Natural Life Magazine


Unjob Yourself!
A New Paradigm of Work and Life

by Wendy Priesnitz

In the 1970s and 80s, my family led an educational revolution; our children learned at home, instead of at school, and without the trappings, expectations, competition, lack of respect and trust, and coercion that is part of school. I call this "life learning" but some people call it "unschooling" or variations on those words.(You can learn more about it here.) There is a similar term for the way I have chosen to make my living; it's called "unjobbing."

Unjobbing can be thought of either as the process of leaving a job you don't like in order to work independently, or the actual state of living and working that results from leaving a job.

But it is more than that. In the same way that life learning is about more than education, this so-called "unjobbing" is about more than work. It is about aligning all aspects of your life, including work, with your personal values. Ideally, it means living without the competition, outwardly-imposed structure, lack of respect, expectations, greed, and so on that characterize many conventional workplaces.

For many people, one of the biggest unjobbing transitions involves removing the credentials from behind your name and disentangling your identity from the job you have. And because it includes the philosophy of living simply and consciously, it usually means working less than full-time, and devoting the rest of the time to family and home, community service and volunteering, travel, or leisure. (Working less is another challenge for don't need to jump from one treadmill to another!) What I'm talking about here is following your passion and using your talents to make enough money for your and your family's needs without having a job, rather than trying to be a millionaire entrepreneur.

In this lifestyle, revenue might come from self-employment, possibly as a consultant providing services under contract to businesses or individuals. Unjobbing might involve occasional freelance work. It might look like a micro-sized business selling a product. Or public speaking, writing, film-making, blogging, crafts, art, market gardening, inventing green technologies, or doing odd jobs around the neighborhood. Or it might involve managing previously acquired assets. Most likely, it will involve a variety of activities in a strategic patchwork of income-generation. Many unjobbers do work similar to what they were doing when they worked in a paid job; others use the opportunity to follow an entirely different, and more fulfilling, by which they never thought they could make a living.

I chose the entrepreneurial unjobbing lifestyle for a number of reasons. In the beginning, it allowed my husband and I to work flexibly at home and allow our daughters to learn without attending school. I also liked that it provided them with a role model of self-reliance and what is now called social entrepreneurship. No less importantly, it has allowed me to use my talents as a writer and editor, and it fits my short attention span. Working for myself means that I don't have to compromise my ethics and principles, and that I can integrate work and fun. And it allows me to work for change in the way we educate, work, and live, to move toward a non-hierarchical, egalitarian, cooperative, convivial, peaceful society. I believe that it is almost impossible to change our organizations and institutions from within because those on the inside have vested interests that outsiders, like unjobbers, don't have; so, I work on the outside.

Some of the change that I envision is already happening in the workplace as a result of current world economic circumstances. I see it as a positive part of a sustainable living solution to the current climate and environmental crisis. For some perspective on this, check out the work of authors like Juliet Schor (Plenitude), Richard Florida (The Great Reset), Seth Godin (Linchpin), Daniel Pink (Drive), Shannon Hayes (Radical Homemakers), and Chris Guillebeau (The Art of Non-Conformity). There are also books and blogs about unjobbing specifically.

Please don't confuse what I have described here with an increasingly common type of work that is sometimes known as the "gig economy." Whereas I'm interested in an intentional way of life that includes a variety of entrepreneurial endeavors, most people become involved in the gig economy because it's the only way they can earn money in a difficult and changing economy. The gig economy tends to be urban in nature, is precarious, involves part-time contract work and temporary positions without benefits that normally go along with paid employment, and usually revolves around the Internet in one way or another. It allows companies to cut labor costs and therefore save money, providing cheaper services. Think Uber, Airbnb, or the seeming endless number of food delivery apps. Colleges and universities are also increasingly hiring lower-paid adjunct and part-time professors on an insecure basis, as opposed to tenured ones.

Of course, as wonderful as it is to "unjob," and therefore follow your passion, enjoy a flexible time schedule, work from home, be your own boss, and try to change the world, unjobbing does require a bit of organization, some planning, and doing some things you might not love to do. (For me, that is bookkeeping.) It is also handy to have a calm and risk-tolerant perspective on life, and a relatively laid back personality. And, despite what the work-at-home, get-rich-quick ads say, you will need to sell...if not a product or a service, then your own talents and abilities. So knowledge about your subject, as well as some confidence in yourself and your chosen direction, is also important.

I encourage you to learn as much as you can about the basics of starting and running a small or micro business; that knowledge will allow you to concentrate on having fun (and making some money) without having a job.

Wendy Priesnitz is the owner and founding editor of Natural Life Magazine, and a writer with over 45 years of experience. She has also taught and mentored home-based, women micro business owners.


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