It's been more than three years since I quit my day job and dove into freelance writing full-time. Being your own boss sure has its perks (hello, afternoon naps), but it's not all gravy all the time. I've learned many lessons over the years—some easy, some not so much—that have taught me so much about myself, about work and success, and most importantly, how to actually enjoy what I'm doing. Like, really enjoy it.
Although I learned these lessons while working for myself, I think they are pretty universal and apply to everyone regardless of whether you're living the freelance life, running your own empire, or killing it at a corporate 9 to 5 job.
Lesson #1: Don't Measure Your Success By How Much Money You're Making
When I first started out, I was hungry for work and would say yes to pretty much everything that came my way even if the work itself didn't really juice me up. I made money the main priority and that left me feeling mentally drained, overwhelmed, and totally uninspired. When I realized how dollar-driven I'd become and instead focused only on work that I actually enjoyed, everything changed. I felt more creatively fulfilled and less stressed and guess what? The money rolled in anyway.
In short, chasing money is not a good career move. I'm not saying more money is a bad thing and you shouldn't strive for it, but when money is your number one goal, you rob yourself of the immense pleasure that fulfilling work can generate. And that my friends, is the true measurement for success.
Lesson # 2: Find Your Work Groove and Stick to It Fiercely
Figuring out my natural work flow and sticking to it has made a tremendous impact on my productivity and career as a whole. When you know what times of day and environments you thrive in, the more quality work you can get done and fast.
When I first started on my freelance adventure, I really took pleasure in taking the mornings off and working from coffee shops in the afternoon, but I soon realized that I did my best work alone and first thing in the morning. Now my morning work time is sacred and I protect it fiercely, which means no meetings, phone calls, or emails during that time. Understanding how and when you naturally work best will do wonders for your career.
Lesson #3: Self Care is Crucial for Work Success
What you do outside of the office matters just as much as what you do at the office. Think about how you feel the morning after a night out and one too many glasses of wine versus how you feel in the morning after a really good night's sleep. Taking the time for some good self-care on a regular basis will hugely impact your performance at work.
You'd think finding time for self care would be easier when you work from home, but because there's no clear separation between work life and home life, it's way too easy to stay glued to the computer all day. I try my best (and this is still a work in progress) to take as much time for self-care as I can because I know that when I don't feel good, I don't really get anything done and that's no bueno.
So seriously, after work treat yourself to a bubble bath, dive in between the pages of a good book, or get your yoga on. Your kick-butt career will thank you later.