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The Loneliness of Being Self-Employed that Nobody Speaks of

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Loneliness of being self-employed nobody speaks of
The world is constantly in turmoil, and more so every day. There’s trouble far from home, but there’s also trouble close to home. And here I am, trying to sell my course or Canva templates or workshop…

At times I hate myself for sending yet another email asking for readers to buy my stuff.

“What if a reader lives in NYC? What if they were in that subway station when the shooting happened? What if they’re hurt or one of their family members is hurt? Should I exclude all subscribers who’re from that region?”

Then I have to sit down and remind myself that this is my job right now. I blog. I write. I sell. That’s how I pay my rent and bills. If as a society we’re cool with people going to work, why the stigma around sending sales emails?

Thankfully, my readers are kind. Nobody punishes me (not yet, at least) for asking them to buy from me. Nobody sends me hate-emails for trying to sell.

So it appears that I may be the only one who’s feeling crappy all around and judging myself for doing something that I absolutely must.

In any case, if you guys are in my shoes, then here are some thoughts.

(Some other thoughts before that: I have no idea whether I’m right or wrong in my thinking, so if you have comments, feel free to leave them below. But please, do be kind, and constructive in your criticism. I’ve lost plenty over the last few years, so please understand that I’m not trying to downplay the losses of others. We’re all trying to make sense of a world many of us do not recognize. I have never lived through a war, so the very thought that we might get tangled into one is scary for me. Even though I’m a person of color myself, it wasn’t until 2016 that I truly faced racism head-on. I’m constantly learning new things, but I am learning. So, again, please understand that as you read the rest of this post.)

If you’re feeling crappy about selling, remind yourself that this is your job

Ukraine is in shambles. And so are many other cities and countries in the world that the media conveniently ignores. And yes, it’s hard to put ourselves out there and try to sell stuff when so many are losing their homes, practically overnight. There are hate crimes, meaningless crimes, and pointless sufferings.

And yet, it doesn’t mean that the rest of our lives are suspended. Those of us privileged enough to have a home, have loved ones, and have money to pay for stuff, must keep living. And so we do what we must.

We go to work.

The problem for self-employed people like us, especially those of us bloggers and content creators is that people assume we make money out of nothing. I’m not joking, guys. I don’t talk about what I do except to a few people in my life because nobody understands.

So, we take it for granted that people who work at an office or something have to go to work to make a living, and yet, when we try to do what we do for the same reason—to make a living—people suddenly come at us with a vengeance.

And sometimes we do this to ourselves. We become the harshest critics, and we berate ourselves for sending that sales pitch.

I think I’m writing this blog post partly for you, my readers, but also partly for my own sake. I need to remind myself that what I’m doing is my job. Sure, I’m not dressing up to go to work, but this is still my work. And, if you’re a blogger or a content creator, then this is your work too. Don’t feel guilty or ashamed to do what you must.

Don’t expect understanding from people, even if they’re close to you

Instead, find a community of like-minded people to interact with. There are Facebook groups or Reddit threads for people like us; find them if you think your closest circle of family and friends is not understanding of the work you do. Life is hard as it is, we’re better off without adding more toxicity into all this.

Share with your own community… maybe, but with moderation

This is something I struggle with.

I’ve shared before that I’m neurodivergent. Among many things, I struggle with chronic depression and some other issues that I do not speak of.

But over the last few years, I’ve shared with my community when I was struggling particularly hard after my father passed, or during the Summer of 2020 post-George Floyd, and even when the war in Ukraine started… but there’s only so much I can share. At one point, this starts to sound more like an excuse, or some kind of virtue signaling.

It’s a delicate balance, and one I struggle to maintain. At what point do I start sounding more fake than sincere? Is it better to keep my worries to myself and not involve my entire community of some 9K+ subscribers? Also, how do I even know what my subscribers feel like? Am I burdening them more by sharing these?

So, perhaps it is OK to share sometimes, but maybe not all the time?

It is better to be generous in private

I know it’s a trend for business owners to share when they donate to charities. And I think that’s amazing—if it encourages some others to donate too, then it’s all for a good cause.

But it is also OK to not announce every single dollar we give. Again. It’s a delicate balance between sincerity and virtue signaling, and as folks who share so much of our lives with complete strangers, we have to be careful about when one starts to blend into the other.


Anyway, that’s all I have for now.

Again, I’m still trying to figure out this balancing act myself. I welcome and appreciate your thoughts and comments, but do so kindly. That’s all I ask for. If I’m wrong in my thinking, my apologies. I just want you to know that all of this is coming from a place of genuine effort to be sincere and good. So, if I’ve made a mistake, just know that I’m trying.

If you do not wish to leave a comment but want to share your thoughts with me privately, feel free to send an email to [email protected]. I may not be able to respond to all emails, but I do read them all. Thank you.

Maliha
Maliha
Maliha created The Side Blogger as an experiment to see if turning a blog into a profitable business was a possibility for moonlighting side bloggers. Turned out, it is! Learn more about Maliha and TSB here. If you've found this blog helpful, you can support TSB here.
16 thoughts on “The Loneliness of Being Self-Employed that Nobody Speaks of”
  1. I think that this beautiful post will resonate with some people and not with others. And for those of us with whom it resonates, it matters. (And the others, it doesn’t matter anyway!) It is a lonely profession and only other self-employed folks truly understand!

  2. Thanks so much Mahila for sharing. I truly appreciate how open and real this post is. You are showing me that it is possible to build a blog, while still being true to yourself. Honestly, this post made me feel more connected to your site. I respect (and can relate to!) your need to be private with your life, and I appreciate you being vulnerable with your thoughts on your own terms, when you want to. Thanks for being YOU! Looking forward to attending your writing course next month. Take care

  3. It’s so important to communicate your thoughts and feelings. You’re not a machine and I personally love to learn about the bloggers that I follow and attain valuable – helpful information from. So, thank you for sharing what you feel. You aren’t alone. I for one struggle with loneliness a lot – often a constant conversation in my therapy sessions. I’ve found that being a person of color is hard because you are expected to speak up (even if at times you don’t want to or know how to) and two because racism happens for no other reason than the color of my skin. Your thoughts and feelings are not only valid – they are your reality. Thanks for being open and honest. The world needs more of you.

  4. Thank you for sharing. The world is beautiful, but some people are not. My grandmother used to say, that we are our worse enemy. I believe she was right. We can’t control what others think or do. But, we need to be in control. I have all respect for people like you and for others who try to work and make a living in an honest way. Yes, you sell. I am now taking your course on Canva. I was not forced. I made a decision. You are very clear, by sharing what worked for you. That is very important to be honest. The reason that I choose your course is because you were recommended by a blogger that I admire. Michelle Schroeder. Yes, she is blogger who sells, you are a blogger that sells. But, let’s see. I had an issue with my coupon. You fixed immediately. It shows credibility. I believe that your experience and the sharing to others is a good thing in today’s messy world. You do a good combination of a personalized business. Iam now learning to my my creatively and hopefully also make a $. Thank You very much.

  5. Your thoughts and concerns are valid and important. Personally I like knowing about the content creators I follow though I’m also an activist and writer and pretty involved in slam poetry (so confession is certainly my thing). I find it gives me hope in the places where I share intersections w someone to know I’m not alone and that I’m capable and where I don’t, I learn about people I’m reading and following as of course our experiences and our identities shape our lives as makes total sense.

    I am an autistic chronically ill disabled queer person who has mental illness so for me I like knowing what folks are doing and how they are and who they are as we are all more than one or two emails or a pitch or our work (since we all wear lots of hats in this world)

    We live in a weird world where basic rights aren’t guaranteed like housing because of many forms of systemic oppression + capitalism. I think the idea that individuals who have to work get blamed for surviving in a system that is inherently inequitable is absurd. Like you said there’s a lot of stigma over sending a sales pitch or selling content etc when that’s our job when the issue should be we don’t live in a fair world where everyone has housing/food etc.

    It’s important to remember that it’s our job and that if we happen to be privileged enough to have housing/food then we have bills we need to pay.

    I’m grateful for your honesty and vulnerability and insights and wish there was more of that in all walks of life

    1. Thank you, Jordan. Sometimes I can’t help but question myself, that’s why I wanted to share what I did, and I’m grateful for your and everyone else’s thoughtful and supportive comments here. You are so right in everything that you said. I agree with you completely. Thank you!

  6. You are very brave to share this with us. I totally get the depression, and I know how hard you have to work at working. I’m rooting for you!

  7. Maliha, I respect you tremendously for sharing this. I think most online entrepreneurs struggle with these issues. I know I do. I also know that humanity is in a difficult time period, so it is natural to feel anxious and depressed. I am glad you have shared your feelings. I have always enjoyed your blog because of your sincerity and your obvious desire to help others. I don’t come off as “salesy” in your emails at all. I think we all understand that you must sell something to pay your bills. The products you sell are high-quality and helpful, so you should think of what you are doing as a contribution to others that is very much needed. I hope you will not hesitate to share your feelings about these topics again if you want to. Sending good vibes your way. XXOO

    1. Thank you so much, Dawn, for being so supportive. This was inspiring and motivating — I needed them this evening 🙂 Lots of good vibes your way too!

      1. Hi Maliha,
        Your insights are valid and appreciated. The world is a tough place. Bloggers often shine a light in the darkness; thank you for supporting and encouraging bloggers. You are doing good work, please remember that.

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