So when I decided to take the plunge and pursue freelancing full-time a couple years back, I did so with the intention of having time to work on some personal projects, namely a collection of short stories. Now that I’ve been getting this itch to also write a book to help artists and freelancers with their money, and also to carve time for their creative projects, I have even more reason to scale back on freelance business to focus on these projects. And while I have enough beans saved to take a sabbatical of sorts from freelancing, I haven’t done it. Not yet.
Well, why’s that? In short: I’m scared.
MONEY IS A TOOL. PERIOD.
Yes, I’ve decided to be liberal in my use of caps and bold.
Quit yer whining, Jackie. Don’t you know there are greater problems in the world? Debt, poverty, wage inequality. Crazy politicians.
But I wanted to make a point. Even if you had that money in the bank to do whatever it is you damn well pleased. There are obstacles. And a lot of them are internal. Sure, there are external obligations, such as taking care of kids or aging parents. But let’s talk about the internal struggle, shall we?
I grew up in a workaholic family. My mom, uncles and aunts, cousins were all industrious people. When we weren’t working to make money, we were busy at home, cooking, cleaning, fixing up our homes, etc. I just visited a cousin in Orlando who was so exhausted while moving that he fell off the pickup truck.
The biggest cardinal sins were to be lazy and self. Make yourself useful!
So naturally, I was a busybody. I was one of those annoying types in high school that was part of 10 clubs and got good grades. But busybody is my go-to. Busyness is a terrible habit. I often find myself losing touch with my values, feel burnt out, stressed, and even more anxious.
It’s hard to say “no,” especially when you are trying to please others. My friend Melanie of Dear Debt just attended the GirlBoss rally, and left with this: Are you doing something just to please others, or are you honoring a value? What are your values?
These habit energies are tough thing to undo. It could take years, or decades. I’m serious. I’m fully aware of my busybody tendencies, and I have to kind of constantly monitor myself. While I am still going to be volunteering and quibbling over how to add value to the work I do, I am going to give myself permission to indulge. Indulge in saying no to social gatherings, to obligations and give myself the okay to work on my creative projects.
Love of Making Money
Money is addictive, like crack. Studies show that when you make money, there’s a part in our brain that activates, similar to taking drugs. Yes, your brain thinks money is a drug.
My good friend Alan has told me, “In 10 years, are you going to look back and say to yourself, ‘Gee, I really wish I worked more?” Nobody thinks that way. And because I try to live a frugal lifestyle, which isn’t hard when you don’t feel deprived and find abundance in your life and take joy in the simple pleasures.
And I’ve never regretted not taking a job. I want to do the best job possible when given an opportunity, but it’s not essential to take on every job? Once again it’s all about value. What is the value for doing something? What’s essential?
Just the confidence that this is the right choice for you. It’s about trusting yourself. There’s the adage, every time you say “no” to something is a “yes” to something else. So you just have to trust in yourself. My fellow freelancing buddy Taryn talks about how just because somebody else wasn’t able to achieve what you want to do, doesn’t mean you can’t carve out your own path to making it work. So be that trailblazer.
I don’t expect to necessarily make a cool million dollars, or write that bestseller. But I am saying “yes” to something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time. And it will come in handy. Developing the habit to say “yes” to myself, to engage in deep, focused work, and to give myself permission to toll over something I can be proud of.
Inability to Say “No”
It’s far easier to say “no” to the long-term things, like taking on a full-time job or commitment. But it’s the casual commitments that eat up our time. Attend that mixer? Sure. Check out the new watering hole down the street. Let’s do it! I just finished Greg McKeown’s “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” and he had some great tips on how to gracefully say “no,” such as “You are welcome to X. I am willing to Y” to set boundaries, or “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.”
There will always be fears. If you’re alive and breathing, you’ll be afraid of something. And there’s plenty to be afraid of. I’m not certain I’m even afraid that I won’t get back on the freelancer bandwagon. But you know what? There are a million ways to earn a buck. And you’ll just have to trust yourself and deal with any repercussions, perceived missed opportunities, and the like.
So I’ve been reading Cal Newport’s “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World,” where he talks about how the ability to focus deeply on your work is a rare and valuable skill. Especially in our day and age where we veer toward “shallow work,” such as answering emails, tweeting, meetings, and the like. But the ability to work interrupted and free from distraction is not only about having the time to do so, but the discipline.
Newport goes into detail about creating a regiment, setting time aside each day with a designated workspace. Easier said than done, right? And as we all know, managing money has nothing to do with knowing what to do, but having the freakin’ discipline to follow through.
So I’ll be starting off with 20-30 minutes of solid, Internet-free periods of work, followed by an hour, then 90 minutes, and working my way to two hours. I still need to figure out how I’m going to balance my personal projects with my freelance work, since I will still be working part-time, but that’s something that needs to be resolved.
What I am trying to say is that while money is definitely helpful and gives you options, it’s not everything. When you’re ready to do that thing you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t have enough money or time to do, you better have the habits and mindset in place to actually take the plunge.
If you had enough money to do what you really wanted, what would get in your way?
(Originally published at Cheapsters.)
— Jackie Lam
Personal finance blogger helping people thrive in the gig economy