When I was in college, I was always so envious of the people laying around the campus quads during the day.
Who were these people that didn't have studying to do, or classes to get to, or a job to get done? As someone who continuously held 2-3 jobs throughout college, signed up for every extracurricular possible, and graduated with a 3.7 GPA (trust me, I was bitter that wasn't a 4.0), I never had time to lay around in our campus quad.
Good times as a freelance fledgling
When I graduated from UNC and immediately started working full time for NMC, it just seemed right to keep up that busy schedule I had in college. I no longer had the additional jobs or extracurriculars that previously filled my time, but I did have freelance work.
I'm lucky enough to work for a company that allows me to do freelance in my spare time. So I kept a few clients I had started out with in college, and went from there. I never advertised my services except for on my website. Word of mouth brought me more and more business, and soon enough I was a full-fledged part-time freelancer. For the past three years I've had enough work to keep me busy with a freelance project at all times (it turns out web development is a needed skill - ha).
In the beginning I really enjoyed freelance work. It gave me a chance to exercise skills I wasn't using at NMC, gave me a break from design work, I met a lot of cool people starting up really cool new businesses. Most of all, it was really great to have that extra chunk of change in my pocket. Let's face it, I wouldn't have been able to buy as many clothes, hard cider, new dog toys, or travel as much as I did the last couple years without it.
The 3 a.m burden
Even though there have been a lot of benefits from freelancing, it's also became a burden. As soon as a gap would appear in my schedule, I'd freak out about the potential of having no future freelance projects and add two more projects to my list. And no, these weren't crappy filler projects. I've heard the conference talks about saying "no" and only taking on the right project or projects from good people. Trust me, I said no to many potential clients. There are just so many cool projects out there, and so many good people to help out.
Usually my scheduling came back to bite me every time. I made a lot of mistakes over the years figuring out timing for projects. Even if I scheduled everything correctly, clients would fall silent for several months and all pop back up at the same time. A few weeks ago I found myself juggling eight projects at once on top of my full-time workload. It was a scheduling nightmare.
Along with scheduling issues, I've realized I rarely work on a project that doesn't end in a headache or leave me in tears at 3 a.m. trying to figure something out before deadline. During one of my most recent late night tear-fests, Eric asked me what it was I enjoyed about the project. I had no answer for him. I didn't really need the money from the project, it wasn't something new or different that I hadn't worked on before, and it was causing me a heck of a lot more stress than my NMC work or any personal projects I could be working on. Eric has been pushing me for years to cut back on my freelance work, but it was just then that I realized what I should do.
Time To Let Go
After taking a few weeks to evaluate freelancing, I've come to the conclusion that I need to cut out the extra work. I've gotten in the habit of biting off more than I can chew, meaning my clients aren't getting as much personal attention they deserve. The stress from it has also become an unhealthy thing for me. No matter how much extra money I've made from it or new skills I've learned, it's time to let it go.
I'll of course still be wrapping up all of my current projects. I'll also be keeping a couple select clients, primarily friends who provide feedback quickly, are flexible with deadlines, and don't send work very often.
Despite all the joys freelance work has brought me, I'm excited to have a little more free time for myself. I want to re-do my own website, focus more on NMC work, start the Skillshare classes I've paid for but never have time to start, work on the personal projects I've put on the back burner in order to do client work.
And dang it, I want to go lay in the quad.