A Few Thoughts on Quitting Your Job and Going Freelance

here A Few ThoughtsA little over a year ago I quit my job at a publishing house and went freelance full time. Freelance writing, that is. Which has also meant some freelance PR and some speaking and some other ways that I found out I can be “freelance.”

My overall thought on being a freelance writer is that 1. I really love it and 2. it’s really hard.

It’s not for everybody, I don’t think, and there were many times this year that I thought it wasn’t for me. Like the time in January when I had been working from a desk in my living room for four months, and I thought I was going insane, and then it turned out I just wasn’t around people enough. So in March I found an office listed on Craigslist in a building with other actual people, and I decided that my sanity was worth the extra cost per month to rent it. That turned out to be a really good decision.

There was also the time that I took on too much work. In the spring I said yes to four things, and then in the fall when all four things were under contract and happening, I thought I was going to die. It was great to have the money, but it was not great to be working at night and on weekends. I am not really one of those work-all-the-time kind of people, so I have learned to think about my calendar in advance and only say yes if I know it won’t make me crazy or want to die.

So there have been times that I didn’t feel cut out for this, and I haven’t even mentioned all of the times I’ve been in Excel, and looking at my taxes, and trying to do math and attempting all the business-y things that I am not naturally good at. I especially doubt my freelance abilities on my “get your finances in order” days.

But there have been some really good days too. Like when my sole task for an entire morning or afternoon or both is writing, just writing. I don’t have to be on email constantly or go to a meeting or feel pulled here and there because this is my job now, and my boss isn’t really a person anymore so much as it is a deadline, and deadlines? Well, I like them, and I can meet them, so they are just fine for me as a boss. That’s when I feel cut out for the freelance life.

There have been other times too when an opportunity came out of nowhere that let me work with former colleagues of mine but in a totally different capacity, and I think, “I never could have done this or had the time do this if I wasn’t a freelancer.”

And, there are perks. I can adjust my working hours so that I can grocery shop at 11am when Kroger isn’t a madhouse. I can wear whatever I want, though I do try and wear real clothes most days instead of yoga pants every day. But I have had weeks… And I have my office, but I can work at a coffee shop or on my couch or on a plane or just about anywhere else if I want to or need to.

The biggest thing for me though, the thing that makes me feel deep down that I am on the right track, has been how I feel at the end of the day. When the work is done, and I close my computer, I’m not zapped. I feel energized. I feel like I can go to the gym and to dinner with a friend instead of picking just one. I feel at peace in a way that work never made me feel before. I guess this it what it feels like to do what you’re supposed to do.

I didn’t know what that felt like before or that it was possible. I grew accustomed to the frenzy and the stress and the dread. I thought that was what work was supposed to be. But now, I don’t think that anymore.

One of my biggest emotions this year has been gratitude. If that’s an emotion. I am so grateful to get to do what I do. I think gratitude and peace are probably pretty good indicators that you’ve chosen a good career for yourself. You won’t feel grateful and peaceful all the time of course, that’s just ridiculous, but underneath the less desirable feelings you have on any given day, you will be saying thank you under your breath, instead of saying obscenities, and you will feel a rest in your soul that’s assuring.

I am thankful. So thankful for this past year, even the insane lonely months in my living room, and the headache I had from January to April doing taxes. I am even grateful for the stacks of un-filed, important documents lying around my office. They are a sign that I’m getting to do what I love, and that is a rare, rare opportunity for most.

I don’t think everyone should be a freelancer, or a writer. I certainly don’t. But I do think and hope that what you do brings you some gratitude and some peace, and if it doesn’t, I hope you challenge yourself to find something that will.

 

Psst! After writing this, I decided I might turn some of these paragraphs into longer articles, like “should you be a freelancer?” “what is it really like to be a ‘writer’” “how to know when it’s time to quit your job” “how to never miss a deadline again!” (haha) etc etc. I have thoughts on these things. Lots of thoughts. So be on the lookout for some more focused pieces on freelancing, writing and quitting your job. And shoot me a note to let me know some questions you have on these topics. There might be a Q&A session in our future.

The Opposite of Fear Is Not Courage

The Opposite of Fear Is Not Courage

A few months ago I had a week full of fear related to my work. I felt overwhelmed, andthe thoughts running through my head looked something like this:

“I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“This is too much.”

“I need to just find another job.”

“I’m not going to be able to fulfill everyone’s expectations.”

You may recognize this pattern of negative self-talk. Rapid-fire statements rooted in a place of fear. Each one you listen to and believe hits you a little harder and if you’re not careful, you will one day find yourself leveled by your own thoughts, flattened by your own fears.

I think our reaction when we feel afraid about something happening in our lives is to look for courage. We listen to familiar messages about inner strength and digging deep down to find it. Fighting through and being stronger than you think.

But what about those times when you do dig deep down searching for inner strength and courage within yourself and you come up empty handed? What do you do then when your knees are still shaking, what’s in front of you remains daunting and you determine that your inner strength must be so inner at this point that is un-findable?

I am beginning to wonder if courage is the appropriate response to fear.

One morning as I sat on my couch allowing the negative and fearful thoughts to play in my head I noticed a quality of these thoughts I hadn’t seen before: They were ungrateful. Not only were they negative, untrue and made me afraid, but they lacked gratitude.

Which got me thinking, what if I combated this season of fear by being grateful, rather than courageous?

So I tried it out and began to argue fear with thankfulness.

For example, I was worried about an upcoming conference call. It was with people in my field who were much more seasoned and smarter than I and I was afraid I would say something stupid or they would be able to see how ill-equipped I felt.

But before the call, as soon as I caught myself feeling afraid, I stopped and said thank you. “Thank you, God, for the opportunity to speak with people who are more knowledgeable than I am. Thank you for this chance to learn and grow. Thank you that I even get to do this as my job every day.”

The gratitude didn’t say I was courageous. The gratitude didn’t say I was stronger than I thought I was or more capable than I knew. No, gratitude simply put me in my place as a human and put God in his place as God.

When we are grateful in the midst of difficulty or fear, we are forced to take a posture of humility before our God. Nothing like saying thank you can do this to us.

When our fear comes from a place of insecurity in ourselves or uncertainty about the future, courage may not be the answer for us, but gratitude shifts things into perspective. The blur of scary and fearful focuses into a more accurate picture in which God is big and we are small and this is exactly how it’s supposed to be.

My Big Plan To Reduce Stress in 2015

My Big Plan to Reduce Stress in 2015

I’ve been a little stressed lately. I know because my body tells me:

-I have a consistent and annoying pulse in my right eye.

-According to my dentist, I tense my jaw at night and need to purchase a mouth guard asap (sexy).

– During a massage–the second massage I’ve ever had in my life—the masseuse told me I have some of the most tense muscles she has ever felt. I told her about my mouth guard, and she told me, “That’s great, but you should really just fix your problems.”

Point is, I’m stressed, and you probably are too. Maybe more than I am, maybe less, but I’ve noticed a theme since entering adulthood about seven years ago: it’s stressful. As my dentist explained to me while examining my disintegrating jaw, our bodies cope with stress in different ways as we age. As children, we cry. As teens, we break out. As adults, we grind our teeth, tense our jaws or do one of the numerous things I’ve heard about and/or experienced first-hand: back pain, shoulder pain, insomnia, eye pulse. Oh, the eye pulse!

I would love to do what my masseuse so lovingly suggested and just “fix my problems,” but sometimes when you’re anxious, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact problem, or problems. And pinpointing the problem can cause even more stress when you’re not sure what it is. This got me thinking that maybe fixing my problems, even when I know what they are, may not be the long-term solution to stress.

What is stress at its core? Feeling worried about things that aren’t going your way, or didn’t go your way, or might not go your way. It’s discontentment. It’s distrust. It’s completely natural and human and ok and simply needs to be embraced at times, but I also believe those living the Christian life can fight stress, at least a little bit, and I think it’s worth a try.

Someone left this verse in the comments of my last post, and I think it’s a wonderful response to the definition of stress I made up: “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).

After reading this verse, I worried (of course). “I have a hard time trusting God,” I thought. “This is exactly why I’m stressed, so will I never be in ‘perfect peace’?!” Then I calmed down and realized the verse actually tells me how to trust God. If our minds are stayed on him because we trust him, then the reverse is true: We trust him because our minds are stayed on him.

Phew! So, maybe if I keep my mind “stayed” by reminding myself daily of who God is and what he has done for me, I will remember how to trust him, and as I remember to trust, the trust will deepen, and as the trust deepens, I will be brought closer to perfect peace and farther from stress and anxiety.

It’s a theory, but I’m going to put it into practice this year. How? Each day, I will try my hardest to start my morning by writing down five things I am thankful for and five things I know to be true about God’s character.

It’s simple. It’s small. It’s quick. But I think it could be huge. Because the power of gratitude and truth in the face of stress and anxiety cannot be underestimated.

The goal is not to be 100% stress-free. That’s lofty and doomed to make me feel like a failure. Instead, I will take baby steps and hope for a little less stress, a less anxiety, a little less fear. A little more trust, a little more surrender, a little more love. Baby-stepping toward God and away from anxiety, one piece of gratitude and one piece of truth at a time.

When Your Life Isn’t Measuring Up

When Your Life Isn't Measuring Up

I write this on Sunday after church, lunch, a nap and suffering through a Tracy Anderson work-out DVD. Many Sundays are like this for me. Not too eventful, as productive as I can manage with some rest and some writing mixed in. I love Sundays for this reason. But this Sunday after waking up from a too-long nap, I began to scroll through Facebook on my phone. I saw many posts about people playing volleyball, going to parks, going hiking, eating brunch. They were with other people and enjoying summer. Suddenly, my to-do list seemed so lame. I didn’t have plans to meet up with friends later. I hadn’t gone somewhere cool for brunch and I wasn’t “soaking up summer.” I sat up from my reclined position and began to feel embarrassed about my life. I began to believe it wasn’t measuring up.

People have been calling out the social-media comparison epidemic for a while now. I wrote it about it for my friend Katy’s blog in the context of relationships. I particularly enjoyed this one by Shauna Niequist on Relevant. I’m glad we’re being honest about this problem and being honest in the conversation. But as much as I read and talk about the dangers of comparison online, I still do it. I still compare myself to everyone I see on all of my feeds: Facebook, Twitter and, the worst culprit, Instagram.

And sometimes my solution to not comparing myself is worse than the actual comparison: I think bad things about people. Like, “They probably took that last week and are just now posting it to make it look like they’re having ‘the best day of their lives.’” Or, “So he got you flowers again? Isn’t that getting old?” And my most favorite, “Her life must really suck right now if she feels the need to post so much scripture and positive crap.”

Welcome to the reality of my sinful mind. It’s not pretty to write about, but I have a feeling others have had these thoughts at least once before when you’re in low place.

I have moments though when my thoughts aren’t so dark as I peruse the photos and status updates. Those are the days I feel like “liking” everything my friends and acquaintances are sharing. I call it giving virtual high fives. When I’m feeling secure in who I am and liking what my life has to offer, I can like all of the other great things in people’s lives. But when I’m feeling lonely or like my social calendar has way too many gaps, I hate what others are posting and offer no high fives.

The word that came to me today as I felt shame over my big plans to visit the grocery store and write a blog post and felt jealousy toward the volleyball players and picnic eaters was gratitude. Ah gratitude, isn’t it always the obnoxious answer? But something inside me said that if I could pull away from my smartphone screen long enough to list off a few things from my own Sunday I was thankful for, I would probably feel a little better. So I did, and it turned out there were several things: I had gone to a wonderful place to worship God. I had had lunch outside with a friend I love. I had successfully taken a nap, which I often can’t do. I had a missed call from my sister whom I also love.

Allison Vesterfelt recently wrote an article about people who are abandoning social media (I have been one of these people, twice). She talks about how the problem with social media isn’t social media; it’s us. How true. This is evident in my ability to some days “like” everything I see on Facebook and some days want to unfollow each person who is having a better day than I am. It’s not my Facebook friend’s fault; it’s something that’s going on in me. And it could be, just maybe, an opportunity for gratitude.