My Personal Road to Financial Wellness: What Freelancing Is Really All About


The following blog post is part of The Road to Financial Wellness blog tour. The Road to Financial Wellness is a three-month, grassroots campaign promoting financial empowerment on a national level and encourages people to pursue their dream lifestyle. Find out more about local events near you.

When I took the plunge into freelancing full-time last fall, approaching it as a yearlong experiment, I really didn’t know what I was in for. And although I had been hard at work building a solid relationship with money for as long as I could remember, learning to deal with money matters when self-employed is a completely different beast.

Sure, there is learning to work with income that ebbs and flows, budgeting for self-employment tax and your own healthcare, and creating your own routine and structure, which are all part of the rite of initiation that millions of the self-employed have gone through.

And as I am two-thirds into my experiment freelancing full-time, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about why I decided to try out freelancing in the first place. While I’ve never been big on building wealth, I’ve been deeply interested in being free to create a life that is more in step with my values.

Here are a few insights I’ve gained on how freelancing relates to financial wellness:

It’s Changed My Relationship With Money
Back when I was working a day job, you agree to working a certain number of hours for a set amount of pay. And you do whatever it takes to get the job done. I remember at one salaried job I worked diligently and was crazy about timing myself so that I was super productive. But how did I get rewarded? Did I receive a raise, or maybe got to go home early? Nope! I was just given more stuff dumped on my plate!

When you freelance you get paid for the value you bring, not the time you put in. Conversely, you can see the clear exchange between your time and money. Oftentimes I consider whether it’s more valuable to me to get paid X amount of money to write an article or keep that time to myself, whether to go on a hike, spend time with my friends, work on my fiction, or just lollygag.

Because I am pretty careful with my money, I feel like I have the freedom to make that decision instead of taking every job that comes my way. When I first started I felt compelled to take on every writing assignment that came my way, but soon realized if my heart wasn’t in it, I wouldn’t do my best work.

I Can Be There for Others
Now that I have more flexibility with my schedule, I’ve been able to be more available for my friends and family. I sometimes head over to my 81-year-old friend Marie’s house to get some work done in the middle of the day, and now that my mom is about to enter semi-retirement, I can carve out time during the week to help her with her transition.

I used to worry about having to take time off if one of my parents fell ill and needed me to take care of them. My work life and personal life is better integrated. With freelance I can ideally still work while being there for others. I’ve taken on the approach of being a minimalist freelancer, meaning I do my best to do enough to maintain financial wellness while having time for other aspects of my life. It’s a daily struggle, and I’m still working at attaining that.

I’ve Stopped Hiding Behind the Guise of Being Busy
For the longest time I didn’t have much career focus, and I didn’t think I could ever combine two of the things I loved the most: writing and helping others have better relationships with money. Besides holding a day job, I’ve always felt pressed for time to work on my passion projects. I felt as if my social life got in the way of focusing on my creative endeavors.  So I would make the excuse of being too busy when I felt like being a hermit.

And when I started getting paid to write about personal finance a few years ago, it was pretty amazing. I almost couldn’t believe my luck. And when I am not trying to hit deadlines,  I am able to make time to work on my passion projects.

But I have come to realize that for a long time I had been hiding behind my aspirations. I need people in my life, and I want to be better at maintaining relationships.

I am someone who values people but also needs a lot of time by herself to think, wander and create. And striking this balance can be a complex project. Being self-employed has enabled me to be more honest with myself, that I need people yet also need a lot of alone time.

Working hard at being financially healthy has given me the freedom to take the leap to freelancing fulltime. And while I create a new budget and structure to help me stay financially fit, I am also realizing how freelancing is a sort of portal to learn about myself and live in accordance with my values.

Illustration by Viet Vu

 

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11 thoughts on “My Personal Road to Financial Wellness: What Freelancing Is Really All About

  1. Jason Vitug says:

    I’ve been through this as well. I am someone who enjoys being around people but I also do need alone time. Financial wellness is really about how we define the quality of our life. I define that by the value I provide to others and the time I have to pursue my passions. Thank you for being part of my passion project.

  2. Jackie Lam says:

    Yes, it’s definitely challenging to strike a balance! 🙂

  3. I love what you said– stop hiding behind the guise of being busy! So easy to fall into that trap. I am loving this Road to Financial Wellness!

  4. Jackie Lam says:

    Amber! Yes it is all too easy! And it’s a struggle sometimes to go against the grain and be like, “You know what? I am going to be less busy, even a little lazy.” I am glad you’re enjoying the road to financial wellness. It’s gonna be a blast!

  5. Candi Sparks says:

    Awesome post – we’re all headed toward the “gig” economy and many will be unprepared were it not for this post. Great job!

  6. Freelancing is not for the faint of heart. I’ve been doing it for just under 10 years, and there have been busts and booms. But I agree that the flexibility and the accountability to yourself make it totally worth it!

  7. Jackie Lam says:

    Thanks for reading and for the kind words, Cindy! Agreed, that’s where things are headed. Let’s help each other out the best we can.

  8. Jackie Lam says:

    10 years? That’s incredible. Yes, I am quickly realizing how much grit and focus you need to thrive. 🙂

  9. Jackie Lam says:

    Thanks, Candi!

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