Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Do You Really Enjoy What You Do?

We’re finally wrapping up my mother’s HVAC project today. I think. I hope…

This has to be the most easy, breezy home improvement project I’ve ever experienced. Seriously. The contractor I hired has operated his HVAC business for over 30 years, and has a very pleasant, personable demeanor. He’s been extremely patient about explaining anything that I didn’t understand, and he really loves what he does. Before we started the project, he practically gushed, “I’m 58 years old now. I love doing this kind of work – for me, this is like an enjoyable hobby!”

Recently I made the difficult decision to walk away from a steady, staple client because the demands were beginning to take over my time to a point where I felt like an overworked employee dreading the start of each week. The payment was good, but that feeling… it’s the same feeling I had when I worked for the newspaper. I lived for Fridays, and Sundays were usually overcast with melancholia and anxiety about returning to work each Monday. That’s no way to live.

The decision to walk away was not an easy one. I’d really gotten use to the income this gig generated each month. Unfortunately the growing workload started making it harder for me to find time for other client projects, administrative and marketing tasks and working on personal projects. What looks good in the short-term isn’t always the best long-term business decision.

Even though this client contributed a substantially to my monthly bottom line, I could never get completely comfortable with that kind of set up. I learned the hard way about relying too much on one client back when I first started freelancing. Diversification is the name of the freelancing game.

The HVAC contractor also reminded me that it’s important to enjoy what you do for a living. Freelancing is not the ideal lifestyle for everyone, but it fits me like a glove. I’ve learned over the years to hang in there and ride out the income ups and downs. I’ve learned through trial and error which projects I excel at and enjoy doing most. And I’ve learned to prioritize and actively pursue my personal projects. Freelancing is not a job, it’s a lifestyle of sorts, so for me it’s very essential that I enjoy what I do.

So now I’ll ramp up my marketing efforts and move forward with the confidence that I’ve made the best decision for me. Have you ever walked away from a steady gig? If so, did it turn out to be for the best?


virginia said...

Yes, I walked away from a teaching position 19 years ago and never for one second regretted it. I started my professional life over and eventually supassed my former salary.

Anne Wayman said...

Over time I've walked away from lots of gigs because they didn't feel right. And I've gotten better at turning those down before we even get started!

Lori said...

I made a decision just like that about two years ago, Kim. The work morphed from "it's optional if you do this or that" to "if you don't, you don't have to work for us." That's no way to treat freelancers. The expectation that I'd "check in" if I were not going to be around was odd enough, but then the project manager actually chastised me for telling her I wasn't going to be around for a few days. It's when I told them I was done.

Her response confirmed my decision -- "Oh, we'll miss you! But you'll finish the work in front of you per your contract, right?"

Never so happy to leave behind a job in my life.

Kimberly Ben said...

virginia: Wow - that's both brave and encouraging!

Anne: Early on I would hesitate to walk away from any project offered, but I'm getting better. I'm also a lot better at qualifying projects before signing on.

Lori: Good for you!Sounds like they didn't understand the concept of freelance at all.

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