Change isn’t Easy (Thank Goodness)

June 24, 2015
change-isnt-easy

I don’t know how to write this post, so I’m just going to write it.

What a great intro, eh? Have you ever read anything so boring? I can’t help it. There’s no time to be brilliant. I’m a total scatterbrain right now. Since sharing the news with you that I quit my job and will soon be entering the world of full-time freelance, my life has been go go go. I’ve been working 12-hour days, trying to finish some projects and hand over my work, as well as starting some of my new freelance projects and trying to get outside. It’s been a whirlwind – and a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I’m so excited to switch over to full-time freelance next week, but am also scared to say goodbye to my team and the comfort you feel when you know a job like the back of your hand.

On Monday morning, I’m going to wake up and work for myself… and that’s freaking terrifying.

I wish I could write one of those posts that says it’s going to be amazing and list all the reasons why. I wish I could be one of those “thought leaders” who can make themselves sound like a rockstar. You know the ones I’m talking about. Their “about” pages make them sound like the type of person you want to be, with the perfect life, perfect online career and perfect family to boot. They look great, eat healthy, have a simple schedule where they barely work yet still make lots of money, and overall just seem to be living the dream. I thought that when I quit my job and entered self-employment I was supposed to write a post that would emulate that life. But I can’t…

…because quitting your job and transitioning into working for yourself is hard.

My desk is covered in crumpled up sticky notes, pages ripped out of notebooks, four pens, two dead batteries, a butter knife, a glass of water and two books I keep reading the first 15 pages of before giving up. Most of those sticky notes have the same things written on them two or three times, because I’ve constantly been rewriting my to-do list and trying to pare it down. The desktop on my computer is covered in half-finished documents and spreadsheets. Oh, look… there’s also a hair elastic by my mouse. I haven’t put makeup on in well over a week, I forgot to shower for two days once twice, and I keep getting headaches because I can’t seem to remember to put my glasses on.

The only things that seem to be going right are that I’ve been making a green smoothie every morning, drinking tons of water throughout the day and getting 6-7 hours of sleep each night.

(It’s the little things… right?)

While looking at the mess that’s been strewn across my desk all week, I’ve been asking myself one question: what the heck did I sign-up for? And from there, my thoughts spiral. Is it always going to be this hectic? Will things calm down on Monday, when I free up 40-45 hours/week? Or is it just going to get crazier? Sure, I have lots of work lined up for the next 4-6 months… but what’s going to happen after? Am I going to get any new clients? What if I don’t? Will I be able to continue investing? Will I have enough in savings to cover me if I don’t get paid for 1 month? 3 months? 6 months? Omg, why am I giving up a steady paycheque? Is this going to be a huge financial mistake!?

It’s taken a few days, but I’ve finally realized that all my fears stem from one thing: change, and the uncertainty that comes with it.

What I do on a daily basis is going to change. I won’t log into my old work email and tackle my usual projects. Instead, I’m going to have to prove to a few new companies that I’m a writer/editor worth working with. I won’t be able to write posts based on information that’s already stored in my brain, after having written about it so many times before. Instead, I’m going to have to do more research and think outside of the box, before I put pen to paper. And I won’t get steady paycheques semi-monthly anymore or know how to budget. Instead, I’m going to have to send out invoices and wait for the money to come in, before I figure out what to do with it.

Basically, I’ll be disrupting all of my habits – and that’s a good thing.

When you develop a habit, your mental activity actually decreases. You go on auto-pilot, because your brain doesn’t need to think about what it’s doing anymore – it just does it. I’ve felt as though I was running on auto-pilot for months, and it took some time and reflection for me to realize that is when I start to feel unhappy at work. It’s not any company’s fault. And really, it should feel great to be an “expert” at something. But as soon as I hit that sweet spot where I’ve learned all I can and just hit cruise control, I start to feel like I need a change. By making the decision to become a full-time freelancer, I’m essentially signing up for that change to be constant.

And you know what? For as stressed out as I’ve been this week, and as much work is on my plate (and mess is on my desk), I am fired up!

Half of those sticky notes on my desk? They are filled with blog post topics for new clients, and ideas for Blonde on a Budget and Rockstar Finance. The incomplete text documents and spreadsheets? Worksheet templates, content strategy proposals, income projections and budgets. In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg says that when you enter a new environment where your habits are disrupted, it’s possible your brain actually works harder. I always find that I’m more inspired when I’m travelling, and now I can see how this same truth will apply to my new career as a freelancer. Without the “habit” of having a steady paycheque come in, I now need to hustle – and I can’t wait to start.

Of course, all my fears are still there. I’m still scared clients will fire me or won’t be able to pay me. I’m scared I’ll work too many hours and won’t have a life, at least while getting started. I hate not being able to see into the future to know if I’ll have any worked lined up in 6 months. I’m terrified I’ll fail and wind up working at Starbucks. And I’m seriously worried about how my budgeting techniques will have to change (which I’m going to write about next week). But at the end of the day, all those fears are outweighed by my excitement, because I am so ready for this challenge and can’t wait to see how I grow as a person/freelancer, as a result.

  • Digging myself out of debt showed me how much determination I have.
  • Living on a tight budget forced me to become more resourceful.
  • Moving so many times has helped me become more flexible/adaptable to new environments.
  • Losing weight taught me that I’m in control of my body and my health.
  • Not drinking alcohol continues to teach me that I don’t need to be under any influence to have/be fun.
  • Giving up shopping for a year proved I have more willpower than I thought I did, and I’m happier when my mind isn’t focused on “stuff”.

All of those situations forced me to change my bad habits, change my life and push myself outside of my comfort zone, as a result. I had different concerns and fears throughout each challenge, but many of those stemmed from the same thing: change, and the uncertainty that comes with it. Quitting my job and switching over to full-time freelance is no different. I don’t know what I’ll learn about myself over the next 6 months, or where I’ll be in terms of work, but I’ll hustle until then and get back to you.

I didn’t know what the point of this post was, when I first started writing it… I guess I just wanted you to know that I’m human and not a budgeting/minimalist robot. I also thought that maybe, somewhere out there, one of you might be thinking about making the career jump over to full-time freelance, and need to hear that it’s ok to have concerns. You don’t have to have all the answers, and I am certain we will make mistakes; that’s just part of the privilege that comes with being human. So be it. :)

What area(s) of your life have you changed recently, and how has it changed you, as a result?

  • Rob June 24, 2015 at 5:06 am

    Cait, you read it here first. I can guarantee you that six months from now you will look back on these words of yours and giggle yourself silly for worrying whether you will make it or not. Trust me!

    Look, buddy, over my career I changed employers 12 times and each time it was initially exciting but still nerve wracking. You too are changing employers. The only difference is that you are your own employer. Change isn’t easy. It isn’t comfortable. But life in general isn’t comfortable. We all need challenges to grow and not stagnate. Sure, changing jobs is risky but this is where you have to believe in yourself. Look back.
    Have you not accomplished all the goals that you set your mind to accomplishing? Have you miserably failed any one time in the past? No! Ok then, so live one day at a time, right?

    Look it’s a known fact that many a successful actor, comedian, singer, etc. has confessed that often before they go on stage they are total basket cases of doubt. But once out there they calm down and consistently perform brilliantly. Now I’m not saying that you won’t at times have setbacks. Everyone does. But long term it’s how you handle yourself that will count and you will do just fine.

    Another tip (from personal experience): every new job, every new task, every dramatic change in routine does not easily happen overnight and become comfortable and routine. I always allow myself at least 3 months to “settle in” to a new way of doing things. You’ll find that you’ll need some time as well, working free lance, to do the same. I have no doubt whatsoever though that you will ace this challenge. Hell, for someone who got totally out of major debt as fast as you did, overcoming many challenges along the way, this should be a walk in the park. Right? So, to bore you again with my motto: don’t sweat the small stuff! :-)

    • Cait Flanders June 25, 2015 at 11:06 pm

      Haha, your motto doesn’t bore me, Rob… it’s always a good reminder! It’s just hard to remember what the “small” stuff is sometimes. But I do hope I look back at this post six months from now and laugh; that would be a great feeling. :)

  • Jen Ferris June 24, 2015 at 6:22 am

    Oh Cait:

    I can feel your anxiety and your excitement at the same time. Your words hit me in the pit of my stomach. I’m feeling it all, too. While I am not at the point of walking away from a day J O B, I understand those feelings, well.

    There are a great number of areas in my life that I require to be constant, but in the other areas … I love change. In fact, I need change. I love the high I get. I love the excitement of something new and unfamiliar. I love the challenge. And I love being pushed out of my comfort zone. My most recent change is in my diet. I have been consuming more natural and healthy fats and more protein. I have eliminated grains, for the most part, with the exception of special holidays and celebrations. Mentally and physically, I feel 100 times better. I have greater mental clarity and focus. I can concentrate more easily and longer. I’m finding more connections between ideas and writing is getting easier for me, once again.

    You know what??? I think you are a “Rock Star!!” For me, you are. You represent truth, realness and genuineness. You demonstrate integrity. You’re dedicated and have commitment. And you’re a hard worker. Most other website biographies aren’t relatable for most of us, nonsuperhumans. Most other “About” pages seem to focus on the glory and triumphs and successes. For me, there just isn’t enough of the real down and dirty deep-in-the-trenches truths. Oh there’s a lot of failure pornography stories out there on the interweb, but those are just the marketing tactics playing out rather than the day-to-day life struggles which we have witnessed by following you …. or in my case, spending 2 days binging on your content.

    I’m confident you will find your proper groove with the freelancing lifestyle. Oh, and I am so looking forward to hearing about all the adventures through this journey.

    • Cait Flanders June 25, 2015 at 11:11 pm

      You’re right about the high that comes with big changes, Jen – and I’m craving it! And thank you for all the kind words in this post. I laughed at your reference to failure pornography stories, haha, but it’s so true! Why can’t we all just be REAL and show that life isn’t glamorous? We’re all trying to navigate this same life, just on slightly different paths. I wish more people realized that we’re all at the same level, and no one is better than anyone else… anyway, that’s a tangent for another time. Looking forward to our chat next week!

  • Katie June 24, 2015 at 6:33 am

    Preach. I’m not self employed, I’m unemployed. The last 3 years I’ve worked in my parent’s business, and instead of getting on autopilot, I had the flexible schedule to do new things like get yoga sculpt certified to teach, coach high school dance team, and learn how to do a triathlon. Now I’m job searching and have been accepted into an MBA program, which means I have to relearn how to learn in a classroom. You will figure this out. I will figure out my stuff. It will be okay, and if we work at Starbucks and get a great deal on coffee, at least we will be properly caffeinated!

    • Cait Flanders June 25, 2015 at 11:13 pm

      Katie, that sounds amazing! Congrats on getting yoga sculpt certified, specifically, and your experience with triathlons. How inspiring. And let’s make a pact: if we “fail”, we’ll apply at the same Starbucks, so we can chat about next steps over espresso. :)

  • Alyssa @ Generation YRA June 24, 2015 at 6:49 am

    Cait,

    I sincerely commend you for writing a post opening up about your uncertainty for change, and anticipation to break from routine. Outward appearances, superstar about pages, and the scrolling of social media projections can be deceiving! Viewing the string of positives can make it challenging to realize that behind-the-scenes there may be disruption, chaos, and the negative. It’s encouraging to read about the realness that takes place, because in one way or another we can all relate. What draws me to your work and corner of the internet is your realness. The sound reasoning you provide with every post. Your dedication to reaching out to a widespread audience and encouragement for them to make positive changes. I do not have any doubts that clients will recognize such qualities (and more!) as you embark on your journey as a freelancer. There will be great highs and potential deep trenches along the way, but by disrupting your habits I think you are going to discover a new clarity. One that will allow you to push your talents and allow them to transcend beyond the everyday routine that once was. I am incredibly excited for you, and will be thinking of you next Monday when you officially start your amazing path as a freelancer! :)

    • Cait Flanders June 25, 2015 at 11:16 pm

      I hope you are right about all of those things, Alyssa – and some of it, I’m already starting to feel. Specifically, the clarity it’s going to bring. I’m *this* close to being done and my creative juices are already flowing! I can’t wait to see where it takes me, and where this new career path will lead me to next. Thank you so so so much for being such a positive online friend. Hope we can connect in-person in the near future! :)

  • Laura June 24, 2015 at 7:05 am

    Cait – it’s so cool you are doing this. I’ve got a huge change coming up (moving to Vancouver, thank you for your emails!), and I have a lot of the same feelings. Hearing others go through the same thing is pretty comforting, so thank you for being open and honest. As long as you are honest with yourself and continue to check in, you’ll be just fine. And really? 6 months of steady work set up is FANTASTIC.

    One thing I’ve found that is super helpful when stressed and anxious is meditation. If you haven’t tried it, give it a go. It’s hard but there is a bunch of information out there and the Headspace app is a good place to start!

    • Cait Flanders June 25, 2015 at 11:20 pm

      Yes, I definitely need to bring meditation back into my daily routine – thank you for that reminder, Laura! I was doing so good at the beginning of the year, then fell off track in the spring. It’s time to get back into it. And my friend David actually just sent me a copy of his newest book Making Things Clear. It might interest you! http://www.raptitude.com/2015/05/making-things-clear/

  • Our Next Life June 24, 2015 at 7:06 am

    Thanks for this, Cait. Even for those of us not thinking of freelancing (at least not yet), we need posts like this. It’s so tempting to project only the best, curated aspects of oneself online, and much harder to be completely honest. To lay bare our fears and insecurities. You have a big megaphone, and it’s so inspiring to see you using it in the interest of honesty and openness, not in service of ego or papering over insecurities. The world would be a better place if we’d all do as you did here. Thank you for leading by example! (And you totally know this, but we’re all rooting for you! Good luck in the transition to freelancing, not that you need it. 😉)

    • Cait Flanders June 25, 2015 at 11:29 pm

      This comment made me blush! I don’t really know how to reply other than to say thank you. I certainly don’t know how to paper over my insecurities… sometimes, I think that’s a huge fault of mine, but I also see how being vulnerable can be helpful to others. I wanted to write a post that listed all the things I was excited about – and I *am* excited about so much! – but first, I needed to process my insecurities. You’re right about one thing, though: it’d be a much different world if we were all willing to be a little more vulnerable and open up more to one another. <3

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach June 24, 2015 at 7:10 am

    Sounds a lot like my life now, except that I’ve been dealing with uncertainty for a lot longer. Having gone through many ups and downs, I have to say that you will make it work no matter what because you HAVE to. It’s that simple. You’ll be OK! I can’t stand reading the “perfect freelancer” bs either. To me when someone is writing that they have another person in their life who does work full time who they can fall back on…at least 9 times out of 10. Or have lower expenses because they share it with someone. The whole experience is tough, but I have no doubt you will find it rewarding. Breathe, and pace yourself!

    • Cait Flanders June 25, 2015 at 11:30 pm

      Yes! That’s what I needed to hear, Tonya. And I’ve followed your own journey for a few years now, and know you’ve always made it work… so if you can do it, I can do it. Now, it’s time to breathe. :)

  • Mackenzie June 24, 2015 at 8:01 am

    Very heartfelt and honest post, Cait. Good luck, you are going to rock this next phase of your life! :)

    • Cait Flanders June 25, 2015 at 11:30 pm

      Thanks, Mackenzie!

  • Catherine June 24, 2015 at 8:49 am

    You really are amazing. I can’t wait to see how well everything works out for you :) If you want change you’re going to have to get uncomfortable.

    • Cait Flanders June 25, 2015 at 11:31 pm

      Yes! Thanks for that reminder, Catherine. Tonight, I’m feeling a little more at peace with all of this… but I’m sure the roller coaster will reappear on Monday morning, hehe. At least I’m ready for it!

  • Michael June 24, 2015 at 8:57 am

    I can’t even imagine what a scary transition this is. I love the IDEA of being my own boss, but it’s terrifying. I’ve only been following along for a brief time but you seem to have the brains, determination, and drive to be an excellent employer/employee to yourself! Best of luck on your new journey!

    • Cait Flanders June 25, 2015 at 11:32 pm

      Thanks, Michael!

  • Devan June 24, 2015 at 9:22 am

    Thank you Cait, for sharing your experience so openly and honestly with all of us. Yes, change is scary, but it’s so essential to any kind of growth! You are very brave to strike out on your own, but you also seem very prepared, it’s not like you did this on a whim. Having six months of work lined up is awesome! I’ll be so excited to read about how you’re feeling at the end of that six months. I bet by then you’ll have more exciting things on the horizon that you haven’t even dreamed of yet! On a personal note, I wanted to say thank you for inspiring me to undertake a month-long shopping ban back in April. It was such an eye-opening experience for me and has led me to rethink a lot of my habits, reevaluate my personal goals and start making some positive changes in my own life! Please know that Blonde on a Budget has been a powerful positive force in my life over these last few months, and I am SO excited to see where you’ll go with the blog in the future. So when you have those inevitable tough days during this transitional time, please know that you really are making a difference in people’s lives! We’re all rooting for you and can’t wait to see what comes next!

    • Cait Flanders June 26, 2015 at 10:21 pm

      Yes, you’re right – I definitely didn’t do it on a whim. But I didn’t expect to be doing it so soon! I always thought “maybe one day, maybe next year, etc.” but didn’t actually have a plan. Then things just sort of lined up faster than I could’ve expected them to, so I decided to take the leap. Eek! I’ll definitely report how it’s going over the next few months, and at the end of this year.

      Now, I’m SO glad to hear the shopping ban inspired you, Devan! I’m curious: are the positive changes you’ve started making in your life all finance-related? Or are you also making changes in other areas of your life? There’s no wrong answer there… I’m just curious. :)

      Everything you’ve said here is so incredibly kind. I’m so grateful that I’m able to connect with people through this blog, and hope we can keep building this community together. Thanks, Devan! <3

  • Amanda @ My Life, I Guess June 24, 2015 at 10:30 am

    You got this. We are all rooting for you, Cait!

    • Cait Flanders June 27, 2015 at 2:56 pm

      Thanks, Amanda!

  • Vawt @ Early Retirement Ahead June 24, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    I like budgeting robots, but not minimalist ones.

    This is a lot of uncertainty you are facing, but it is also a great adventure to embark upon. I look forward to see how your perspective changes over the next few months. I am also jealous of the fact you won’t need an alarm clock any more!

    • Cait Flanders June 27, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      Ha, that might be one of the things I’m most excited about, Vawt! I’m usually up with the sun anyway, but it’ll be nice not to have to set an alarm for those just-in-case mornings.

  • Luke June 24, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Hi Cait,

    Congratulations on taking the plunge.

    Keep jumping off cliffs and learning how to fly on the way down. The others ways of living are simply too boring to be worth anyone’s time.

    • Cait Flanders June 27, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      Ain’t that the truth, Luke. :)

  • Kathy June 24, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    Hey, love that you share your fears with the world, we are listening and appreciating. Way to go!

    • Cait Flanders June 27, 2015 at 5:30 pm

      Thanks, Kathy!

  • Deborah June 24, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    I applaud your courage and honesty. I look forward to reading how your future unfolds. Bravo!

    • Cait Flanders June 27, 2015 at 5:30 pm

      Thanks, Deborah!

  • Chela @SmashOdyssey June 24, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    I have all the confidence in the world that you’re going to have a long and successful freelance career! You’re a rockstar. Chin up. It’s stressful now but you’ll get into your groove soon enough. I’m in the middle of a move as well and trying to stay prepared and organized for it all. Just don’t give up your float membership :) Time to relax and reflect is key.

    • Cait Flanders June 27, 2015 at 5:30 pm

      Ahhh, yes, you’re right about floating – will be necessary, along with meditation. Thanks, Chela! Good luck with your move!

  • diane @smartmoneysimplelife June 24, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Uncertainty can be a good thing. It forces us to test our mettle and our limits. Yes, it can be scary. Yes, you’ll go a little nuts here and there. But… at the end of the initial craziness you’ll have a life designed by you, for you. What could be better than that?!

    Enjoy!

    • Cait Flanders June 27, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      Wow. Well, that took all my fears away, Diane. Why couldn’t you have been here to say that to me sooner? ;)

  • Kristen June 25, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    Congrats! Those are some amazing changes!

    I am in the progress of making changes, will get back to you on how it goes:) New decade, new me!

    • Cait Flanders June 27, 2015 at 5:32 pm

      Thanks, Kristen! And good luck with yours!

  • Disa June 25, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    I really love what you said about change. When I became an AmeriCorps VISTA that definitely was out of my comfort zone, but it provided me with new and exciting experiences and made me test myself. It also made me gain new skills and make others stronger. I am nearing my one year service now and couldn’t be more happier with who I have become and what I’ve learned along the way. I’ve grown so much personally and professionally in this year than I could have ever imagined. When I make a mistake I take a look at it in a positive way and learn from it, and just go with the flow. I love how you are doing something that you love full time and how someday I hope to get there too. After this year, it has become more clear to me who I am and what I want to do. I am now proud to say that: I am a video editor and someday I will make my hobby into a full time career. I look at your post as inspiration for the future. So thank you for sharing. :)

    • Cait Flanders June 27, 2015 at 5:33 pm

      Ahh, see – you know what you want! Now it’s just a matter of making it happen. Do you do that on the side, Disa? I wrote part-time on the side for years before feeling like I could take this plunge, and developed so many fantastic relationships along the way. So that would be my only piece of advice to you! Start offering your services as soon as possible, and see who you meet/what projects you come across along the way. :)

  • Leslie June 26, 2015 at 6:20 am

    One of my favorite blogs you have published is about your daily schedule as a work-from-home editor. I loved your thoughts on finding the right schedule and how you know yourself well enough to find a way to make this work for you. I am hoping you will do a similar post after a few months of freelancing once you have found your groove!

    • Cait Flanders June 27, 2015 at 5:35 pm

      That’s a good idea, Leslie. I’ll probably wait until I do it for a few months, like you said, then see how things are going. Thanks! :)

  • Ramona June 30, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Been there done that, except that I didn’t care for smoothies and that was bad :)

    OK, kidding aside, my first 3-4 months into full time freelancing were HORRIBLY hard. I was in serious debt and had absolutely NO savings.

    It did work out well though, it’s been 6 years since I lost my job and had to work on my own and everything turned out amazingly well.

    Keep up the great work, it will get easier, believe me. ;)

    Fingers crossed and looking for some very happy updates in the near future.

    • Cait Flanders July 2, 2015 at 8:39 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experiences and encouragement, Ramona! Week 1 was fantastic. Onto the next :)

  • Karen July 1, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    Oh wow! Congrats to you. I can only imagine how exciting and terrifying it must be at the same time. I’m going through the process of starting a career change into the world of web development. It’s going to be a long, hard one because I’m part teaching myself, part taking an online bootcamp and taking coding workshops here and there. However, I think in the end it will be worth because it’ll be better pay, more job opportunities and the possibility of waking up later and working from home! Woo!

    Everyone fears the unknown, but the fact that your excitement outweighs your fear and you’re ready for the challenge is a good thing. :)

    • Cait Flanders July 2, 2015 at 8:40 pm

      I think that sounds like a fantastic career move, Karen! There will certainly always be jobs in that field – big or small, with companies or through working for yourself. Good luck with the learning curve!

  • Lisa July 2, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    I’ve been so complacent lately. The main reason being that I’m just too scared to even think of change. I know that I need to do it, but I’m scared of no longer being comfortable. It’s not a good excuse, I know. I think I just need to push myself out of this destructive comfort zone. Thanks for sharing, your posts are always so on point.

    • Cait Flanders July 2, 2015 at 8:42 pm

      Just remember that change is full of excitement, too – and getting out of our comfort zones is what helps us grow. :)