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An Experiment in Lifestyle Design: Part I

by Andrea Shemeley | A Creative Mind for Hire

I'm a freelance creative consultant and graphic designer. I make my own hours, my own copies, my own coffee, etc. If I want something to get done whether it's marketing, sales, IT, administrative- all tasks are done by yours truly. I'm a great employee and an even better boss. I love to work. I want to work. I am my work. When the work is good and challenging and the people I'm working with are as passionate about the project as I am, then life is a dream. I'm walking on air. All is right in the world and I feel like the luckiest, most successful gal on the planet.

When there is no work, whether for a week or for a month, I stress out. No matter how well I did on the last project (both monetarily and creatively), I always feel I'm only as good as what I am doing right now. And if I'm doing nothing, I'm nothing. It's not true, of course. But that is how I feel. "I am failing. My business is failing. What business? Your not even working." Seems silly, but that's the voice in my head. The very same voice pushes me to set goals and obtain them. I would not have a successful freelance business for over 15 years if not for that very same voice.

I think it's part of what makes a good entrepreneur. The constant push from deep within, the feeling that I can always be doing better and more, drives me in my business. These "lulls" as I like to call them, can shake your confidence. When you don't have a project to work on for any extended period of time, it's easy to start to doubt yourself. Am I good enough? Does my design stand up to what the agencies are putting out? Is my pricing ok? You doubt your ability to sustain your lifestyle as a freelance designer. You're hard on yourself, starting to cast doubt on your abilities and feel the need to punish yourself by contemplating taking a 9-5 job working for the man. But then you quickly realize that working for the man is straight up bs and the only way to sustain the happy, flexible, free lifestyle you've built is by continuing to be the captain of your own ship.

The life of an entrepreneur is full of blurred lines. You are always working. Even if you're not working, you're trying to network to get work. A huge part of what intrigued me the most about the life of a freelance designer, was the flexibility. The ability to take big chunks of time off, which allowed me to travel more, play more and discover more about who I am and what I want to do with this thing called life. Certainly, I love what I do, but my work is not my life. So how do I start living the lifestyle I claim to want, and which is right at my fingertips without the guilt?

I decided to conduct an experiment in my lifestyle design. I will take this August off, completely disconnect from work. My last project closes at the end of July, and I have no new projects on the horizon. Surely, I will check in on email once a day for maybe 20 minutes, to be sure my clients aren't having any major design emergencies. He he, even saying design emergency makes whatever the design issue, seems less urgent. We're not saving lives here.

So I made a plan to pack up my family and moved out west to a little beach town where I use to live, one of my favorite places on earth. My plan is to completely disconnect and enjoy the benefits of my chosen lifestyle, guilt-free.

I encourage all of you to allow yourself to take a few days to do exactly what you want to do, without feeling any guilt about it. It's not selfish, it's living. It's why we work so hard, right? Don't just sow. Reap what you sow. Reap, people. Reap. I'm off to reap the benefits of what I sowed.

To be continued... I'll let you know what happens in my next post. Have a great summer!

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