Freelancer on Tenerife: the ultimate freedom?
After Robbie’s story about Zentrepreneurship and his experiences as a Granjero (farmer), I thought I’d share my version of working on Tenerife as a Zentrepreneur, which in my case is being a Freelancer. Here it is!
When I first heard Robbie say Zentrepreneurship I thought: ” ZentrepreWHAT?”. But when I thought about it a bit longer it started to make sense. Zen for me means ” being in balance”, “being aware” and “to act with compassion”. Entrepreneurship is “having control over your own life”, “making your own decisions” and “having the guts to do so”.
My life as a zentrepreneur really started when I sat on the plane to Tenerife. Unlike Robbie, I had no experience whatsoever with a flexible working environment. I was looking forward to being able to have more time to combine work with other things I like as well. And being my own boss and making my own decisions didn’t sound that bad either :-). A week before the flight I quit my job as a marketeer to become a freelance marketeer. It felt a bit scary to do this as I really liked my job and I had to give up all the security of a fixed contract. What if no one would hire me? What if I didn’t like working on my own? What if I actually didn’t enjoy working flexible without any structure?
However I read a book of Timothy Ferris (4 hour workweek) that gave me lots of comfort. In one of his exercises he lets you write down your biggest fears for a certain situation and the worst possible outcomes. Then he asks you to write down the chance that that worst case scenario would happen. And the chance that a more mediocre scenario would happen as well as your solutions to it. For me the worst thing that could happen was that I would not be happy with my new Zentrepreneur state and that I didn’t make any money. So I could have let my fear stand in the way of my dream and not do it at all. But after this exercise I realized that the solution was actually quite simple: if I wasn’t going to be happy, I could always go back to Amsterdam. And if I wasn’t making enough money, I could always go back to working on a contract base. So what was there to loose?
One of the first things I did in the preparations for Tenerife is tell my former employer that I wanted to move to Tenerife and work as a Freelancer for them. I was quite scared in the beginning to ask them because I had no idea how they would react. What would happen if they didn’t want to hire me? Luckily enough my employer showed to be very flexible and open to new opportunities. So after a few meetings we decided to continue on a freelance basis. For this I am very grateful as it gives me an opportunity to proof myself as a Freelancer to myself, them and others.
So now that I’ve been here for a month, how do I experience it?
I love it! Mainly because I work less (which gives me the opportunity to learn Spanish at the moment) but more efficient and focussed. I notice that because I have less hours a day and fewer projects that I am working on, I can actually do more within a certain time period. So at the end of a working day I actually feel more satisfied because I have finished something. Also the contact with my client (which is my former employer) has been so much easier than I thought it would be. WhatsApp and FaceTime allow me to call for free and the lines are pretty good. So nearly every day I start with a quick call to see what needs to be done. Although I work alone, this chat still gives me the feeling that I have colleagues with whom I can chat and discuss work.
What does my day look like now?
My former colleagues keep on imagining me in a hammock with a cocktail when I am working therefore I chose this picture to start this post. Then again this is absolutely not the perfect place to work on my computer and nor the perfect setting to work efficient (which I need to do as I currently also have +20 hours of Spanish classes per week). Normally I work between 3 and 4 hours a day in the afternoon. I start with a call and then work at a table or on the couch with a coffee on the side. At the end of the day I send out a status update to my client and call it a day!
As we are planning to stay here for a while, I want to learn to speak Spanish. Although I might get certain things done with lots of smiling , the majority of Spanish people don’t speak English at all and therefore I really need to learn the language. This I don’t mind at all because I really like learning something completely new. So every morning I go to school. With the GUAGUA (the Canarians decided to use a different word for Autobus). I drive to the capital Santa Cruz were I do an intensive course with four classmates. I enjoy it al lot and actually do see some progress so I hope it will continue! After school I come back home and work for a few hours. Therefore at this moment my days are quite long, but that will change when I will switch to private lessons and have less hours of Spanish starting next week. I am very glad that I have been able to keep the weekends as weekends up till now! We have discovered the island, joined a great yoga retreat and yesterday I learned how to kitesurf. I notice that I tend to like this type of structure in my week instead of being completely flexible and work whenever I want to. When I know when I need/want to work I feel less guilty at the moments that I don’t work whereas otherwise it would always be in the back of my head. Next to that for my employer it’s also much transparent when they know when to expect my work.
Ok great, you might think, but what if the assignments suddenly stop, aren’t you scared about that?
Yes sure, a bit. And I have been lying awake at night for a few hours worrying about it. Luckily I realized quickly that this worrying was actually a waste of my energy. So now I try to concentrate on the present instead of worrying about the future. That’s now always easy, but I try. I make sure that the projects that I am working on right now are being done with absolute care. I hope that when everyone’s happy with my work, they will hire me again or at least give me a good reference. So that is where my focus is at the moment. I notice that this keeps me from worrying too much. And of course I do keep an eye on my financials (with lots of financial advice from Robbie). I have a saving account and I make sure there’s a sufficient buffer. In this way I always have some security if I don’t get as many assignments as I had hoped for.
Ofcourse I realize that it’s only been 4 weeks that we are here so I might see things through ” pink glasses”. I am curious what I my experience will be in a month from now when my daily structure of the intensive Spanish course has stopped and I will have more spare time to do stuff. Will I get bored? Or will I just find the time to do other things? Lets see! In any case I’ll keep you updated with my experiences!
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