There will be always more work to do

Earlier this week, I discussed how starting a freelance writing career changes everything. By going into business for yourself, you end up taking on a lot more responsibilities and you might miss out on the comforting gossip of water cooler. However, one of the biggest changes that most people will encounter when they start freelancing for the first time is how your business will come to consume your very being. It will become an inseparable part of you.

When I had a regular job, and this includes my experience with the Co-op program during university, I was largely able to leave my “work” life behind at the office. Even if I had projects on my plate that had to be addressed the following day, I could largely “clock out,” go home and have a reasonably leisurely evening. When you run your own freelance business, though, things are different. I’m coming from the perspective of a freelance writer, but it could just as easily apply to business coaches, consultants, web designers or whoever else.

The thing is that the “freelance lifestyle” really is all-consuming. When you are anywhere near your home office, you feel compelled to work. To some extent, it may be true that you “only have to work when you want to,” but as I’ve stated before, you feel like you should be working every opportunity that you get, because you can work at just about any time. The guilt factor of “neglecting” your work can eat you up inside. You can feel bad for taking a lunch break or stepping away for a stroll around the block. And even when you can overcome that feeling, even when you are not actively working, there is a good chance that you are thinking about work.

This happens to me every time I go traveling. I suppose this makes sense when it’s a business trip, but it hits me just as hard on vacations too. During my honeymoon in Europe, I felt compelled to check my email every chance I got. I concerned myself with the needs of my clients and I wanted to make sure that they were suitably addressed. I concerned myself with keeping this blog updated, as I feel a certain responsibility to post here six times a week.

It’s become the kind of thing where it’s not really about life-work balance anymore; it’s far more about life-work integration. The distinction is blurrier than ever. And yes, taking care of Beyond the Rhetoric is both work and pleasure. Writing is both work and pleasure, though it’s naturally more work when that writing is for clients and not for myself. Even so, I have come to define who I am based on the career choices that I have made. I’m sure I am not alone on that.

And it’s not just about what I do for work that defines and consumes me, but also how, why, when and where. I don’t complain about a commute, because I don’t really have one. I don’t talk about looking forward to the weekend, because the concept of a “weekend” doesn’t really exist. And I don’t fight to get vacation time, because that doesn’t really exist either. It is what it is and, as with all other aspects of our existence, my life as a freelancer is entirely what I make of it.