Notes From a Hired Pen

Thoughts on “The Value of Time”

Chris Crisman is a photographer I’ve known for almost a decade. He shot the photos that went this feature that I wrote, and we’ve shared more than a few drinks at a corner bar swapping magazine gossip, story ideas, and commiserating on the life of the self employed.

He also just wrote a fantastic piece on his blog called “The Value of Time.”

Like Chris, I started out with a lot of time and little money. My first solo apartment was a small one-bedroom with a galley kitchen and no air conditioning. But for $600, I had enough space for a bed, and I shoved a desk in the corner of my living room. Like Chris, I had little financial responsibilities. I didn’t have a mortgage. My car was paid off. I lived small, and the only thing I had to take care of was myself.

As my business grew, my money grew, but my time shortened. I got a dog, then a house, then retirement account that had be filled every year. The pressure of those financial responsibilities kept me at my desk for much longer than 40 hours a week. That pressure pushed down so hard that for about a year, I worked a traditional job while writing a book and continuing to freelance at the same pace.

It was exhausting. I had more money but zero time. In September of last year, I quit the traditional job. I fired low paying clients and worked on doing more and better work for those who paid me what I was worth. I also branched out into more copywriting, which isn’t always as interesting, but is financially rewarding to the point that they bought me something I needed more of: time.

Case in point: I’ve worked part time for the last two weeks. I went out with a friend in Atlantic City. I sat on the beach staring at waves. I napped. I barely came up for air in March and April because so many good projects came my way, so I’m taking that breather now. After I get back from a long weekend in North Carolina, I’ll be facing a full docket again.

The balance is a tricky thing to find, but crucial, even in small bites. This is why I run. I can never be too busy to give myself a half hour break. It recharges my body and mind, and it keeps me moving ahead so that my business can continue to grow, but while leaving me time to be me, not just a hired pen.

So what do you to to keep the time/money balance?

And I can’t end this post without saying congrats to Chris and Julie on becoming parents in September! That time/money balance is about to change big time :-)

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