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One of the reasons that I’m so excited about sharing the option of working online is that I’ve seen it provide all of the meaningful, fulfilling lifestyle changes that people are often seeking. Both in our own personal experience, and that of many other freelancers we’ve collaborated with, or met in passing along the way.
In contrast, I’ve seen friends and family stuck in a rut – myself included – try to turn things around at certain points by getting a new job, or studying something new to change careers. After the initial hope and excitement of a change in situation, the novelty soon wears off, and they realize they’re back to facing those same small ongoing challenges that gradually drain the life out of them. Things like:
- Leaving their comfortable home every morning to spend the full day away from loved ones.
- Not having any spare time to pursue the things they really love to do.
- Having a capped monthly income which can’t be increased temporarily when there’s an unexpected bill.
- Trying to get the house cleaned, the clothes washed and the food prepped every weekend before starting it all over again.
When I started working from home with a full-time freelance income, it was like 90% of the “don’t wants” I had ever been hung up on in my life suddenly disappeared.
I don’t say that lightly.
I really do mean suddenly.
I’m not saying it was a walk in the park and I no longer had day-to-day challenges to handle, or work to put in. But what I mean is that those deep longings and pleas of “I don’t get it, life should’t be like this,” were just no longer there.
They’d been replaced with the contented thought:
We’ve done it. This is it. This is what I’ve actually been looking for this whole time.
Oh boy, what a freeing feeling that was.
There were so, so many small contributing factors that added up to create that new experience of life, but these were six of the big ones – those intense burning desires that I’d finally accomplished by learning how to work online.
1. I really didn’t want to be away from the kids the whole day long, 5 days a week, for the next 18 years.
Oh wow, this one was so huge. About a year before I fell pregnant with our first child, I’d had an insider preview of what was to come if I’d continued working where I was in the corporate world. My little office cubicle was right alongside several moms who had young toddlers and babies in childcare, and I clearly remember feeling tension on their behalf. I’d see the latest photos of their child pop up on their computer screen while we were working away, and I’d think how strange it was that they had to wait all day until early evening to catch the bus back across the city, pick them up, and see them for an hour or so before it was bed time.
I experienced this routine myself for a few months when our daughters had just turned 1 and 2, and I’d gone back to work in our attempts to save money for our move to Costa Rica. As any mom knows, caring for little ones is intense work indeed, and in comparison a stint in a regular ol’ job can feel like a welcome break. Everyone’s different, but the way that I experienced it was that the welcome and enjoyable part of the ‘break’ was really less than a couple of hours of the day, around mid-morning. The very beginning of the day I’d always be trying to get over the fact that I’d slipped out the door of the daycare mom’s home while my 1 year old was looking the other way, distracted with toys – compromising on the proper “I love you, see you soon” goodbye for the sake of minimizing the crying and stress.
I was never in either camp – for or against moms going back to work – I’m of the belief that there’s just too many variables to say one is better than the other. I just remember thinking there must be another option. (And before I found freelancing, I did in fact try one other option for 6 months – being a family day carer in my own home so that I could stay with my baby all day. I loved having cool new playmates for my daughter, but I can tell you, I wasn’t cut out for it. 🙂 )
2. I really wanted to wake up naturally, without an alarm clock.
When I went a little overboard on personal development seminars in my early twenties, you could often find sheets of paper and notebooks all over the house listing out various revised versions of my latest list of goals. On nearly every one of those lists would be “I wake up naturally every single day, without an alarm clock.”
For years I dreamed about that.
While my seminar going buddies would pen elaborate plans for their future businesses and homes and yachts and passive income (that was all the rage back then), I would be intently focused on finding a way around one of my strongest “don’t wants” at the time… that crazy sensation in your body when your deep sleep cycle is suddenly broken by incessant shrill beeping.
The only thing more annoying than an alarm clock?
Your partner’s alarm clock when they’re due to wake up one and a half hours before you!
Oh thank goodness those days are long gone.
3. I really wanted to study new skills, without being obligated to hand in assignments or pass exams.
I’m a bit of a nerd. I love reading and studying things in my downtime. But what I don’t like is being obligated to do stuff I don’t want to do. (You too?)
And what I really wanted to do when I was going to work in the corporate world was to go back to university and study something part time, just for the excitement of it. Or take a short course in naturopathy or aromatherapy at an expensive, private college with fancy buildings.
I didn’t want the obligation of having to turn in assignments or study all-night long for exams. When you manage that a first time and make it through to the other side, you sure have to have some serious motivation to voluntarily put yourself under that kind of pressure yet again. I tip my hat to those that do.
So when online marketing training, and later online skills training took off, I was in heaven. Study as much as you want, either for free or low cost, with no obligation to waste time completing hypothetical projects for grades, and every opportunity to gradually increase your knowledge, skill set and income month by month.
4. I really wanted to experience living in other countries, and not be worried about my savings running out.
Some motivated single people in the companies I’d worked for had saved diligently for a year, headed off on a 1 year back-packing tour or similar on unpaid leave, and returned with stories to entertain us at all on morning tea breaks. For the first few weeks of their return… you could see the longing in their eyes, and almost hear the conversation going on in their head: “Okay, I’m outta money. Time to get used to ‘normal’ working life again. Time to start saving for the next great adventure.”
I wondered if it was possible to never have to come home from the adventure. Furthermore, I wondered if it was possible to do that once you had a family.
When I started freelancing from my new home in Costa Rica, I had my answer there!
5. I really wanted to make time to exercise, but I absolutely didn’t want to wake up at the crack of dawn to squeeze it in.
Now, I’m not a consistent exerciser. I have my on and my off times. But I’m well aware that it significantly contributes to my quality of life when I do, and that I have many more on times when the lifestyle conditions are conducive to actually making it happen.
Getting up at 5:00am to go for a jog, because you need to start getting ready for work at 6:00am, so that you can catch the bus at 7:10am is just not the type of routine that I could ever bring myself to stick with for more than two days.
Not to mention, becoming impossible to even attempt during that few months I was commuting to the city for an office job and being a mom at the same time. I remember during that time where both of us were commuting to work, Dan and I taking turns at going for a short run every other day simply because the gap between getting home, bathing the kids, prepping dinner and going to bed was so, so small that there was literally only time for one of us to exercise for 15 minutes.
Starting to earn our income by working online meant that:
- We were free to live in another country where the lower cost of living meant we had to work less hours to pay our way, and…
- The lower cost of wages meant that we were able to employ a nanny full time to hang out with us instead of sporadic babysitting, which meant that…
- Our nanny and children got to know each other like family, which meant that…
- There were no tears when Dan and I left the house for an hour, even while they were 2 and 3 years old, which meant that…
- Either of us could happily go for a run any time of day, without impacting the other person’s work or childcare responsibilities for the day, or even go together at the very same time. Huge!
I have to say, I’m starting to take that one for granted, especially now that our kids are older. But in those toddler years it was seriously amazing. I’d never expected that kind of ease would be possible.
6. I really wanted it no longer to be a major setback when we had an unexpected expense or temporary income drop.
Aaah, the relief of this long-held frustration was just what I needed.
Do you know that feeling when you’re cruising along doing the work thing, paying all your bills on time, being prudent, even having a good amount to spare for life’s little luxuries. And then out of nowhere, you find you need an extra few hundred dollars this week for something or other. And again, four weeks later.
Where does it come from?
Credit cards usually. Or overtime pay if you can work a Saturday at will, without being obligated by your boss to work Saturdays on an ongoing basis. Family, if you’re in a really tight bind.
What if it didn’t have to be that way?
What if you could rise to the occasion of an unexpected expense or temporary income drop by taking on additional billable hours or a new project in the following week. Not next year, when you get trained up for some second income weekend job, or get that promotion and a pay raise, but literally, next week.
We’ve really enjoyed this benefit of freelancing, most noticeably in the first couple of years. (Because the memory of having felt like our hands were always tied was still fresh back then.) In the beginning, it might have meant something as ‘drastic’ as the kids spending all day at the beach with Dad on the weekend, while Mom put in a full day of overtime on a Saturday. As we gained some experience freelancing and were able to communicate our value more effectively to raise our rates, those occasions of needing to pull a rabbit out of hat gradually became non-existent.
But in either scenario, I’ve never stopped appreciate the fact that freelancing affords you that flexibility to really be in control of your income and expenses. You can make changes to your work volume, type of work, rate, location, clothing, transportation and food budget at any stage, without any interruption whatsoever to the new career and online reputation you’re building. There’s fewer obligatory expenses and more choices.
So that’s it in a nutshell. The big six that collectively turned everything around.
What about you? What’s the change you welcomed the most when you started working online?