Why do you work so hard? That seems like a silly question, but it's worth asking.
For the most part, people work hard to earn money so they can have a better life. But invariably, the harder you work, the less time you have for a life. I mean, if you're putting in 12 or 16 hour days, when exactly do you get to the "fun" part of being successful?
It's a catch-22 for many people. If you don't work hard, you're miserable because you don't have the money to do all the things you want. If you do work hard, you're miserable because you don't have the time to do all the things you want. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground these days.
I've solved this dilemma for the most part by escaping the rat race and running my own business by my own rules. But it wasn't always that way.
Years ago, when I was just starting out, I worked for a "book packager." That means I researched, wrote, and edited school textbooks, primarily in science and social studies.
The pay was lousy, less than $14 an hour. The hours were insane. I often worked for 48 hours straight with no sleep to meet deadlines. I researched, wrote, and/or edited 23 textbooks in 18 months. Was I getting ahead? Sure. The more I worked, the more I earned and I thought it would take me places if I kept it up.
But what really happened was that I got burned out. I started making mistakes. And I was utterly miserable.
Soon, I struck a deal with a local ad agency to write a couple direct mail packages for considerably more money than I was earning writing textbooks, so I shifted my focus to commercial copywriting, thinking I'd be much happier because instead of earning about $14 an hour, I'd be earning about $50 an hour, which at that time was astonishing to me.
But the same thing happened. I got burned out because the client made so many demands on me, as did other clients I acquired over the next few years, that I was right back to where I was before. Earning more money, but no time to enjoy it.
It wasn't long until I was earning up to $500 an hour, which should be enough to make anyone happy, but nothing changed ... until I realized what was going on and decided to stop killing myself.
Instead of a "live to work" guy, I've become a "work to live" guy. I have come to learn that freedom and control are part of the benefit package of running your own business. I've been offered jobs with hefty six-figure salaries and turned them down. I'd tell them, "Look, I earn plenty of money and I can do what I want when I want. I'm happy. If you can't offer me that, what's the point?"
Today, I tell clients that I'll give them my best effort, but I won't try to meet impossible deadlines working nights, weekends, or holidays. For the most part, I end my day at 5 p.m. so I have time to do things I enjoy, like working in my garden, cycling, watching movies, reading, or whatever.
And you know what? Most clients are fine with that. I feel refreshed and generally can work faster and with a clear head. I earn good money. I live in a nice house. I do good work. I don't have gray hair. No heart attacks. No strokes. No one has a perfect life, of course, but I think this is as good as it gets.
Here's the takeaway: Most of us have roughly 29,200 days on this Earth. If you can find the right balance between working and living, I honestly think more of those days will be good ones. And since I'm earning more and feel pretty energetic and happy most of the time, I think it tends to work out financially as well. And even if I could earn more, I don't care. It's not ALL about money.
In a way, I had it easy because freelancing was a step up for me. But most people are in a job they hate and can't figure out how to make the transition. A friend of mine did figure it out and took the time to put it all in a book that I highly recommend. It's simple and step-by-step. It's called Stop Wishing and Start Earning
by Ed Gandia.
If you want to leave a job and start a career as an independent writer (or designer, photographer, or any kind of self-employed person), this is THE book. Ed covers all the details, from creating a transition plan
to getting your finances in order
to choosing a specialty
and getting clients
29,200 days, give or take. That's what you have. Once they're gone, they're gone. My advice? Don't waste a single day doing something you don't enjoy or earning less than you deserve.