What Actually Happened When I Gave Up A Giant Chunk Of My Income

You may have looked at the title and thought, “But, how?” We are all conditioned to think that more money means more happiness, and while this can be true for some, for others it just does not create the happiness you’d expect. Let me explain. I was about five years into freelancing in social media marketing, public relations, and content creation when I finally was making a decent living. I had about eight clients and I was really doing great — on the outside. Internally, I was about to have a nervous breakdown. And I did. The problem was, I was doing a lot of work for different people, building my portfolio, not settling for anything less than perfection with my work, and ultimately making moolah, but it did not matter.

The tradeoff was I was working at 3 a.m. some nights, working through meals with a fork hanging out of my mouth while I completed project after project, never taking a day off even while on vacation, switching between too many different tasks, and not giving my own self the love and focus I was giving all this work. None of these were faults from anyone but myself, but I was convinced if I did not put forth perfect results, I’d lose clients and money. I started sleep-walking, having night terrors, and then paranoia eventually set in. Before you know it, I was in a doctor’s office with shingles and a therapist’s couch looking for some help and guidance to get my physical and mental health back in order. This all came crashing down after one morning when I had called the crisis hotline and couldn’t focus or calm down, but, I do remember the one thing I could think about was the money I wasn’t making that day. All this over chasing that damn dollar, but it felt so good seeing the cash flow in and getting praised on my extreme work ethic. But when you are going full speed ahead, are you really feeling anything until it is too late? 

I had to let go of my idea of success, which was money being saved and seeing more flow in regularly. I professionally parted ways with some of my clients I loved and walked away from more potential new clients I would have enjoyed working with. I closed my website and shut myself off from so much for months and hibernated in a swirling mess of depression, anxiety, and a very, very paltry bank account. The irony is I was afraid of this happening, but this is exactly what I needed to happen in the long run. I won’t lie, I felt like a failure because I now was making a fraction of what I was — and that is how our society views success. But then, I started to feel something different. I finally felt free. I was seeing way less money come in, but I was feeling much richer overall. I had time to enjoy myself, even if it was just a walk in the morning before I got to my remaining clients’ projects or visiting my parents without having to step away on the computer for hours at a time.

Amazing! What did I do to prepare myself for a very lean and sad season? I reached out to friends to let them know I wasn’t okay. I utilized my network and met with my financially-savvy friends who knew what I needed in terms of budgeting, saving, and planning because I still had bills to pay and needed to eat. I asked for advice from business coaches on how to better prepare myself to get back out there when I was ready with a quality over quantity focus to my work. Basically, I networked, but not just for my business but for myself, too. I put my needs out to the universe and people were there to help raise me up. I had to swallow my already depleted pride and find new ways to find success, even in just getting out of bed and seeing some money in my bank account during my darkest moments. Money helps pay for a lot of the essentials in our lives, but that means nothing if you are not a functioning human. If this entire season of “less is more” can allow me to help others not let their own experiences turn into that, then let me be your mentor and let me remind you to take care of yourself and the money will follow.

Remember:

  • Success is not a dollar amount. It cannot be measured in dollars and cents;
  • Your body knows best, take a step away when you feel you need to. This isn’t a weakness, this is just taking a step back for continued future success;
  • The money will always be there, plan for those rough patches through savings and budgeting. Your mind and body will thank you for the time to recuperate when needed; 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help, advice, or someone to sit down and help you figure out a plan for upward growth, both financially and within yourself;
  • Most importantly, love yourself.

Why am I sharing this? I don’t want to see you burn yourself out to chase the dollars out there. Whether you work in an office or as an entrepreneur or freelancer, you need to focus on your self-care and love before anything else. Am I cured? Probably not. I still bring my laptop everywhere and sometimes can’t seem to unwind or feel an urge to turn projects in quickly and perfectly, but I have tried and succeeded in eliminating many of the doubts that come with tying my success and money together. I still make less than I did, and I’m still timid to let myself go completely back into the lion’s den of freelancing, but I know one day I will make my way back up with the help and advice of those who put their hands out when I needed to get pulled out from the abyss.

Image via Unsplash

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