What Does It Mean to Escape the 9 to 5?

escape the 9 to 5

Escaping the 9 to 5, it sounds nice right? But what does it really mean? I’ve spent the last seven years trying to figure it out. In my humble opinion to truly Escape the 9 to 5 one must:

—Work as an entrepreneur, freelancer or creative

—Master delegation and the 80/20 principle

—Enjoy freedom of location, even if you don’t act on it

—Embrace wonder and the simple joys

Okay, now let’s break it down. I write this as much for myself as for anyone else; because as I sit here in my local cafe by the beautiful South Park district of San Francisco I am restarting my own escape from the 9 to 5…

Escape the 9 to 5 as an Entrepreneur, Freelancer or Creative

Seth Godin breaks down the differences between Entrepreneurs and Freelancers perfectly:

A freelancer is someone who gets paid for her work. She charges by the hour or perhaps by the project. Freelancers write, design, consult, advise, do taxes and hang wallpaper. Freelancing is the single easiest way to start a new business.

Entrepreneurs use money (preferably someone else’s money) to build a business bigger than themselves. Entrepreneurs make money when they sleep. Entrepreneurs focus on growth and on scaling the systems that they build. The more, the better.

To me, those who opt to escape the 9 to 5 grind—whether it’s working in a mom & pop shop or a corporate conglomerate—can also be Creatives. The Creative is a person who creates for a living. This would be anyone: from Banksy to a writer who’s living comes solely from his creative work.

Either way, if you are one of these or trying to become one of these, you are on the path to escape the 9 to 5 too. It’s good to understand where you fall early on, and remember you can always move from one genre to another.

The Creative can use their mixed media success to launch a gallery and perhaps commercialize some of their prints into coffee cups. This would make them an Entrepreneur as well.

The Entrepreneur who has a team of three full-time virtual assistants working for them and several web properties may decide that the thing they enjoy the most is consulting on how to build out web businesses—and that she is going to focus all of her energy on that—thus becoming a Freelancer and minimizing the need to have multiple people working under her.

Freelancing, as Mr. Godin says, is the single easiest way to start a small business. That’s because it takes practically no start up capital and allows you to dabble in a market before committing to becoming an Entrepreneur within it.

So to start escaping the 9 to 5, pick your poison: Entrepreneur, Freelancer or Creative. I would suggest if you are new to working for yourself, going the route of the Freelancer or if you are lucky enough to be artistically gifted—trying your hand at being a Creative. Then once you understand some of the additional principles below, you can move into the slightly rougher waters of Entrepreneurship.

Mastering Delegation and the 8o/20 Principle

I’m obsessed with delegation and I’ve written about the 80/20 Principle a lot in this blog. Mastering these two skills, which are in a lot of ways one in the same, is absolutely critical to successfully escape the 9 to 5. Corporate cogs and people who get a paycheck every two weeks are often stymied by the very fact that they cannot delegate or leverage their time properly.

The 80/20 Principle, originally discovered as Pareto’s Law, states that the majority of results (roughly 80%) come from the minority of efforts (called the 20%). The savvy Entrepreneur, Freelancer or Creative will realize this and reverse engineer. They will locate the 20% of their effort that creates the vast majority of results and focus as much time as they can on it. They will then ruthlessly delegate, automate or eliminate the rest.

Delegation can be as simple as having an assistant that manages your calendar and travel so you can work on what brings in money. It can also be as complex as having a network of people who specialize in various tasks, so that you are always delegating parts of your work to people who are “experts” and thus refocusing the majority of your time on the few things you do really well.

Personal example: I have two virtual assistants, one who does research and one who manages my schedule/travel, etc. I work with another woman who is a Freelancer on CloudPeeps who edits my written works, and helps me build out content for The Memento Mori Society. I have a designer on Upwork who does any design-y things for me since I’m just awful at them. And I have a webmaster who manages this site, and  helps me with other technical things that are above my pay grade. When I hit a wall of “I don’t know how to do this” my gut reaction is to find someone to delegate it to, versus spending weeks or months trying to become literate at a new skill. This allows me to focus on the few things I am truly good at.

To understand this part of the puzzle better, I encourage you to read The 80/20 Principle and The Four Hour Work Week (if by some chance you’ve missed it). If you want to level up your delegation game I do very specific consulting through Clarity around the very subject. I  promise you it’ll be a damn good use of time. Delegation gives you leverage, and leverage gives you everything you need to escape the 9 to 5.

Escape the 9 to 5: Freedom of Location

This is one of my favorite parts about working for yourself. Even if you don’t act on it, just knowing that you have the freedom to pick up and go is golden in my opinion. In the last year I have worked on my projects from Paris, Costa Rica, Mexico, Japan, Vancouver and all over the East and West coasts of the U.S.

Traveling is a big part of what inspires me, whether it’s to write a blog post or start a new business. Also having a global perspective is a huge advantage no matter what path you are taking: be it as an Entrepreneur, Freelancer or Creative.

I encourage you, as you escape the 9 to 5, to maximize the amount of time you spend exploring this wonderful world. It’s worth it to minimize possessions (for many reasons actually) and to live on less in order to fully experience the many wonders this Earth has to offer.

And that brings us to…

Embrace Wonder & Simple Joys

If escaping the 9 to 5 is about freedom, the corporate world is all about consuming.

It’s about mass market.

It’s about producing a lot, cheaply and selling it to the many.

It’s not bespoke.

It’s not beautiful.

It’s not free.

Choosing the less traveled path of working for yourself allows you to embrace the many wonders of our world. Whether it’s stopping for an hour in a park and just soaking up the sun, or enjoying the simple pleasure of staying home with your kids when you want. I’ve found that the “escape the 9 to 5” path has led me down a million rabbit holes, and they’ve all been full of wonder.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve found the forest at the back of the wardrobe.

Embracing wonder and joy also is good for your business. When you “wonder” about things, e.g. are curious, your subconscious mind will draw connections between unrelated items that can lead to a breakthrough or new idea. When you allow yourself to experience joy at the small things, a hot cup of coffee, being inside and warm on a rainy day, your life is fuller—and you find yourself desiring material possessions less.

Actionable Tips to Escape the 9 to 5

If you haven’t escaped your 9 to 5, fear not: each new day brings new possibilities.

Take time to read a lot, give yourself time and space to think… and feel free to reach out if you want to brainstorm together on what path you could take to get there.

If you already work for yourself: congratulations! 

Make sure you are taking full advantage of your opportunities by:

  1. Clarifying what type of work-for-yourself-er you are: Entrepreneur, Freelancer, Creative
  2. Make sure you master delegation and the 80/20 principle for increased success and satisfaction
  3. Take advantage of the freedom of location you enjoy!
  4. Embrace the wonder and simple joys of this world and use them to catalyze more creativity.