Working Out: Why I've swapped full-time for freelancing

It was 2 pm on a Saturday afternoon. Here I was, splayed out across my bed with forehead buried in piles of damp pillows.

Outside, I imagined friends and co-workers lapping up the sparkling sunshine, taking carefree swigs from ice-cold six packs. Frolicking along the shores of Bronte, like a scene straight from a Coca-Cola ad. They weren’t checking their emails or scrolling through next week’s calendar. Their to-do list wasn’t making their pulse race or palms sweat.

To be honest, it wasn’t a sudden realisation. Similar to a pot on the stove, slowing coming to boil, the discontent had been simmering for a while.

I’d found myself in a career I’d never imagined would be mine, digital marketing. My weeks centred around client calls, endless WIPs and pointless catch ups, Facebook Ads and more spreadsheets and data then I’d seen since dropping out of year 10 maths. Every day felt frantic, juggling a thousand competing deadlines with no real sense of priority. My to-do list quickly spilled across 3 pages, daily.

In the midst of it all, I felt depleted. Mornings spent dragging my heels to the station, later crawling home to an evening melting into my couch with my brain softened like butter to the hum of The Bachelor. Work was never far away, waiting in my inbox and lurking in my thoughts at all hours of the day.

Making the decision to leave behind a stable, full-time job is never easy, particularly when you’re told you very good at what you do. I could see the path laid out before me, the milestones I’d hit and promotions I’d inevitably receive. The direction was clear and tempting, like walking through an Aesop store testing samples for face creams and lotions I’d never be able to afford.

But, my gut told me to slam on the breaks, make a U-turn and speed off into the blinding sunset of the unknown. And here’s why.

Finding Balance

If the idea of working a 38-hour week seems laughable, you’re not alone. The ABC reports full-time Australian workers lose up to $10,000 of income per year due to unpaid overtime.

In a 2016 survey conducted by the ATO’s Centre for Future Work, full-timers were found to be clocking in over five additional hours per week in unpaid overtime, including everything from missed lunch breaks to those few hours of answering emails over the weekend.

Small actions add up, and the bad habit of working after hours is all too common in many modern workplaces.

"Employers now expect unpaid overtime. It has become part of the landscape of work in Australia," says Professor Andrew Stewart, University of Adelaide.

I’ll be the first to admit guilt here. My job bled horrendously into my personal life, swallowing up hours of time during the nights and weekends. Interestingly, my productivity was always low in these ‘after hours sessions’, mostly spent scrolling, refreshing, waiting for an urgent email to hit my inbox.

The obligation and expectation to assume an ‘always-on’ mindset destroyed my wellbeing. Visits to the gym became just another chance to check my emails, and yoga classes offered a full 60 minutes of uninterrupted rumination of anxious thoughts. The inability to switch off became my downfall.

One of my key motivators for ditching the 9-5 has been this unhealthy obsession with cultivating a state of ‘being busy’. I’m a big believer in striving for productivity and optimising my time, yet struggled to find flow in a work culture of reactivity.

My goal as a freelancer is to strike a balance between responsiveness and deep work, a challenge I’m going to explore in more detail in my future blogs.

The Importance of Passion

The sound of my alarm became a daily siren, hurling my body into an immediate state of readiness. I would dread the inevitable onslaught of the day ahead, and quickly began to ask myself ‘what am I working towards?’

This question of ‘why?’ sparked a frightening realisation. I’d fallen into a rabbit hole, forgotten to ask myself ‘is this job really for me?’ and simply became stuck in the motions of making it to the next weekend. I was counting down the hours to home time every day.

Satisfaction is something that’s hard to define, yet is so crucial to feeling a sense of fulfilment in our lives. Happiness consultancy, Rise’s workplace happiness survey indicates two out of three Australians value happiness over work (or, interestingly, money). Further, seven out of 10 believe they would be happier in their job if they felt the work was making an impact.

For me, passion means writing and sharing stories. It’s more than just writing 60 characters of copy for a Facebook post. It’s diving deep into a topic, uncovering a discussion in a current cultural issue or interviewing an artist about their latest exhibition. Hours seem to evaporate when I’m in the zone.

And that’s what I’m making this career change to freelance writing. Zero certainty and absolutely no financial security, here I come!

So, what’s next?

I know I’m not alone when it comes to wanting to ‘follow your dreams’, so I want to explore the multi-faceted reality of working in 2019. I’ll be using this series ‘Working Out’ on my blog to tackle topics such as burnout, our obsession with starting a side-hussle, why we don’t all wanna be a #GirlBoss and how to make your working life a whole lot happier.

Until next time.