Posts in The Life of a Freelancer

5 Ways Quitting My 9-To-5 Job Jump-Started My Life As An Entrepreneur

(This post originally appeared on Elite Daily)

The day I woke up praying I had contracted some type of illness so I could avoid another soul-sucking day in my cubicle was the day I knew I needed to leave my job.

It had been a full year where simply stepping into the office gave me an overwhelming feeling of heaviness and all-consuming dread.

Monday through Friday, between the hours of 7 am and 4 pm, I felt completely dead inside.

Suddenly, staying put for health insurance and a steady paycheck seemed like an entirely uneven exchange.

So on that day, I set my quit date.

I frantically texted the most trusted members of my inner circle, divulging my plan before I could grasp what a hugely challenging endeavor I had just committed myself to.

I didn’t have another job lined up or even a position I hoped I might be qualified for.

I simply had an unavoidable need for freedom and a few freelance writing gigs with potential.

When I finally gave my notice, I found myself choking on the words, “I’m starting my own business.”

Saying them to my superiors felt childish and naive.

I didn’t have a business name or any legitimate paperwork. I only had the intention to figure it out along the way.

There was no plan B.

Three months later, with a registered business and several bonafide clients, I can say the side effects of venturing out on my own weren’t entirely what I expected:

1. Money seems far less important.

When I was confined by the walls of my cubicle and churning away at work I couldn’t muster up much excitement for, earning a certain amount of money was essential.

After all, it was my compensation for turning over precious brainpower and the most substantial chunk of my waking hours.

Even when I first thought about starting a business, my mind immediately went to the income potential for such an endeavor.

I crunched numbers and visualized cashing checks bigger than the ones I was currently cashing.

Then, as I dove deeper into establishing a life based on enjoyment rather than obligation, something strange happened: Money didn’t matter as much.

What was once a mindset of, “I better be getting paid to do this” turned into, “I’m so lucky I get paid to do this.”

That was an amazing thing.

2. I’m a better friend, daughter, sister and girlfriend.

Feeling as if I was stuck in a never-ending cycle of loathing my day-to-day life was utterly exhausting, both for myself and those who had to endure my mood swings and bad attitude.

This exhaustion — paired with the monumental task of tackling additional work on the side — led to “busy” being the most commonly used word in my vocabulary.

My work was receiving my energy, and those I loved were receiving the short end of the stick.

Yes, starting a business is a challenge most aren’t prepared for.

But when starting a business is mixed with establishing an overall well-balanced, intentional life, something magical happens.

Relationships flourish.

When I’m happy, I’m more likely to make others around me happy.

An improved demeanor means they are more likely to want me around in the first place.

Enough said.

3. Life and work transition seamlessly.

There’s nothing that points out how much you dread your job than how you feel coming back from vacation.

For me, there was a clear delineation.

Happiness, passion and joy were left in whatever tropical location I was visiting, and obligation, work and an overwhelming feeling would be greeting me at the gate upon arrival.

Now, my mind has deconstructed the brick barriers that separated my work life from my personal life.

Sundays morph into Mondays with nearly as much ease as Fridays into Saturdays.

Work isn’t to be endured in order to reach the weekend, but to be appreciated as something that creates challenges and carries the possibility of feeling really damn good about what I produce.

Feeling steadily content — whether it’s Monday or Friday — is something I didn’t know I would be so incredibly grateful for.

4. Time is no longer the enemy.

I used to hate time.

I hated how it would creep at a mind-numbingly slow place between the hours of 1 pm and 4 pm.

I hated how I had to request it, routinely counting how long it would take me to amass X amount of vacation days.

I hated how weekends never contained enough time to make a dent in household tasks while still having fun.

Time moves much faster now, regardless of the day of the week.

But, it’s in a things-are-flowing-so-well-I-forget-to-look-at-the-clock type of way.

I don’t mind when down time flies by because work is no longer something I need to muscle through.

Time and I now have a cohesive relationship built on mutual respect. That’s how I like it.

5. Guilt is persistent.

I used to wake up at 5:30 am every day, drive the 20 minutes to my office and spend the next eight and a half hours trying to be as productive as possible.

Today, I woke up at 7:20 am and immediately had a small panic attack that if this “laziness” continues, I won’t create the business success I’m hoping for.

It turns out, guilt — especially the type born from the rules of traditional office life — dies hard.

When I pound away at a project for a solid five hours and have a gloriously free afternoon stretched out in front of me, guilt rises up to greet me.

I immediately think of five tasks to complete, operating from the underlying belief being busy and filling a time slot equates to a productive day.

I thought I’d toss out these antiquated ideas when I left cubicle life, but it turns out this is one thing that’s a perpetual work in progress.

But considering how far I’ve come and the world of difference I’ve seen in my life, this is a small price to pay.

I may not receive money at the same designated time each month, and my health insurance is something I now cover, but I’ve been reinstated as the owner of my life.

There is nothing more valuable than that.

A Fear of Being Noticed (and a Fear of Being Unnoticed)

A few days ago, as I mindlessly stepped into the shower with one hand occupied by a large bottle of body wash, my foot slipped, causing my face to careen into the side of the hanging soap dish. The tumble, while relatively minor compared to the catastrophe it could have been, immediately made me burst into a loud, ugly cry.

Aside from the painfully large bruise on my shin and a knot above my left eye, it wasn’t the unexpected ass kicking that prompted this sudden burst of emotion. I woke up that day, and the three days prior, with a gnawing sense that I was generally sucking in all areas of my life, and the shock of physical pain seemed to suddenly bring all these emotions to the very raw surface. I was consumed by a mixture of fear and guilt, compounded by an overwhelming feeling of self-doubt.

Before that point, I had been relatively upbeat, sending out pitch letters and charting out a month’s worth of business goals that I was actually excited about. Then, I was struck by one, panic-inducing thought: What if I’m never noticed?

In writing, there is a well-deserved sense of pride that comes from structuring words in a way that brings the physical and emotional world to life. But that satisfaction is one-dimensional if, as writers, we are both the creator and the audience. Writing doesn’t come full-circle until there is someone consuming said writing and having some type of reaction to it.

As solitary as it seems, there are multiple players in a good piece of writing.

Therefore, it’s not just about creating – it’s about hoping someone will notice your creation. It’s about validation and being recognized as a well-deserved player in the game. (If that sounds exactly like the ego speaking, yes, it often is.)

Writing may be personal, but sharing it is all business. And what if I’m not good enough at the business to ever be noticed?

Since I started my full-time, frenzied journey into creating a business and meaningful work life, I’ve thought of at least ten different directions I could venture. I’ve come up with ideas that, at the time, seemed to be divinely-produced “aha moments,” only to lose all confidence and the drive to bring them into fruition some 24 hours later.

My fear is I will never stumble upon a plan of action with any real possibility of carrying me to where I so desperately want to go and I will spend a lifetime hoping that, eventually, the right person will recognize my work and the possibilities behind it. And, if that day never comes, it won’t because I’m not skilled at writing, but because I didn’t market myself to that person in the right way.

After stumbling through a conversation with my business coach in which I tried to put words to the overwhelming feeling of self-doubt I had been battling, he summarized it perfectly – “You feel unnoticeable.”

This, he explained, is a limiting belief created with the purpose of protecting yourself. There is a payoff to being unnoticed.

Yes, I thought, because in some twisted way, being noticed is equally as terrifying.

Being noticed means allowing yourself – and your writing – to be openly critiqued, picked apart, criticized by anyone, not because they are an authority, but simply because you asked them to read it. Because putting yourself out there means you must in turn have skin thick enough to weather the blowback. Because not everyone will think you’re great, or even mediocre. Some really will believe you aren’t talented enough to be in the game.

Sometimes, hanging out in the waiting room is something we secretly accept because jumping off the ledge opens up the very real possibility that we’ll smack our face or break a limb on the way down. We might speak about feeling stuck, but being stuck is just a little bit easier to stomach than being in a free-fall.

This need to protect yourself, my coach explained, is well-intentioned. However, in the future, we’ll need to push you to move forward, knowing protection can be found in other ways. You are noticeable and it’s safe to be noticed.

Playing with this concept that I feel an aversion to both being noticed and being unnoticed, still brings about an overwhelming sense of fear. Because I just want my chance at greatness — I want it to be offered and I want to be brave enough to run with it.

It’s a balancing act of being bold and still carrying a shield should things go awry. But maybe one can’t exist when the other is present. Maybe it really is all or nothing.