My Most Valuable Asset is Time
I’m about 30 pages into "The 4-Hour Workweek" (Tim Ferriss), and I’m frankly feeling very inspired. I just had a rough weekend, where I worked about ten hours and felt exhausted for the other 38. This isn’t too strange for me. I have a chronic illness that means I’m next to useless most of the time, which is why I quit my job and started freelancing full time. It’s easier for me to make a strict deadline without a strict daily schedule.
“Oh you need this tomorrow morning? Great, I’m going to work for an hour, take a walk with my dog, work another two hours, take a nap, see a friend, and then work until 11pm.”
This is how I can be at my most productive while still taking the time to be healthy. At the same time, I’m working on my feelings of guilt and inadequacy around what is traditionally defined as a work day. Being paid hourly or by project, some people will balk when they hear my rate. “If you make that much per hour, why aren’t you rich?” Or sometimes, “Then, why can’t you give me a significant discount?”
The fact of the matter is that I work about three hours for every one hour that I’m paid for. As a consultant, I have to find new work and send proposals, maintain my network, manage my finances and check up on invoices, and more – all of which is unpaid. I also end up doing a lot of favors for professionals like me. I’m not that great at web design, but if I find one of my friends a website project they might forward me a digital marketing client they found.
Dealing with the Guilt
What this comes down to is that I’m in a non-traditional field (e.g., social media) and working in a non-traditional role (e.g., as a self-employed consultant). As someone who grew up expecting to work 30 - 40 years for the same company before retiring, it can be quite disconcerting. For one thing, I’m not preparing to retire. I’m preparing my finances so that if something happens, whether a temporary flare-up or a long-term disability, I’ll survive.
In this economy, I don’t think I’ll ever stop working. But, as I get older, it will become harder to hustle like I am now.
All this brings me back to the first couple of pages of "The 4-Hour Workweek." I’ve read many self-help, entrepreneurship, sales, and marketing books. In fact, I read a lot of books in general – I finished three last week. My shelves go from "Contagious" (Jonah Berger) to "How to Win Friends and Influence People" (Dale Carnegie) to "The Art of Social Media" (Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick). What strikes me about Ferriss’ book is that it’s really relevant to my current circumstances, my industry, and the economy we live in.
Time is Finite
Having a chronic illness has changed things for me significantly. My life expectancy has decreased by a decade. I almost died twice last year (thanks mom for coming over when I was incoherent). I had to quit my day job or lose my mind.
So, reading Ferriss’ book, I’m struck with one thing: the lack of time. This past year and a half, I’ve come very close to seeing the end of my time. I could despair – I often did, and sometimes still do. Or, I could make the most of what I have.
That means making things work in the gig economy. I’m excited to finish the book and will get around to a formal review when I’m done. For the meantime, I feel empowered in a world that became a lot less secure for me. And, that’s alright.