned that there’s a world out there and it’s quite a bit different than how the news makes it out to be.

Leave Your Job and Travel; 7 Stories from Real People

Have you ever thought about quitting your job to travel? It sure has a nice appeal. You get to leave the office, the coworkers, the working hours. You can go somewhere exotic and discover a new culture. There’s nothing wrong with that. But how to make it a reality? Well it’s possible. I’ve encountered plenty of people who have shown me that you can quit your job to travel, and it’s easier than you think. Here’s how they’ve done it.

Paul from Quebec

Fifty pounds overweight, his belly travels in a different time zone than the rest of him. It betrays his job: a truck driver. Every year Paul works fifty or sixty hour weeks for eight months straight. He lives on a budget, and then he takes a leave and travels for four months. I met him in Malacca and we talked about places that we had both visited in Thailand.

David from California

I met David in Singapore and he said I was the first American that he had talked to in six months. His story is a good example of  how to quit your job and travel the world. After graduating from University he bought a pallet of wine and moved to China. It took him six months to sell it all, then he moved to South Korea to teach English. After two years he quit that job and took a one way flight to Singapore. He’s in no hurry to find more work and has enough saved to live leisurely.

Mark from Quebec

I checked Mark into the hostel I was volunteering at in Ukraine, and in the process I learned his story. He worked at a high level job at a brewery in Canada. Realizing that youth provides the best opportunity for freedom, he embraced the quit work and travel movement. By the age of twenty-eight he had saved eighty-thousand dollars. He allowed himself $2,000 a month, and planned to travel for two years straight. I met him halfway through his journey, and the last time I saw him he was on his way to Hong Kong.

Tim from England

Tall and skinny, I met Tim in Malaysia. He was travelling through Southeast Asia with his South Korean girlfriend. Earlier he had worked as an English teacher in Seoul, but had decided to quit work and travel. He had enough savings to live half a year in the ridiculously under-priced Malaysia and he was making his best go of it. I liked his girlfriend better, but that doesn’t change the fact that he was happy with his choice to leave his work and explore the world.

Kenny from Buffalo

I don’t know what Kenny plans to do about his crushing student loans, but that’s not stopping him from travelling. We first met in Moscow and we’ve kept in touch since then. Currently Kenny works in South Carolina for an insurance firm. In August he’s quitting his job to travel to Hungary to teach English. He might end up paying the financial price later on, but that’s always better than living with the regret of knowing that you could have gone out into the world but didn’t.

Jack from Australia

Jack checked me into my favorite hostel in Vietnam and he was a constant figure at our four o clock, drunken volleyball games. Tired of working in Australia, Jack saved a small amount of money and bought a one way ticket to Asia. Living on a budget, he made it work by volunteering at a hostel in Mui Ne, and drinking slightly less than the rest of us. Volunteering at a hostel is a fantastic way to make your money last, and I’ve written a post on the subject.

Andrew from New York City

A schoolteacher in the Bronx, Andrew is one of the most dedicated travelers that I’v ever met. I met him in Ukraine where he was staying for just a few days before going to North Korea. I don’t know what the stop was after that, but it certainly wasn’t home. Not content with just travelling during the summer, he recently quit his job and has now found work in South America. He’s visiting half a dozen countries before he gets there.

No Excuses

These people are all real, and none of them are geniuses or million dollar entrepreneurs. They simply made the choice to make exploration a priority. As a result they were all able to quit their job and travel. Once you look at it from their perspective it’s easy to see that it’s really not that difficult. Places like Ukraine and Southeast Asia are absurdly cheap. I spent a month in Ukraine on $350 and a month in Vietnam on $500. That’s a month of living for the cost of a new television. Get out there and do it. Save some money, tell your boss you’ve had enough, and buy a ticket to somewhere you’ve dreamed of going.