I love work. I want to continue working even after retirement.
But I also want to win a lottery so I can retire.
Not making sense? Hear me out.
I love doing the kind of work I do but I am not exactly a fan of the corporate culture. If you read my ode to freelancing, you would understand why.
Let me add something extra to what I wrote previously. I want to win a retirement lottery.. so I can retire and do my kind of work till the end of time. I do not have to worry about bills or putting food on the plate. I can concentrate on what I like, even if it might mean making less money. Yes, what I like, might not necessarily make me rich. It’s the hard fact of life. Not every interest pays well.
There are times I have wished wealth was distributed equally with everyone. So that each and every person living on this planet can do what they like, and not just the wealthy. I do not mean going on expensive holidays or owning luxurious homes. Just the basic freedom to do what one likes. That in itself can make anyone happy. But, that’s not how the world works, and it might never work that way. The top 1% own 43% of the world’s wealth. Society thrives on income discrimination. The fact is no one is self-made. It takes many people to make one man’s business successful, but all the monetary benefits go only to a select few.
Or, I have tried my best to. When there’s a genuine emergency, there is no option but to stay back.
Even at my first job, when a senior demanded I stay overtime to complete *his* work, I refused. I knew if he actually sat down to do his work, he wouldn’t require any help. He kept complaining about his age (he was in his 40s) and how he could not take too much burden at work anymore. This unreasonable emotional blackmail did not work either. The 40s is the new 30s or 20s or whatever you choose it to be. It is all in the mind. If you feel you are ageing and you cannot do much, then damn right, you cannot.
The end story is that I got what I wanted – not to work overtime.
I have to say I was privileged when I first started working. I was not in dire need of money. I had a support system. If I were desperate, I would have compromised more and said yes to a lot of work I did not want to do. Work was not a priority in my 20s. I was preoccupied with living my life, having fun, getting my heart broken, and spending all my money without saving a bit.
Many people compromise at work because they do not have a support system at home to fall back on. Maybe they are the sole earning member; maybe they are in a lot of debt. When the responsibilities pile on, which they will as you age, so does the burden of compromising. You tend to become more afraid of losing your job, and you play it safer and become more diplomatic.
I see many employees working overtime mainly to please their bosses. They take that first step – to work overtime. Their bosses never asked for it. I realized that once you start working overtime, there’s no going back. Your coworkers (and boss) would keep expecting you to put in those extra hours. “You have done it before, so why not now?“
Once you establish a boundary that you are available to work only during your scheduled hours, things become simpler. Everyone will stop nagging you to stay back. Your body will also nag you to leave work on time. Some stay back out of habit. They are used to working overtime, and it has become a part of their life now.
What makes us work harder than required might also be due to imposter syndrome. That feeling that you are not good enough and you need to try extra hard to safeguard your job. Some do this by working extra hours. But when the work you produce within your work hours is of good quality, working extra is really not required. Try to focus and give your work your full attention during work hours. This should be more than enough.
You might have to deal with people asking, “Leaving already?” when you exit on time. Pay them no heed. It’s your work-life balance that is at stake. If you feel working after hours is the only way to live, by all means, work overtime. If you wish to have a life outside of work, make it a point always to leave work on time! The ones who are spending too much time at office are creating the wrong standard for the rest who wish to maintain a work-life balance. Some (like my senior I mentioned at the start of this post) do not know proper time management. Or they are plain lazy. They spend hours chatting away with coworkers and then suddenly realize they have a lot of work to do at 4 PM. The rest who spend their working hours productively get reprimanded for leaving office on time—office politics at its best.
I am not as privileged as before. I need to work to earn my bread and butter. I do not have a robust support system, yet I cannot get myself to be at the office post my work hours. I have many interests – my job is only a part of it. To deprive myself of all other interests for the sake of my career is plain sacrilege.
To maintain sanity, pursuing your hobbies and interests is a must. Why wait till retirement to do what you like?
Having done it before, I know how fulfilling it can be. There are many advantages of being your own boss. You decide what projects to take up. You decide whether to say yes or no to a client. You decide how much time you want to spend on your work.
I started doing freelance work around 10 years back. I began my journey by carrying out some research on the best freelancer websites. Finally, I registered on Fiverr and instantly got some clients because of my portfolio. It was easier back then to find customers, unlike today, when the competition is fierce.
I was a freelance content writer. My work on Fiverr involved creating marketing copies for startups. My clients appreciated my work and gave me good reviews. Looking back, I am so proud of myself for getting the freelance writing gigs on my own. When I got my first $100 from freelancing, I felt on top of the moon. Frankly, even if it were just $10, I would have felt elated because this was proof that I could survive independently. It gave me confidence.
Throughout our life, we are on the lookout for confirmation that we are well equipped to face any challenges that come our way. We are skeptical, though, because we were never taught to venture out on our own. There was always someone to help us, guide us at every stage of our life – at school, competitions, college, corporate life. We could depend on someone (a parent or a teacher, or a manager) to help us out.
With freelancing, you are on your own.
You have to figure things out.
You have to decide how to get money.
You have to research and find out what sells.
It’s all you!
To be a successful freelancer, you need to hustle.
Needless to say, every little profit you get out of it feels like a big deal. Plus, the freedom to work from home and the ultimate control you have over your work is unmatched.
Freelancing is special. It gives you that sense of achievement and fulfillment when work starts coming your way. It is the feeling I yearn for now.
I stopped freelancing 2 years after starting it. The reasons being, my sleep cycle got messed up, and the pay did not match my hard work at the time. I would sleep at 5 AM and wake up at noon. There was no discipline in my life. I had a few passive income streams that paid a few bills, but more was needed. That’s when I decided to get back into the corporate world. I thought I would continue with my side hustles. But life had other plans. My work responsibilities at my day job increased. I had no time left for something I enjoyed.
Does freelancing count as work experience? Does it help your career? Let me tell you this. I got my job after the recruiter saw my freelancing work. All the hard work paid off. I know many freelancers (web developers, graphic designers, writers) getting a corporate job after building a solid portfolio of impressive projects. So I would consider it as a work experience. People are afraid of mentioning “freelancer” in their work resume. They are afraid that the recruiters might think it is a fancy way to say you haven’t worked for some time. The best way to prove naysayers wrong is by building a good portfolio of your freelancing work. No recruiter would say no to a freelancer who has done notable work.
Does freelancing pay well? Yes, it does. Freelancing is hard though, and it is not for everyone. Start small and easy. When you start getting overbooked for a month or two, increase your rate by 10-15%. You don’t have to wait till the annual performance review to get a raise!
Freelancing is the future of work. People are quitting big corporate jobs because working for yourself is mentally more peaceful. I would love to get back to it one day to be my own boss again.
There’s a funny quote out there that goes “I can’t wait to earn a lot of money and quit. So I can start doing the work I like.” Truer words have never been spoken.
We find it challenging to keep our professional and personal lives separate.
People say you should never talk about your personal problems at work; that your coworkers can use that info to bring you down. You never know who is plotting against you to climb that corporate ladder.
When it comes to bringing work home, though, things are a bit more relaxed. Many workers are guilty of committing this sin of not switching off post work-hours. We take it for granted that our loved ones would understand. No one is going to plot against you. There is no ladder to climb, except when the ceiling fan needs cleaning up, we need to fix a bulb or pull out something from a top storage unit.
The number one red flag that you are a workaholic is that you check your work emails during post-work hours and holidays. There is no urgency at work. There are no production issues. But there you are, checking your email like you are checking your fridge for something new.
I was guilty of this too.
I used to check my email after work hours. I wanted to know if my bosses replied. Sometimes the replies to my emails were neutral, sometimes positive, and sometimes negative. As expected, the negative responses were joy killers. Imagine facing anxiety during your day off. It is more than enough to ruin the rest of your day.
This is why I stopped checking work emails outside work hours.
Armed with the new understanding that checking emails would wreck my breaks, I consciously started staying away from work emails after the scheduled hours, on weekends and holidays. I would pull myself back from checking them. It was never easy, especially when you are anticipating a reply to an important email. But I would tell myself that enjoying the moment is of prime importance. If I were to find out I had tons of work for the next working day, I would spend my breaks coming out with an action plan. Breaks are not for making work plans! It is meant for rejuvenation.
Switching off from work made my holidays more enjoyable and relaxing. I was able to pursue my hobbies and also spend quality time with family.
I find many people around me committing this sin of checking emails post-work hours now.
A friend, during his vacation, worked almost every single day. He couldn’t stop checking his emails. Many like him tend to forget to create boundaries at work. It sends a message to your organization. That you, as a worker, are ready to work anytime, even if it is your vacation.
It is not the company’s responsibility to look after your well-being. They will never beg you to look after your own mental or physical health. They will never stop you from working after the scheduled hours or on holidays. That onus is on you!
I know many in their late 20s and early 30s who complain of backache. Each one of them works 10+ hours every day, and they have wrecked their health in the process. We overwork ourselves because we are brimming with energy, and we want to do impressive work. It is only over the years that the side effects start to show. People in their 30s and 40s are increasingly facing heart attacks. Stress is a significant contributor. There is no time to sit back and enjoy the pleasures of life. A fast-paced life only contributes to more stress.
The easiest way to kickstart your journey towards physical and mental well-being is by separating your personal and professional lives. Learn to switch off from work after the scheduled hours. If you cannot complete your work on time, learn proper time management, or better yet, ask for more time. Extra time for a project submission means improved deliverables.
The first step to post-work wellness is to sign out from your work emails.