Self-Employed? Your Frustration Doesn’t Mean You Are Failing.

I’m frustrated constantly. I want to succeed tomorrow. I want to know that I’m getting closer to my goals. I want to know that my goals are worthwhile to begin with!

I think we all feel this confusion, especially those of us who are self-employed or aspiring to be. The old joke is that entrepreneurs work 80 hours a week so that they don’t have to work 40 hours at a 9 to 5. It isn’t really a joke.

Work is hard enough when you’re receiving a steady paycheck. When your reward is uncertain or nonexistent? You start doubting everything.

Is all this work a complete waste of time?

I can’t tell you if what you’re doing makes sense. I don’t know if what I’m doing makes sense. All I can share with you are my earlier experiences with the same frustration, and where it led me.

In an earlier chapter of my life, my wife and I started our own pastured poultry business. For three years we built chicken coops, moved pens in circles, hauled grain, and slaughtered hundreds of chickens ourselves.

There are no days off with livestock. We were always sprinting to the next task. Managing customers, marketing, logistics, maintaining equipment… all on top of the day-to-day operation of moving coops and feeding birds! We enjoyed the work, but there is no denying it: we were exhausted.

On top of it all, we had a negative cash-flow for the first two years! Even saying that out loud is a kick in the gut today. All that work to have less money at the end of the day.

I felt like I was throwing away my life and energy.

My frustration was off the charts.

It physically hurts me to fail at something that I want to be good at. Especially when I’m putting in the effort! Why didn’t we just quit? I’m not sure.

If you want to be self-employed, odds are you aren’t doing it for the money. You’re doing it because you want the lifestyle that you imagine for yourself. The money is just a means to an end.

I was never stupid enough to believe that chickens are a get-rich-quick scheme. I started the business because I really enjoy raising livestock. But if I wanted to keep pursuing my passion full-time, I needed it to pay out.

It just wasn’t happening.

As winter set in each year, I sat staring at an excel sheet that told me my dreams were ridiculous. Frustration burned in my gut. If I quit, the frustration wouldn’t go away. My dreams would, though.

That frustration drove me to re-examine everything. My priorities and goals came first:

Do I really want this?

If the answer is no, you haven’t failed. You’ve put in enough work to refine your vision of the future, and you are now free to pursue something else.

In my case, the answer was “Yes. I want this. It just isn’t working.” Which leads to:

Why isn’t it working?

When your frustration takes you to this question, you are moving forward. You may not understand the direction or even the destination. It doesn’t matter. This is one of those times where the ailment is also the cure.

Frustration leads to investigation, which leads to solutions.

You don’t even have to find the solution to salve your frustration. You only have to be looking for it. The knowledge that you are moving closer to your ultimate goal is often more powerful than the goal itself.

I won’t bore you with my own solutions. It involved things like industrial-sized plucking machines and bulk pricing on chicks. The important thing is that on year three, we were clearing a (small) profit and reducing our workload simultaneously.

The path is long and treacherous, but there is light at the end.

Now I’m facing frustration again. I want to make money writing on the internet. It isn’t working. Why do I bother? I don’t know. But in a couple years I know I’ll look back with a clearer head and be glad that I did.

You probably will too.

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John Joseph

John Joseph


Poultry farmer and part-time handyman. Now I write on the internet.