Welcome to Freelance Friday! Each Friday, I’ll share something Freelance-y that I learned during the week that will help other freelancers or entertain cubicle-queens. Thanks for reading!
Another disclaimer this week: talking about a personal money situation always invites judgement, so it’s not like I can get away from that. But if I could make a suggestion, I’d ask you to focus on the theory going on here, not the specific example I provide of rationalizing a high rent payment and lower working hours. Without context, I know those could be two very stupid decisions, and I know we’re incredibly blessed to be able to make the decisions we have.
Freelancing is kind of like a life razor. It brings a lot of facets of your life into immediate focus. Things that used to seem really important (like showering) suddenly seem negotiable. And things you used to take for granted (say, having an “off” day at work and still getting a paycheck) are suddenly luxurious.
Especially when it comes to finances and especially when it comes to emotional choices. (Yes, emotions and choice can align).
Another thing that freelancing seemed to have a powerful effect on is the word-cancers “could” and “should.” These are words that in normal everyday talk might seem harmless. “I could go for an ice cream cone,” or “You should call me back sometime,” are relatively judgement-free.
But then there are the doozies. The “coulds” and “shoulds” that just want to distract you and spin your brain around and around until you’re drooling from confusion and maybe about to cry. These little guys need to be controlled and organized before they derail your ability to freelance.
Here are a two examples of coulds and shoulds that tried to derail my mental peace (and that sometimes still do):
We shouldn’t spend so much on rent now that I’m freelancing. We could get it cheaper, so we should.
I should work around the clock because freelancing is a huge risk. I could work more, so I should.
Whether or not these are good ideas (because of course we should pay less in rent if we can get a comparable deal, and of course I should work really hard as much as I can), I started to see a bad pattern. I was trying to fit me and my unique situation into a mold because of a perceived “right answer.”
And if you made it through puberty, you probably know by now that forcing yourself into any mold is usually a bad, bad idea. You end up unhappy with decisions that you resent and that you feel like other people forced you into and they’re like ….wait, what?? and things go downhill from there.
As I monitored my mental approach to these two topics, here’s how I tried to take control:
Could & Should with Freelance Money
We pay $1400+ in rent each month in an area where we could get about the same space for $1000 or cheaper. That’s a serious difference — almost 33 percent, and I bet we could find something in a neighborhood 20 minutes away for nearer $500 (but that’s getting into student-living territory and is non-negotiable for JHubbs).
These numbers made my brain hurt. It’s hard to think of that $500+ money being wasted every month when we could just move and lower my “must earn” rate by that much each month.
But in this situation, I had to accept that just because we could get lower rent, doesn’t mean we should.
Just because numbers are the most important thing in the budget doesn’t mean they’re the most important thing in making a decision.
In this example, the price of the rent is not always the bottom line of the rent’s value. Living where we do brings us daily, tangible benefits that we’re paying for besides square footage. Here’s just a sampling:
- Covered, lit, secure off-street parking (awesome for both snow and safety)
- Underground electricity and internet (for those yearly storms that knock out power for a few days)
- Elevators (for both my knees and the knees of older visitors)
- More affluent and therefore more considerate neighbors (most of the time)
- High ceilings and ceiling fans
- Indoor trash collection
The list goes on (especially when compared to owning a home). And considering what adds stresses the two of us (crazy and loud neighbors, a long commute, low ceilings), this apartment complex works best for us and is worth the extra rent for all the hassle that would come with moving to a different area.
But even moreso, that means I need to accept the consequences of a higher rent and stop struggling with this “could” mentally. You cannot compare the cost of another apartment with this one because it would not come with the attributes that are important to us at this stage. We also don’t live in any other apartment. This is hte one, and it’s one more stressor off my plate that I shouldn’t (hah) let weigh me down.
Could & Should with Freelance Hours
The same logic applies for a full day of freelancing: I could work 10-12 hours per day and make more money, so I should work 10-12 hours per day. But that’s assuming that the value of my day — and the purpose of my day — can only be measured by work and work alone.
Just one thing: if I overwork myself and burn out, putting all of my go-juice into as many physically workable hours in the day, I’ll be worse off than I was working for someone else.
Sure, it would be awesome to crank out 100s of billable hours each week. But as long as I can maintain my health and pay our bills and grow my income each month, I need to hit the brakes when I get tired and take advantage of the flexible working situation I’ve built for myself.
Just because I could work 10-12 hours per day, doesn’t mean I should. I need to let go of that and focus on doing my best work each and every day — not always thinking about the next project and engaging in the same rat race as I used to.
Could & Should in General
The coulds and shoulds out there in the world exist to tell you what your options are, but the final choice has to be up to you. Defaulting to all of the coulds in the world will result in a mess of a life — one that you won’t understand or love and one that will be built on the rest of the world’s desires for your life. Sifting through your coulds and shoulds and figuring out how they mesh with your worldview and your needs is the only way to build a life that’s really yours.
Do you have any coulds or shoulds weighing you down? Drop them here!
PS Being happier should be easier and delicious Starbucks hacks from yours truly.