A lot of people glamorize the life of a stay-at-home contract worker, but the truth is that it’s a lot of hard work. Being your own boss has its benefits, but setting your own hours can be disastrous if your mindset is on making money. It took a lot of hard work, but I’m finally in a healthier routine. Here’s what happened.
I used to have a lot of dead-end jobs.
Usually, I was low on the totem pole. That means I was paid peanuts and basically treated like crap. Mentally, it destroyed me. I knew I deserved more, but the positions I wanted weren’t open. As your self-confidence in the workplace declines, you start thinking that you’ll never get out of this hole.
I started taking on some clients for writing and social media.
It used to be a side job to help pay the bills, but I realized I liked it a lot more than my everyday job, so I hustled. I found more clients, worked my butt off, and eventually felt confident enough to leave my full-time job behind.
Becoming your own boss is incredibly powerful.
You don’t have to worry about being five minutes late if you set the starting time. If you’re a night owl and hate mornings, your hours can adjust to that. By giving yourself more time during the day, you can get more done. Finally, it became possible to work and do my laundry at the same time.
It also means you don’t get vacation days.
Most of the places I worked for didn’t have me on a salary. I worked contract to contract. Most of the time, I was just paid for the work I did, not the hours I put in. That means that I can’t randomly take a week off without thinking about all the money I was losing in doing so.
Every vacation included at least two hours of work.
That made me the least fun person in my friend group when it came to group outings. It also meant that I was attached to my phone the entire time, just in case an important email came in. The clients I worked with loved how available I was, but everyone else in my life hated it.
It also led to intense burnout.
Everyone needs a vacation—and I mean a full vacation. I think back to my parents, who didn’t have access to cell phones or email during their summer days off. They fully embraced the time they had to destress and be with the kids. These days, I feel like my phone is my top priority and it’s really hard to stay away.
I fantasized about my old jobs.
It was hard not having a voice, but at least I worked somewhere where the doors closed and business had ceased for the day. Now, I was cranking out extra hours at 9:30 p.m. on a Friday night when everyone else my age was out having fun. I just didn’t know how to say no to work. I felt like I’d regret any opportunity I turned down because I wanted to build my brand.
My brain wouldn’t shut itself off.
It’s addictive to have an idea go right. I was able to support myself by being my own boss, so I started feeling invincible. Even though I had no mental space left to really figure new plans out, I kept having brand new ideas to build upon what I already had.
My hobbies started disappearing.
Long story short, I had no time. I was too in my own head and couldn’t shut my brain off. Nothing was enjoyable anymore.
My family nearly had to have an intervention for me.
They all sat me down and told me I seemed more irritable and less personable. I couldn’t blame them—even being asked to hang out for this “intervention” seemed like an inconvenience, even though I get along incredibly well with my family. They honestly thought I was days away from spontaneously combusting.
I realized that I needed to change things fast.
I looked around for a less degrading, fun office job with steady hours, telling myself I’d still do independent work on the side. Eventually, something worked out. That decision was the best yet. It was good for my mental health and also made me feel like I had more control over things. Even better, the confidence I had built being my own boss made the work so much easier. Plus, I knew I had a steady income and benefits. (And vacation days!) Sure, I’m not the CEO at my steady job, but being able to lead a smaller yet still efficient company on the side is all I really need.
It’s important to know that there’s more to life than work.
Work is really important. Without a paycheck, I simply couldn’t live. However, life is short, and the more I spent mine stressed out and losing sleep, the less I was able to enjoy it.
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