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On Doing What You Love

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This week marks six months since I quit my job to work from home. It seems impossible that so much time could have passed… Didn’t that just happen a few weeks ago? I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun! And make no mistake – despite some unexpected craziness, multiple changes of plans, and working 18-20 hours most days, I’m truly happy for the first time in YEARS. And yes, I’m having a ton of fun at the same time.

Many people would look at the past six months of my life and judge this whole self-employment experiment a total failure. After all, I was not as financially prepared as I should have been, and a ton of things have happened that impacted my income (not in a good way). But for a lot of compelling reasons, some that I posted about and many that I didn’t, my career was at a critical point. It was simply time to get out.

The Rollercoaster

The first two months I was home, I was almost giddy with what a good decision I’d made. I got to enjoy Christmas with my son and travel for my niece’s first birthday party (two things that wouldn’t have been possible if I’d been at my old job). Money was rolling in left and right. I remember thinking, If I’d known it would be this easy, I would have quit my job a long time ago!

Except it wasn’t that easy. I thought it was at first, but I received a major reality check in my third month at home. In fact, that was the ONLY check I received for quite awhile. You guys have no idea how badly I was freaking out! I minimized things here on the blog because I didn’t (and still don’t) want to hear people pointing out my failures. I’m good enough at finding them (and obsessing about them) on my own.

By the end of February I was applying for work. Frantically. But I really didn’t want to go back to a “real” job. One thing I’ve learned in my time at home is that I will work exponentially harder for myself than for someone else. Not just because of the income at stake – I just find it easier to be motivated when I’m meeting my own goals and not someone else’s. And enjoying what I do has been a huge part of that.

The Transition

The shift from February to now has been so subtle I almost missed it. As the weeks passed, I started writing less and designing more (thus the new business site, which you should totally check out). It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing anymore – I’ll always love it and I have no plans to stop. However, stepping away from a traditional work environment has allowed me to recognize some of my other strengths for the first time.

Sure, I can write. But I can also do things with a computer that a lot of people can’t. It has always come so naturally to me, I honestly never thought it was a big deal. I’ve also learned that I have near-infinite patience when it comes to explaining things to people. Plus I’m now able to confirm what I’ve said for years – I simply function better on a second or third shift schedule. All of these little things added up to the realization that I’ve spent years ignoring the opportunity to truly do what I love.

When I’m solving a problem related to web design, it’s like time stands still. I forget to eat. I can’t sleep. And no matter how many profanities cross my mouth or how many times I bang my head on my desk, it doesn’t really seem like I’m working. I’ve always read about people having that kind of experience, and I even thought I found it a few times in the past, but nothing has come even close to this. This is a whole other level of awesome.

Where This Leaves Me

My financial situation is completely precarious right now. I’m still applying for jobs, not that it seems to matter. As of today, I’ve applied for well over 300 jobs and have not gotten a single call. So in the meantime, I’m busting my butt to cobble together a decent income however I can. It amazes me how money always seems to show up exactly when I need it. Divine intervention or freaky coincidence? I have no idea. But for now it’s working.

I have no idea what’s going on with my life. I could get a phone call tomorrow and end up working for The Man again. I could hit another dry spell for income and end up selling a kidney on the black market. I could buckle under all the sleep deprivation and end up in a loony bin somewhere. But in the meantime, I truly love every minute of what I do and I’m in no hurry to make changes unless I have to.

Some of you probably think I’ve lost my mind. And maybe I have. All I know is that I’m happy, Jayden is happy, and my work leaves me feeling fulfilled. I’m proud of what I’m accomplishing and I expect things to continue to fall into place, because I believe I’m finally doing what I’m meant to do. That’s the only explanation I can find for my immense sense of peace at a time when I should be panicking.

Do you know what you’re really good at? Does your career truly bring you joy, or are you tolerating it because it’s safe? What are your hidden strengths? Those are all questions I’ve been able to answer in my six months of self-employment. And while I know it’s not for everyone, it has been one of the few good decisions I’ve ever made.

About Andrea Whitmer

Andrea is a freelance web designer and single mom trying to maintain a sense of humor in an otherwise chaotic world. She blogs in hopes of helping others avoid the same mistakes she made in the past. Join in the discussion here on So Over This, or connect on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Google Plus. You can also subscribe to new posts via RSS so you never miss out!

Comments

  1. I hope everything works great for you in the end Andrea!

    And I like my job (definitely not with a passion) but it is safe. So I guess that's why I stay.

  2. kathryn says:

    I also wish you well, but I don't agree with your decision.
    Unless your debt was completely paid off, and you had a sizable safety net, you should have kept doing both jobs.
    If it was only you, that may change my view, but you have a dependent son to be concerned about.
    You don't own your home. You have debt. You haven't earned the right to quit the stable job..

    • Well, considering the fact that the job I left was anything but stable, I don't see the huge issue. I make more money now than I did at my job. And since home ownership isn't one of my life goals, it really isn't a factor. Renting suits me just fine. Thanks for your opinion, though!

      • Fin. Conflict Coach says:

        Don't take any of these comments personally, Andrea.

        I'm sure you're well aware most people can't help but use Perceptual Filters when interacting with others (or reading about their decisions).

        I find it rather interesting Kathryn mentioned having "the right" to do something. When you try to identify how important Interests, Rights or Power are to a person- their preferences are often revealed by their words.

        • kathryn says:

          Having been in a similar situation, I can comment on this with confidence.Their came a point in our (my husband and I) self employment, it was producing a lot more income, than my employed income was. Could we live without this employed income, was the question.
          We took 12 months of not using my employed income at all. At the end of the year I quit. We now have employees who work under our direction so we can travel 8 months of the year.
          We no longer had dependent children, as the youngest of 4 had just finished school.
          Until that time, it was nothing for me to work 48 hours at my employed income, and 4-6 hours a day on our self employment (we are the evil, dreaded landlords, that constantly clean and repair after departing tenants)

    • If she is happier than she has all the right to work for herself. I am self-employed, I own a condo in Chicago and rent a house here in Denver. What does that say about me? :-)

  3. I think you're pretty brave. I applaud you for the tough decisions you've mad.

  4. I love working for myself. One suggestion. Don't worry about what people think. If you second guess yourself you will never be as successful as you can be. :-)

  5. People live their own lives, and have to live with the consequences of their decisions. Not everyone will agree with yours, just like not everyone would agree with mine. Quite honestly under almost every other set of circumstances I would have disagreed with your course of action. Leaving a steady paycheck into the unknown of self-employment. Completely switching life gears before you had a feel for whether you'd make it or not.

    But, you're job was a shit hole. You were going to have to do something different – whether it was finding a new job (which has it's own unknowns) or perusing your self employment dream you weren't going to be able to stay where you were.

    From following your story it seems like you've learned a hell of a lot about yourself over the last few months and are honing in on what kind of career makes you happy at this point in your life.

    I say good for you, you've got a bigger set of Nuts and Bolts than I do.

    See what I did there? I incorporated a double meaning between having a big set of "nuts" (being brave, driven, adventurous) and the name of your media company (Nuts and Bolts Media). LOL.

    In all seriousness, congrats on your success…..I hope it only gets better from here!

  6. I'm so happy to read this…it's like a message to myself of encouragement to keep on going even though I thought I was crazy. I haven't made the leap from my day job to freelancing, but I plan to sometime in the future. One thing that differs for me compared to most, is that I enjoy the traditional work environment just as much as the entrepreneurial one. So I will probably always have a part time job with The Man while cultivating my side gigs. You're amazing Andrea! I dunno where I'd be (or where my site would be) without you.

  7. Melissa says:

    I love these types of posts =)

  8. Christi Frederick says:

    How many people can say that they truly love what they do? How many of us have the courage to quit a dead end job and follow dreams (and have the talent and business sense to achieve them)? You are one of the lucky ones and your knowledge, heart and perserverance will see you through. I think your story is fantastic and so encouraging! Thank you for sharing it with your readers…it is inspirational, YOU are inspirational!

  9. You're pretty brave, I'm very risk averse so I know I could never completely stop working in an office. I like my job, but there are a few things I would change that would make me really love my job. Most of that has to do with management, so it's really out of my control.

  10. shopping2saving says:

    You're such an inspiration Andrea. I have always had this type of mentality: "One thing I’ve learned in my time at home is that I will work exponentially harder for myself than for someone else. Not just because of the income at stake – I just find it easier to be motivated when I’m meeting my own goals and not someone else’s." It's SO true. When you are working for yourself and what you want out of it – it's easy to understand the end goal and all the hard work that goes into it. You're a success in my book, and I have faith you will do well – no matter what route you take.

  11. myjampackedlife says:

    thats awesome to hear right now for me. im at at crossroads right now and i wish i had the guts to take the less stable but more fulfilling path like you did. I have checked out the new website and when its time for me to create my own site, this is where i"ll go. great job. i think you will do very well in life.

  12. It's like you read my mind, then typed this post. I love it, and I love your message here. KUDOS to you for going for it–I'm in the process of doing the same, and I look to you as a source of inspiration.

    Sure, it's not always sunshine & roses but life isn't that way and anyone who thinks it is is most likely chasing unicorns while the rest of us are busting our arses to create a life we love, we're proud of, and one that makes us want to get up every day and tackle a relentless 'to-do' list.

    Keep it up, the sacrifices you're making now will speak volumes down the road. YOU, my friend, are AMAZING.

  13. @financialsamura says:

    Andrea, thanks for sharing. If you make more now than you did at your job, is that not enough to not have to find a dayjob? How much is healthcare for you two?

    • Oh no, my paychecks were less than minimum wage when I left my job. So it was a no brainer – commute 5 days a week for nothing, or stay home for hopefully more than nothing. ::)My son has health coverage through his dad, and I have a private health and dental policy through Anthem for about $150 a month.

  14. Glad to hear you're happy. Don't discount or stop expecting "divine intervention" since you asked for prayer awhile back it has been coming your way : ) All the best for continued growth in your business.

  15. You have taken risks so many of us are afraid to take. Leaving "security" (which I don't actually believe your previous job provided you and was glad to read you left it) and exploring the sometimes frightening world of self-employment. I have never done something like that because I am not brave enough and I probably never will be. Rock on woman!

  16. Wow, I think it takes a lot of courage to be self-employed, and about finding your different strengths and exploring them. At my job I am not creative whatsoever but I'm such a creative person! I definitely hope in the future to get a job that could use some of my creative skills more, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens.

  17. eemusings says:

    I really do, and I'm lucky to be able to say that. Of course no job is perfect, but the downs for me definitely outweigh the uncertainty and the need to be constantly pitching for new work if I was to work for myself. Kudos to you for plugging along and ESPECIALLY for unlocking your passion!

  18. I haven't found my thing yet. I definitely don't love my job but I use the income to fuel my future future for now till my thing comes along. I think I may be looking for it the wrong way but I'm about to go back to school so that is a start.

  19. Freelance suits me. It suited me even when I didn't have much of it, because I knew how to live on little. I now have two contracts but that's no guarantee, either, since they could both go away.
    Right now I'm paid well to do what I love to do. Even when it makes me head-bangingly frustrated I still love it. So I'm willing to do this until the wheels fall off.
    Sure wish my health insurance were as cheap as yours, though. I pay about three times as much.

  20. I hope things work out for you. Even better would be if they worked out with your self employment.

  21. I was watching your transition from your day job into self-emloyment. I cannot believe it's been 6 months already! Wow, time does fly. I have to admit I admire and respect you for all that you are doing. You are doing it on your own terms, and that alone deserves huge respect. You rock, girl! Good Luck to you with your new design business.

  22. I think that unless you have walked away from a job that was sucking the life out of you, it is easy to judge. You did the right thing in leaving. They weren't paying you properly, and who knows what other issues they were having. A red flag for me would be they weren't billing properly, so what else weren't they doing properly. And could that impact your career, or even cause you to get in trouble.

    So good for you for walking away and sticking to your guns. Better stuff on the horizon.

  23. seedebtrun says:

    I think it will all work out for you in the end, Andrea..

    I love the new business site.. You are very talented with both design and social media (and writing, of course), and if you can find a way to lure some new clientele, you could be well on your way to long term self-employment success. I think it will happen..

    Jefferson

  24. So awesome!!! You are doing great and I am so impressed with the work ethic, even when the blog outlook was crappy, you stayed consistent, you kept doing what you do and you stayed true to your voice. Sweet! The web biz looks great and I'll definitely hire whenever my blog has a budget :). It's not that crazy to walk away from a career like yours, social work is demanding and it's compounded by the fact that you are often underpaid and overworked. A lot of people also "bring their clients home" with them, thinking about their issues and problems. I know, my mom was a social worker :) and she definitely wants to help everyone and it's hard for her to see a broken system and broken kids. Whew! We were supposed to be taking happy stuff! But really, I am sooooo happy for you. The thing about money showing up when you need it? It's so true. I've kept freaking out over the past couple months, and each time, the bills get paid, we have enough to buy groceries, or go visit family. I am so grateful for that and grateful for you as well. You asked whether my career is bringing me joy. Hmm, great question. Well, I don't love working for someone else, but I LOVE what I do and the field I am in. I definitely want to be in building and construction forever. I learn a lot everyday and I get to do different stuff all the time, but eventually I want to be working for a company where I get to be on-site, watching the building go up and being responsible for the site and costs and everything else (I get to do that some, but not a lot). But I gotta pay my dues so that's where I'm at right now. Underpaid but happy and confident/excited about the future!

  25. You are such an inspiration. I think that for some people it is quite easy to stand on their soap box or in their ivory towers and judge others. Most of the time they are pointing at you to keep the spotlight off themselves. I can't begin to put a value on the help you have provided to me. You have answered my questions and even chatted with me for endless hours about everything from blog design to the people at Wal-mart. You have become a dear friend virtually overnight. Keep your head up and keep doing what you're doing. Everything will continue to fall into place for you. A good deed never goes unnoticed.

  26. Great post. I am glad you are having such a positive outlook on life. I think it is not easy to do what you do but as long as you are happy, right? I hope you find everything you are looking for and more. Cheers!

  27. I think happiness is worth so much more than stability at times, and you're doing a great job pursuing your dreams! Stick with it! I'm sure you can build up a business emergency savings account in time — then you can pay yourself during the down times when income isn't as steady or when you have to wait on a check in the mail. Good luck in everything!!

  28. bogofdebt says:

    I think you should not listen to the negative people–just continue with what you are doing. It's working for you and if you are happy, go for it! I'm happy with my current job and plan on staying for awhile. But at my old job I was about a blink away from quitting with no other job in site. Thankfully, I moved on before that had to happen.

  29. Finance Yoga says:

    The site looks great Andrea… good luck with it, I am trying to do the same… maybe let my wife do some posts for me on Finance Yoga to lighten the load and give me time to diverse the income a little.

  30. I know the feeling of money showing up when I need it. I had a friend that one time told me that if he asked 100 girls out 1 would say yes. I guess in your case you might need to go for 400 jobs and then get the yes. The yes is on its way.

  31. Budget & the Beach says:

    I can relate to your post on so many levels. I too am a freelancer, although kind of pushed into it because I was laid off just over three years ago. It is a MAJOR rollercoaster. And I'm applying for both freelance and full time jobs, which is work on top of the freelance work we are already doing. I love working from home though. No commute and wearing whatever I want while I work. I have to say I don't love what I do though. I tried changing my career last year to another home-based business, which really hurt my finances, so right now I'm focusing on my original career until I'm more financially sound to pursue other passions. Good luck to you!

    • I think you touched on the worst part of this whole thing – applying for both types of jobs at the same time. I don't want my freelance work to disappear in case I don't find a job, but I also don't want to take on a ton of work in case I do get a job! It's a tough place to be in.

  32. insomniaclabrat says:

    I'm really loving what I'm doing right now, and I'm so glad to hear that you are too!

    I loved what you said about money always being there when you really need it- this is sort of a "theme" in my family. I think I've told you the story about the time when my grandma (a single mom with two sons) was freaking out because she couldn't afford to buy toothpaste, and then she got a sample of it in the mail, which lasted until her next paycheck.

    We always say that good things happen to good people, even in the worst of times…and I think you're good people :)

  33. I'm lucky – I am actually very happy at my job. I have been so unhappy I wound up on anti-depressants though, so… I understand why you are motivated to make your business work. All I can say is, your work speaks for itself, and you're motivated to make your business a success, which is half the battle. You'll do great. :)

  34. The best perk of you working from home is the 2 am gchat convos with me!

  35. American Debt Project sent me over here – I can't believe I've never visited your blog before! What a great post to start with. I quit my job 19 months ago, and while there have been ups and downs, I've never regretted my decision. The flexibility, like you mentioned, is amazing, as is more time with family and friends.

  36. belowhermeans says:

    We are all right here with you on this journey. You're doing great by just moving forward and not stopping.

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