GOODBYE PRESSURE, HELLO FREEDOM By Ella Miller
What I learned during the COVID-19 lockdown that kept me home from work was that I LOVED being home with my family. I also learned that the 2-hour commute I was making each day was a real drain on my energy. And even though I had been with the same company for ten years, my soul was crying out for a change. It took being home during a worldwide pandemic to get me to these realizations! My next step: shifting gears to work from home permanently and finally enjoy the freedom of working for myself.
For me or anyone taking on different work rituals, it can kind of throw you off at first. What scared me most was the sense of security that I once felt from paid vacation days and healthcare partially paid by my employer that was no longer there. And while I was saving time on not having to commute, I had new activities to tackle... networking to find projects and clients, reorganizing my finances, creating a home office, and more. When it comes to setting up a strong foundation, I found that taking things one day at a time was the best way to go and caused the least amount of stress. By leaving behind the corporate grind, here's a bit of knowledge that I gained:
UNCOMFORTABLE IS GOOD
Once I got over the initial fear of "Am I REALLY doing this?" I have to admit that I was pretty excited. The more I thought about that ten-year-long position at the same company, I realized that I was too comfortable and actually really bored. After all, I'm a person who has always been energized by change! Repetitive activities and conversions were pushing me into a place of discontentment and dullness. Because I'm naturally a go-getter who thrives on change and challenge, I was falling into a rut — so the switch to freelance couldn't have come at a better time! In fact, you might have heard the saying "Being uncomfortable leads to growth." It's true in my opinion! And after a bit of soul searching, I realized that if I wanted to be happy, I had to do things that made me feel uncomfortable... take some risks, form new connections, spark inspiring conversations, and insert myself into completely fresh situations to get to a place that felt invigorating and rewarding.
less hectic, more joy
I left my full-time job but I gained something greater... time! When I worked 9 to 5, I used to gulp down coffee at 6 a.m. while reading a slew of emails. Used my long train commute to work on my to-do list. Literally ran to the office (my sole source of exercise) and spend the day squeezing things into every second until I travelled back home and nearly collapsed on my bed in the evening. With the stress of all of that out of the way, I had time to catch up on all of the activities and passions that I had been putting off. For example, I pulled out my acrylics, brushes, and canvases and started painting again. I fell in love with creativity all over again. I started jogging, a couple of miles a day to help me clear my head. And I replaced the quick texts that I used to send loved ones (so they knew I was still alive) with phone calls and real conversations. The lesson was that time is a gift. There will never be enough of it. So rather than solely spending it exhausting yourself on the hamster wheel, be sure to spend time doing meaningful things that you've been putting off. It will feel like time well spent.
Once friends and family knew that I had made the jump to freelance, there was a touching outpouring of support — they wanted to see me be a successful. Some were asking if they could send contacts my way. Others were checking with their HR department for the potential to provide me with writing jobs. Family was offering to help me update my website. I could have easily let my ego get in the way and said, "No, I can do this myself!" but deep down I knew that having help along the way was a good thing. So, I opened myself up to the support. Letting people into my adventure felt freeing. And to think that I thought I would be taking this job-shift journey alone. THAT couldn't have been further from the truth.
CAUTIOUSLY cost cutting
Without a steady income, I quickly learned that I had to take a good look at how much money I needed to stay afloat. I always joked that I'm a writer, not a mathematician. And as much as I dislike number crunching, I got out a pad of paper and pen and started writing down "costs to keep" versus "costs to cut." Items in the column of costs to keep included utilities, groceries, mortgage, and car payment. Items in the costs-to-cut column included music apps, extra TV channels, and online magazine subscriptions. Listing everything out and totaling it up helped me understand the minimum amount of money that I needed to bring in each month. Better yet, it helped me cut out the stuff that I didn't really need. Over the next couple days, I got rid of any payment that wasn't for something essential. I knew that I could easily reinstate anything I wanted to once I felt like business (and my income) was steady enough.
LOOKING TO WORK FOR YOURSELF? THINGS TO CON
• Be kind, stay connected; you never know when you might need a recommendation from someone in your past to help you land projects in the future.
• Consider all of your talents and all the ways you can apply them — you don't have to do the exact same work as before. Example: I'm a writer, however I spent 10 hours a week doing research for a company and learned a lot along the way!
• Actively look for jobs BEFORE you need them so you always have projects in the pipeline. Project search sources might include: LinkedIn, Experteer, Indeed, Fairygodboss, and Mom Project (for working mothers), just to name a few.