God’s faithfulness in self-employment

2015-02-18 09.05.37Some of you know that last year, I (William) quit my comfortable, secure full-time job in order to take a risk at being a freelancer for our own business. It wasn’t a voice from God or a sense of “call” to become a freelancer. I prayed about it, asked my family and trusted friends for advice, then decided to hand in my resignation and start the ball rolling.

Today marks a year since we started this phase of life. Looking back, we’ve really seen God provide for everything our family needed. Sure, the money doesn’t come conveniently in regular payslips. But our bills are paid, the mortgage is shrinking, we have food on the table, and we can give what we have to others. God’s also helped me to be more thankful for what we are given, where in the past I would have taken our finances for granted.

A year of living from one invoice payment to the next also helps to bring into view some of the besetting idols I had. For example, when your incoming cash goes up and down week to week a big temptation is to think more or less of yourself and your worthiness. Is my worth in the numbers on my payslip? No – the gospel tells me that my worth is only found in Jesus Christ and His righteousness. His death and resurrection means life in Him is worth infinitely more than the riches of an attractive hourly rate or a lucrative contract. And when the bank balance dips, His love and care for me does not.

Here are some other thoughts I’ve had (in no particular order):

  • I’ve never worked harder in my life. I used to think that being busy writing for a few hours each day was “flat out”. The freelance lifestyle means not just writing, but also: juggling between clients, chasing new leads, calculating tax returns, generating invoices, keeping abreast of the latest developments in the areas I write in. All this makes for busy days. Add to the fact that during the week and some evenings, I’m serving in church ministries, helping to organise church and parachurch conferences, going on family trips and bike rides, and doing some DIY projects around the home… it’s been a busy but fruitful year.
  • I need to read. The temptation in freelance life is to be constantly thinking about work projects. The Bible and good books not only feed my soul, but give me a greater appreciation for good writing (Luke sure knew how to structure a compelling narrative history!) – which in turn helps me to think harder about how to structure what I’m writing.
  • I need to pray. I’ll freely confess that my prayer life has suffered this past year. It’s probably because I don’t schedule regular time to stop what I’m doing and pray, and buy the lie that “pray without ceasing” means I can just treat God as that ongoing Facebook chat window – ask something, come back later, ignore the pop-up, say something when it’s convenient to me. I want to do better in this, because my Father delights to hear from me, and to hear me share what I’m going through express my need for Him.
  • I need regular family time. I refer to them as ‘stakeholder meetings’ when declining meeting requests from clients. Without fixing dinner at certain times and trying to stick to some routines, it would have been more difficult for us to handle this lifestyle as a family. Even in the midst of a rush job, crazy deadlines and impossible requests, it’s so refreshing to be able to sit down with my family and eat, laugh, talk, pray and worship together.
  • Time tracking is a good habit to have. I only get paid for billable work, so I need to keep accurate timesheets. But you should try, it even if you work a salaried role. You may be surprised at how much time is spent on billable, productive work, and how much time isn’t. I use Toggl but there are lots of other good options.
  • I like the variety of freelancing. Last week I did work for five different clients. It was pretty crazy, but one thing it certainly did was make me work hard for each of them, knowing that my window of delivery for each one was small. The variety is great, and I learn lots from each different project.
  • Freelancing requires good organisation and time management, just as pastoral ministry does. One of my goals during the year was to get involved in more vocational ministry, if I could. That’s had some challenges and setbacks, but I’ve learned that those who serve in gospel ministry effectively are really good stewards of their time. It’s not wasted away commenting on blogs and debating with people. It’s prioritising on what’s important, not what’s urgent. It’s recognising that the “days are evil”, and using your time knowing that the King will return, soon and very soon.

So what does year 2 of full-time freelancing look like? Hopefully the same as last year – live for God. Obey His Word. Consider others more significant. Strive for holiness in humility. Love Jesus. And as I do these things, work with all my might at whatever is in front of me, for as long as God places it in front of me, for His glory and my joy.

 

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

– Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 6:25-34

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