By Susannah Noel
A month ago, I took one step closer to my dream of being a full-time freelance writer: I went down to half-time at my day job as a marketing manager, with the intention of using my newfound time to build my freelance copywriting business.
Two weeks ago, after the initial thrill of having more time to sleep and exercise, I realized I had something else: panic.
The cold, hard truth is that being half-time gives me, well, half the money. And building a business is slow work; so far, I have no new clients. Instead of feeling entrepreneurial and in control, this move to part-time has made me just feel . . . scared.
There is a well-worn story about a young woman during olden times who vows to see the world and sets out from her comforting village with her trusty mare and some dry biscuits. She realizes, a week or so into her journey, when she’s hungry and scared of marauders, that she’s made a terrible mistake. Only she knows, on the deepest level, that she can’t possibly go home.
Legend or no, that’s exactly how I feel. Although I’m supposed to now have several extra hours a day to build up my writing career, I never really feel them. I just pick up the boys early and take a spin on the treadmill, and there goes my extra time. I’m living off credit cards, and I have no real plan in place.
But I can’t go back. I was burning out so fast I could smell smoke. Working a full-time job an hour away from home while taking care of my two kids was an exercise in exhaustion. I still long for that gilt-edged freelance life — making my own schedule, doing interesting work, and earning solid money, all while keeping up with the boys’ school, karate, and playdates.
It’s come to my attention — through a couple of excellent books and the ministrations of a dear friend — that I’m somewhat lacking in the spirituality department. I don’t necessarily mean religion, but the practices and rituals that keep me in touch with my core values and remind me of a higher purpose, whatever I feel it to be.
In fact, I’m not even sure I know what my core values are. And higher purpose? I want to glibly say, “Less work, more money,” but I know that’s a cop-out.
And yet, I do feel the need to be guided by something deeper — something that can give me courage as my horse and I stumble through the vast forest.
Loving my kids to pieces and wanting to give them a healthy home with the most awesome mom ever is a great starting point. But it has to go further than that. I need to explore what else, in addition to my children, I consider most important. Until I do that, I’ll be driven by the understandable but unbalanced need to achieve, achieve, achieve.
Despite what my brain tells me in the middle of the night, I have come a long way. For instance, a year ago, I would never have imagined I’d have a writing mentor or be guest blogging on one of the top 10 blogs of 2010/2011.
If I simply keep taking baby steps, then eventually the trees will thin out and I’ll come out of the dark wood. I’ll have some clients, I’ll be actively networking online and in person, and I’ll be making real money from my freelance writing. (Scheduling my second phone conversation with Carol will also provide a huge boost.)
And as I move toward that goal, instead of getting caught up in the worries of income, clients, and schedules, I need to develop an understanding of my core values, and then make it a habit to renew my commitment to them, regularly. I also must take time every day to recover from the stress of my hectic life. This should be just as much a priority as reading yet another blog or listening to one more podcast about how to improve my Vermont copywriter website.
The dream is still alive. With my horse and my blossoming spirit — as well as a business loan so I can stop living off credit cards — I’ll get there yet.
Susannah Noel is a Vermont SEO copywriter.