Six months ago, I registered my ABN (Australian Business Number).

I’ve learnt a lot since going freelance, providing a range of communication solutions (editing, article writing, Chinese-English translations). But the lesson which has left the strongest mark — in the sense that I could not have learnt this without setting up my business — is that aspects of going solo are really hard.

1. DECISIONS

I’m decisive. I love the freedom and scope to make calls on things, the way I couldn’t when I worked for someone else. I like being involved in the entire business process.
But now I’ve also felt what it’s like to make big decisions alone. Look right, look left, there’s no one to fall back on. No one who can *really* help me. Friends can only offer opinions. It (literally!) isn’t their business.
“What happens if it doesn’t work?” Look right, look left, oh wait, there’s no one else to blame but me.
I get wistful sometimes — good teams are really something precious. I miss synergy and the meaningful exchanges of sharing and compensating for each other’s weaknesses. There’s only one person in a sole trader’s “team” though – even if there are great cheerleaders on the sidelines!

2. RISKS

My least favourite part of being in charge, is that I’m in charge of the risks too.

Going through my business plan with someone the other day, I said with furrowed brows, “Look, I don’t like risks.”
He roared with laughter! I stared at him uncomprehendingly.
“You’ve moved halfway around the world, you’re starting a business, and you’re risk-averse?”
YES! I cried.
I’m a planner. I get anxious about delivering results. Therefore, I’m obsessed about preparing for uncontrollable factors. I always have a Plan B. In an unpredictable world, this focus is very intense for me. I’m not carefree. I confess to have a low appreciation for silly time-killers and money-drainers. This is sometimes hard on friendships.

3. OPPORTUNITIES

Here’s my favourite part of freelancing: the immense learning opportunities. Every new person I meet, every new project I work on, every new problem I face, there’s something new I’m discovering. My curiosity keeps me hooked. It’s rewarding. I thrive on the learning. I love the growth and discovery. I love setting the pace. I LOVE meeting other business owners! In the process, I’m getting a much better understanding of how the world works.

At times that seems to compensate for all the other challenges. But it comes at a cost. There’s no manager to make sure the pay check comes in every fortnight anymore – that’s now my job.