For me, the list of what I like to rebel against now I’ve left the corporate world to work for myself grows longer and longer. It’s safe to say I prefer to make my own rules. I won’t bore you with the full list – instead I’ve chosen one thing that I most like to rebel against and asked some small business friends what they like to rebel against too!

What do I most like to rebel against now I work for myself?

At my corporate jobs, I was frequently sat at my desk for up to 12 hours, punctuated by trips to various meetings. Occasionally, when I’d finished a piece of work, I’d reward myself with a trip away from my desk to visit the bathroom. Often, I’d have three meals a day at my desk. On Fridays at 5 there would often be drinks in the office, but I’d take the drink back to my desk because 5pm was practically mid-afternoon in terms of my working day.

That was my life for 10 years, so it’s not surprising that once I’d gone freelance I still equated being at my desk with doing a good job. It took probably 2 years of freelancing before I fully realised that I am now in charge – I can make the rules around when I’m at my desk.

Sitting at your desk 9-5 is unnecessary as a freelancer. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if you sit at your desk 9-5, your work will suffer. Presenteeism is endemic in our society – if you’re at your desk, you’re working… and that must mean you’re being productive and, therefore, you’re a valued member of society – right?!

WRONG!

I am willing to bet that at some point you’ve spent time at your desk while not achieving very much. Whether you were procrastinating or you were genuinely trying to come up with ideas for something. Maybe you were “working”, but you were so tired or stressed you knew you’d have to redo the work anyway. But still we remain stuck at our desks.

In the corporate world I used to eat 3 meals a day at my desk!

Over the past 5 years of working for myself, I’ve experimented with different schedules and different ways of planning my day. The one that’s worked best? Listening to my body and mind on a daily basis and responding to my needs. To those of you with a science background or a logical brain, I’m sure that sounds a bit “woo”, but – frankly – I find it mind-blowing that this stuff isn’t taught in schools. We are human, and it’s impossible to turn up to work with the same energy every day.

We all know that sometimes you can get X piece of work done in 45 minutes and sometimes you manage to drag it out all day and it’s still not right. If you start tuning into how your body and mind are feeling, you might start noticing that a walk after lunch means you avoid the mid-afternoon slump and can therefore step away from the desk earlier; you might notice that Monday is your best day to do your writing tasks and later in the week works better for your Zoom meetings. Working for yourself is the perfect opportunity to get to know what actually works for you now that you’re not forced to work under corporate rules.

So, what I want to most rebel against is presenteeism, I suppose. Being at your desk longer does not mean you’re doing a better job. Quite the opposite. For me, the more attention I pay my overall wellbeing and the more intentional I am about doing things that make me happy, the more my work thrives.

You may well notice this theme among the other business owners I’ve questioned too! Here’s what they had to say when I asked “What do you most like to rebel against now you’ve left the corporate world to work for yourself?”.

Katy Carlisle, Squarespace web designer and trainer

What I enjoy most is steadfastly refusing to start work before 10:30am and planning my days around tide times! I love rebelling against the idea that there’s a “right” time to do work. Yesterday, I worked late into the evening. This morning I went swimming before delivering some training, then hopped in my car and went surfing in the afternoon. That flexibility is what makes the challenges of being freelance totally worth it!

Julia at worthing beach
Going to the beach features highly in the perks of working for yourself

Anna Downing, Kick Ass Photographers

I love having micro adventures when everyone else is working. If the sun is shining, I love to do something small and fun – it gets my creative juices flowing and puts me in a positive mindset. Things I’ve done are having a takeaway full English breakfast after a mini hike up a hill, with a view of the villages below, or going on a bike ride and having a picnic, or going to the beach with the neighbour’s dog and a flask of tea, doing pilates in the park or digging up my allotment. Doing these things when I feel like it gets me out of the office mindset and keeps me fresh and energised – and makes me feel very smug indeed about being self-employed! I don’t work to earn as much money as possible – I’m self-employed for the freedom, so I make the most of that!

Laura Hurst, Hursto Creative

The thing I enjoy rebelling against most is how I structure my time. I work best early in the morning and later in the afternoon, so I tend to do admin tasks or even housework around lunchtime. This helps me stay on top of my flat tidiness and also capitalise on the hours when I’m more creative. Of course I still suffer from overwork/not knowing when to stop, but as with most things it’s an ever-evolving work in progress. Just knowing that I have that flexibility is freeing. I feel less ‘boxed-in’ than my life before self-employment. I enjoy flexibility and movement in my days and weeks, and generally I think this has made me chill out a lot more, both inwardly and outwardly.

Nicola Fisher, A Gentler Pace

My main rebellion is against rules, especially ones that make no logical sense. We used to have one where, as a remote worker, if you were going into the office, you had to be there by 8:30, even if your first meeting was at 11:00. Also, annual appraisals. These never had any value, wherever I worked. Team meetings. Several hours I would never get back! And team building events … just a waste of time, although the pizza making was good!! Plus, it was always a battle to use cool tech. Now I can use whatever tech I like! Happy days!

What makes me happy – I can manage my own hours. I’m accountable only to myself and no crazy rules that I have to adhere to. I can create my business based on what I value. I think that was always hard – working in a way that was at odds with my own values. Inevitably you become a clone of everyone else too. Individualism isn’t wanted. Just yes men/women. I love the freedom to be able to do what I need to do – domestic stuff/practical stuff – without having to try to fit it in all the time. I love starting work at 6 a.m. in my PJs and being able to work in cafes.

The biggest thing is I can just do things my way.

Laura Leigh Chapman, Messaging Mentor

There’s so much about the corporate rulebook that I rebel against; breaking away from it has been such a complete life-changer it’s hard to choose just one thing. If I’m pushed though, the “rule” that I love to rebel against the most is the old school construct of hierarchy. I’ve never understood how we’re supposed to change how we communicate with someone because of their job title or salary – they’re still human beings, just like the rest of us. I make it a real point to speak to everyone the same way, because to me, we all deserve exactly the same level of respect and consideration.

What do you most enjoy rebelling against if you’ve left the corporate world to work for yourself? If you’re struggling to give yourself permission to make your own rules, my Solution Sessions would be a perfect way to start exploring that.

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