Boogie Nights

I’ve been thinking all day about a conversation I had yesterday with one of the solo professionals in my (fabulous) one year marketing class.

We talked about money. More specifically, we talked about the fear of “not having enough of it.”

He’s relatively new to working solo and confided that this is the one thing that keeps him up at night. Me too (more about that in a minute).

When it comes to money, there’s a funny contrast between having a job and working on your own.

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When you have a job, there’s a virtually unlimited number of things that can drive you crazy: Your boss, your coworkers, your clients, the commute, the guy two cubes over who keeps humming to himself; etc.

The one thing you never have to worry about, though, is money. As long as you have a job, it just keeps coming.

Working solo is the mirror image. Everything is in your control.

You want a cat sitting on your head while you work? Be my guest. You get to script your days like a Hollywood screenwriter, deciding for yourself who, what, where, when and how you do whatever it is you choose to do.

In this case, however, the money doesn’t just keep coming. You can’t live out the screenplay of your cat-centric dream life unless you can pay the bills. And you can’t pay the bills unless you can make enough money.

I’ve been working on my own for nearly 13 years. I spent the first 10 afraid of running out of money.

The fear was like a bogeyman standing outside my window, making scary faces and keeping me up at night.

One day I realized something: The bogeyman was always there, no matter how much work I had or how much money I was making.

Whether it was during my first year, in which I earned a total of $17,000, or more recent years where I sometimes had more cash than I knew what to do with, the fear of running out was always there.

Eventually, I realized that it would never go away, no matter how much money I made. Why would it? – it had nothing to do with reality. Like most bogeymen, it was of my own making, and I couldn’t kill it.

That’s the bad news … perpetual bogeyman (another great name for a rock band).

But it’s also the good news, and the thing I most want to share with you.

Because in all those years of seeing the bogeyman outside my window, regardless of how much money I made or had, I finally noticed something:

He never went away, but he never took a step closer either. He just stood outside making scary faces. None of my “What if… ?” money fears have ever come true. Not even close.

And that, my friend, is today’s big insight. The money bogeyman may never go away; but he’ll never come inside either. Because he’s just a reflection in your own, personal window.

So give him my regards if you see him. Then roll over and enjoy a good night’s sleep.


15 thoughts on “Boogie Nights

  1. Rosalind Joffe

    Michael – Funny you should write on this since I’ve been thinking about this very thing since the start of 2013 when I looked at my yearly business plan. Last year I had my ‘best’ year in revenue and whenever my husband commented on it, I always said, “Yes, but it’s not going to continue. This, this and that piece of work is ending so …” Somehow, when the year closed and I saw that revenue diminishing, I wasn’t afraid. I knew that I could only do what I can do and worrying about the revenue won’t bring it in. I’ve managed to enjoy looking ahead at new projects and ideas without worry. At least that’s the good news today. Keep that bogeyman and those thoughts at bay!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Great to know we were on the same page, Rosalind! Time for lunch soon too at our favorite place. Michael

  2. Dianna Huff

    Michael, I had this exact same epiphany! Like Rosalind above, I had my best year ever last year. But of course, I was still living in fear that no more work would come or that I would match or even exceed it for 2013. I finally realized that this fear is just what you said, a fear that never manifests. It also limits me in what I can achieve. So I decided to live and think as if I have more than enough money and work — and that has made all the difference.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      It is funny, isn’t it? When we don’t have the work we wish we did, and then when you have it we figure it won’t last! And, great to know 2012 was the best ever (so far), Dianna!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I’m glad to know we match up so well, Stacy. Maybe you can tell em what you need to read about next Friday and save me the trouble of having to decide on a topic!

  3. Deb Roberts

    I have been a solo professional for 15 year. Most years I have had the very same fear. A few of those years I did not really make enough money. My first year I made $3,000. Last year I started out with no backlog,the bogeyman staring me down by holding college tuition over my head, and ended with one of my best years ever. Who knew?

    The other thought I would add : my recent epiphany is that our income my be more variable and less secure than people with “real” jobs. However, we can’t get fired. We can’t go from 100k per year to 0 based on the whim of a boss or management. So all during the lean past few years, we worried more about my husband getting laid off than my income. I knew there would be some income, but I never from year to year know how much…..but I also knew it would not be 0.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Deb!
      I think that’s a great point of not being able to “lose it all” when you work for yourself. It’s almost like we’ve learned to live off the land, so it’s never all or nothing!

  4. Don

    Love this article, Michael. I just had my best year yet (in 4 years of self employment) but you know what I’m thinking now: There’s no way I can do that again! But this time last year, I was off to a slow start and never dreamed 2012 would turn out like it did. I love what Deb says about never having to worry about my income going to zero. At this point, I’ll take self-employment and the money bogeyman over a job any day!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      That’s great to hear, Don. Sounds like a lot of people had a great 2012. I figure after 2009, it’s all up from there!

  5. Scott

    I have found that the best way to keep the boogieman outside looking in is to take action on whatever is worring you.
    Worried about not having enough sales for next months bills ? Get on the phone/emails/knock doors even – but act. (Feels good too!) It woks every time. simple – act on what you are worring about and the worry stops. (at least ’till the next night !!!)

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      That’s a great insight, Scott. I guess sometimes we just get caught worrying and forget to keep going.

  6. Allison


    As always, your insights are great! As I read the comments, I thought how strange that most of them indicated fear of not being able to do it again after having their best year, yet. Every year I have been in business, I have seen in improvement in both my revenue and my skills. While I am still far from where I plan to be, I have no fear I will get there. I encourage people to take a look at their fear and challenge whatever belief that they had that created fear. My biggest fear is my fear because I believe it keeps me from my goals. My greatest challenge is to stay on track and not let my fear get in my way. And, I think if you have the stomach to be in business for yourself, then it is always infinitely better than working in an environment where you have no control of results. As an owner, it is up to us to realize our dreams through hard work, dreams and commitment to continuous improvement. Hear is to each of us making 2013 even better than 2012.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Great stuff, Allison! And yes, it’s strange how we doubt ourselves even after proven success. I always remember reading an interview with the actor Kevin Kline who was performing on Broadway at the time. He said (not really in a joking way) that every night as he sat in his dressing room before going on that he expected someone to knock on his door and tell him that they realized he wasn’t that good and he was being replaced!


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