Thinking about quitting your office job and “doing your own thing”?
Heck, I extoll the virtues of working for oneself here. In fact, it’s the second-most-read post on this site.
But I’ve been rethinking things.
I previously said that the best job for HSPs is to work for oneself. I thought it was that simple. After all, working for yourself means you can control your environment—the temperature, the lighting, the ergonomics, the hours you work, and of course, the work itself.
I still think this is a great option, but it has some challenges. Before quitting your steady job to go it alone, carefully analyze the possible downsides to working for yourself, like these:
Loneliness/lack of social interaction.
When I started working at home, I didn’t think a lack of social interaction would bother me one bit. First of all, I’m an introvert, and love quiet time spent alone. I have my husband and occasional activities with friends, so I thought it was fine. But it’s not. I learned for the first time ever that I need social interaction more than I like to admit. Yes, you can be fulfilled by reading a great book, meditation, taking a walk in nature, and stuff like that, but we need other people to meet our emotional needs. Even if you have a spouse or partner, you probably need more than just them in your life.
So, if you aren’t the type to search out human contact, you may find that you miss the forced interaction from working in an office. (I can’t believe I’m admitting this!) While it may have seemed like an annoyance previously, it was actually good for you.
You could say that fixing this issue is as easy as working from a coffeeshop, joining some Meetup groups, or somehow doing more activities with people, but for some of us, that is easier said than done.
It’s unpredictable (if you’re a freelancer).
If you have a steady job, this doesn’t apply. But if you are a freelancer or solopreneur, having to always look for gigs (i.e., sources of income) is tiring and anxiety-producing. It’s neverending. That can be hard on an HSP who craves stability and calm. But it can also be exciting.
A benefit to working in an office job is that you don’t have to worry about whether you are making money at your job every day (unless you are in sales). You come in to the office and there’s work waiting for you. If there’s not, you can ask for more work, or just kill some time until your boss gives you more. As a freelancer, you don’t have that luxury.
(And yes, I realize I am generalizing office jobs. Not all office jobs are like this.)
Now that you work from home, you don’t have the confines of specific hours of operation, i.e., you don’t have to get your work done between 8am and 5pm or whatever. You can “put it off until later” and do laundry or cook food or watch YouTube videos instead. For some of us, it’s difficult to stay focused. I often feel like I haven’t accomplished enough. It stinks to feel like you underachieved every day.
Work’s never over.
When you work for yourself from home, there is no clocking out. You can work all night long if you want to. If you are anxious about making enough money to support yourself, you need to take steps to make sure you aren’t thinking about work all day long–and take vacations like you would from a normal job.
Why am I telling you this?
Why did I write one post that said you should work from home, then another saying that it’s hard? Because it’s so complicated. There are times I miss having a boss to tell me what to do, so I don’t have to figure it out myself. There are times I miss the simplicity of going to work and coming home and being done with it. I miss having work friends. I miss a steady, uncomplicated paycheck.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that working for yourself will solve all your problems; it might make new ones. I’m working more hours than I did before, and yes, I suppose I technically have more freedom, but I’m not sure I’m happier now than I was before.
My main goal is this: I want you to know that quitting your job and “doing your own thing” isn’t an automatic recipe for happiness. Carefully think about the positive aspects of your office job before jumping into self-employment.
Maybe one option is to work at a regular but gentle job part time, and work from home on your own the rest of the time. That way, there’s the other people factor but not long hours of over-exposure? Just a thought.
That’s what I did to build up my piano teaching home business. In fact, I usually had to do part time employment in the summers, too, because most of my students took the summers off. My biggest problem in being self employed was lack of stamina to work full time. So I did not earn enough to fully support myself. I was married, so we had two incomes. When I divorced my abusive husband, I tried to work in an office and could not tolerate it. I went on Social Security Disability due to a related medical condition. I don’t know what I would have done if that had not been my option.
Hi, I saw this post exactly after I decided to sign up for a technical course to help me go back to my technical job which i left 6 years ago because of burnout(my job was not the only reason for that)
I have been drawing oracle cards and tarot cards for the last two days and have been practicing silence, but I am going ahead with it any way.
I did an online oracle reading too which had this message as a part of the reading “The only thing to fear is fear itself”
Hoping to for the next steps to unfold as I start off with my training.
Fantastic post Kelly. You’ve nailed the confusion that I think many of us have when it comes to thinking about ideal work. As of the start of this year I got a flexible part time job doing something that puts me in a role of supporting people and working in a team. It has made working on my business and doing the solo stuff a lot easier: more focussed, less pressure (financially) to turn ideas into products prematurely, and giving me that much needed social interaction so that I’m not feeling completely isolated. For me personally this has been the ideal balance and I feel very fortunate to have been able to shape work around my life in this way. It’s not the end of the story as work ebbs and flows but it’s great to have found a really comfortable middle ground that helps everything! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!
Hi Andy, thanks for your comment! Your job sounds great–it allows you a mixture of both worlds. I feel frustrated that it seems like I’m never content. I couldn’t wait to escape the cubicle, now I’m actually considering going back–can you believe it? Maybe I need a job like yours. Thanks again for commenting! 🙂
After easing out of an office job by going part time a few years ago, I have been freelancing for a company over the last six months and now they have hired me as a writer full time – working from home. It’s been a huge change and a challenge as an HSP. As much as I hated my office job it did force me to interact. One thing i’m trying to do is meet a friend for lunch at least once a week and go out, even if for just a 10 minute walk to interact with a checkout operator, so I still feel connected to the world. Luckily i do need to meet clients once every 2/3 weeks. I’m only shadowing at the moment so this is helping my anxiety.
One benefit of working from home is being able to sleep/nap if overwhelmed. I am often tired by 2pm and being able to have a quick nap is key for me. As you say, it is a complex situation, but self awareness makes me able to see the signs of what I need and act on them which has made things a ton easier. Great work on the podcasts by the way.
Hi Craig, thanks for the comment! It is a great goal to have lunch with a friend once per week! Don’t you think all office workers should get a mid-day nap? How cool would that be!
Glad you like the podcasts!! 🙂
Thanks for writing this post. As a self employed person I tick all of the above boxes, but working for myself is still the best option by far at the moment.
A more ideal situation would be to be self employed and to have a part time contract so that all my eggs are not in one basket, but this just seems unlikely at the moment.
THe best thing one can do if they are ticking any of the above bexes is to compare thier self employment situation with times when they have been in employment.
it can also be helpful to have a mentor or be a member of some kind of professioanl group if you are self employed, so you have other people in your profession that you can talk to or discuss ideas with. THis can help your business as well as your sanity.
Hi Kelly, have you considered offering coachin g to supplement your income and offer some social interaction?
Hi Aaron, thanks for the comment. I have been thinking about this lately. 🙂
Good job, thank you
Yes! Exactly, that flying absolutely solo brings in different kinds of pressures than working full time for someone else. I am realizing that have part-time work with part-time self employment has the best of both worlds: having people and structure, then having creativity and calling the shots. I am still working to have both but I just moved to a new city and need to stabilize. Maybe after some time then when my self-employment earns more then it might get better?
Hey Kelly, I respect the fact that you went back and reconsidered your previous post. As a blogger and fellow HSP, I do the same thing at times. We sometimes find out new information and want to give an “update”. Well, I agree with your update. As you know I work from home as a pastoral life coach and the HSP in me loves it, but the people-person in me (yes, HSP’s and introverts can ALSO be people-persons) misses the in-person interaction. Most of my coaching sessions are online, so I don’t interact with others much during the day. It can be lonely and sometimes too comfortable. Thanks for being honest about both sides.
Thanks Angell! I appreciate your comment. I definitely don’t know everything, and I’m learning and changing all the time. I’m planning on doing a podcast update on this topic, too! thanks for reading! 🙂
Great post… I also listened to podcast #50 and agree totally.
Every situation is unique but speaking generally I have found that finding the appropriate role rather than job is the important factor for us HSPs. I am looking to movement into a data analyst role rather than programming. Why? Well computer programming ain’t what it used to be. The use of paired programming *shudder* and the like means the once balanced role (solo working coupled with meetings etc) is changing.
So why am I telling you this? Well after reading your blog article and considering my own situation I think role is more important than job. Finding a role within an office based job that suits your HSP natures is more important than changing company or working for yourself. I get to work from home two days a week and the analysis part of my role gives me the autonomy, intellectual challenge and personal space to thrive at work. I can get down about work like the next person but I try and remind myself of the pros. I have flexible working, a regular pay check in a secure position and a role that I can make my own… Even my commute allows me to catch up on my audio books. The downside is that the office is now totally open plan..no cubes. No partitions and the lighting can trigger migraines… I try and create my own space by wearing headphones playing white noise e g. Ocean waves. This can help a lot… I haven’t worked out a solution for the lighting yet though so I’m open to suggestions!!
Here are some ideas http://highlysensitiveperson.net/job-for-a-highly-sensitive-person/
Hey, I am writing from overseas and see that the discussion is more or less 1.5 years old. anyway, I like to add something. I am self emploeyd fpr 17 years now and only found out a year ago that I am a HSP – I mean in terms of “finally” getting to know, getting in touch with it. I have just typed in HSP + selfemployment and have found your page. So I might fist look a bit arround before possibly contributing more. Anyway – really true and good 4 keypoints listed here and an ongoing journey to work and live with it. Networking is one of the key aspects to my point of view. I am a naturally introverted personen too. For me it has been a journeyin several aspects of opening up, of meeting clients everyonce a while even there is no job or project – just to be in a ggod and inspiring contact with each other 😉
Hi Stefan, thanks so much for commenting. I hope you contribute more!! I’d love to hear more about your experience being self-employed and an introverted HSP. 🙂
Thank you so much for your website & blog! I feel so relieved! I wish I knew about our trait & I wouldn’t have gone through 20 years of turmoil.
What do you think about network marketing for us HSP’s? Does you know (of) others in this profession?
Hi Arlynn, thanks for the comment. I’m glad you like the blog! I don’t have firsthand experience with network marketing but I think it could be good for an HSP. You get to work from home and sort of pick and choose where and when you promote your product. Are there sales goal requirements? I’m not sure. But if there aren’t, then it’s less pressure. I also think that HSPs can be very good at selling something they believe in.
What I’m trying right now is selling my woodcarvings while picking up temp jobs through an agency. My temp job right now is in a loud warehouse, haha, not ideal at all, but I only have to do it for 11 days! Knowing there is an end in sight really helps. Plus, having a difficult temp job is all the fuel I need to keep working on my own business.
Hi Pam! I used to temp and I agree–knowing that there is an end date to a job feels so good! Good luck with your woodcarvings!
Great blog, it helps to understand that there are so many like me.
I did engineering in electrical which i didnt want to but yet i did And could not find a job into electrical, ended up in sales for 4 years now and its literally hell to be interacting to much and meeting sales targets which I haven’t till now.
I haven’t been able to do even one sale in past 4 years the reason why I have changed about 4 companies and only 4 months back I found I am an HSP thank god I was unable to find answers for why did weep when there was pressure and why did I jump companies because of one rude manager to whom I had to report.
I am now at home left my job just two months back and I am feeling as if I am unable to figure out what to do and there has been a knee injury (meniscus tear to be presice) which I happened about a year back and I became more sensitive after that.
I just don’t know what to do.
What is preventing me from starting my own business, is that I’ll have to think more, work harder, and make decisions.
Because failure is not an option, HSPs don’t make decisions easily, which slows down their entire work if they work for their own.
As HSPs, we tend to be perfectionist, which brings stress and exhaustion.
What reduces my stress, is when my boss gives me an assignment, and lets me do my work without observing me.
Hi, I’m an HSP and I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here, but with one caveat: for me, even with the unpredictability and lack of enforced hours, self-employment is still more stable for me, because it is easier for me to connect with customers/clients than it is for me to have a stable relationship with employers and coworkers. When I withdraw or underperform due to volatility in the work place, I become a target for getting chased out of my job by having my hours cut and my responsibilities both reduced and excessively managed. I end up having to leave so I don’t get fired and ruin my work history worse than if I left— and this only marginally helps. Every workplace I’ve worked has been to catty and uncooperative and unpeaceful. Lack of perfect stability with self-employment is certainly stressful, but that doesn’t hold a candle to the lack of job security you get in a workplace culture of pretty much 90-something% of workplaces, where people like me just simply aren’t valued and are often targeted.
I did exactly the same thing. Quit my 8 -5 job, moved from one country to another (no friends) and started my own business 5 years ago. It has its plus (no one to boss you, no specific time schedule, no need to show results and no getting upset with arrogant colleagues…) but i think i was happier then than at present. There was the time free after work, weekends free with my family and no worries whith the finances.
Now….I am constantly anxious because i don’t know if next year will be a good year (financially speaking). Therefore i am never sure if we will get enough money to pay for our huge expenses. It is just work work work for both me and my husband. By this time we haven’t taken any holidays yet. We spend our weekends working. I have no friends and actually no life. We live in the countryside and I have no interaction with people.
Thank you for sharing, Paula! I can relate. I hope you are able to find a way to feel better :))