It’s been close to three years since I started as a freelancer. I graduated university quite late; I was 28 (this is a topic for another time). During my studies of International Business I did a 7-month internship at a company specialized in measuring and improving service. I won’t say which company, it doesn’t matter. But I really enjoyed my internship. When I ended my internship in 2013, I didn’t know I would end up there again to write my Bachelor thesis. And I kind of stuck around. They hired me as a project manager. I loved the work I did, I really liked my coworkers and I was happy to have a job. I worked 40 hours a week, give or take.
Heading towards a burnout
Things changed, and like many companies that want to grow, there was a lot of reorganization. It eventually meant I had to travel an hour each way, which in reality was more like 1,5 hours, because traffic on the highway is no joke here in the Netherlands. Now my boss at the time would let us drive during work hours, but of course this wasn’t ideal, because it would mean we would have 3 hours a day less time to finish our work. Where other people had 40 hours, we had 30. Now, I do work at quite a high pace, but it meant that I could never rest. And let’s be honest, sitting in traffic for hours every week is no fun either.
After two years I noticed that my mental health was suffering from the stress. I had some health related issues and I decided that enough was enough. I’d seen many people around me burn out and I knew that if I didn’t do something, I’d be next.
The choice to become self-employed
I quit my job and I had two options: go work for another company closer to home or become self-employed. I’d always had this dream of working for myself. It never came of it because I got a job straight out of university; a job that I loved. I did the calculations and thought about the pros and cons. I talked to my husband and I realized it’s now or never. We were in a very good financial position for me to try it out and if it didn’t work out, I could go back and find another job.
One thing led to another and here I am, three years later, just happier than ever. I still work, I still make a good income, but here are the things that changed my life.
As a highly sensitive person I get sensory overload. A lot. Much quicker and worse than the average person. So this means I need longer to recharge my battery for a shorter amount of time being exposed to “noise” and tension. I get to set my own work hours/days, so I immediately gave myself a three day weekend to recharge and this has made a world of difference. Fridays I get the house all by myself and I can recharge for three days over the weekend. This means that on Monday my battery is full and I happily start my workweek!
This is actually twofold. I can’t really function very well in an environment where I’m surrounded by people who are talking. Even if they’re not talking to me. It really messes with my concentration. If I am home, I just have silence or music on and this is the way I concentrate best. So I can do my work much better. But also, I am a total morning person. My regular work hours used to 9am till 6pm. My brain always got foggy around 4pm. I would find myself staring at the clock and not be productive, whatsoever. Now, I usually start work at 7am and usually work until about 1pm or 2pm. This is when I am most productive and get most done. After that I close my laptop, forget about work and do other things that require less brainpower.
I always loved my job, but what I love most about being self-employed is that I get to do a lot of different things. All things that I enjoy doing. I may be working on a translation, do some project coordination and write a blog in one day, and the next I will do some transcription or other types of content creation. I love every second of it because I can do more of what I enjoy.
Another amazing pro of being self-employed is that there is no more stress around when you start working. I do have set times but I don’t always stick to it and that’s okay. There’s nobody to tell me off if I start an hour later because my body needed some extra sleep that day. It also means no more sitting in traffic, which is the mother of all sensory overload! And if I do sit in traffic, I don’t stress about being late for work. If I have another appointment, I will move my work hours around so I can go to that appointment without too much hassle.
I never realized how big of an effect these little moments of stress can have on your health and happiness. So I’m extremely thankful and glad that I get to live out my dream in the best way possible!