The job you love

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I’m not a big fan of the quote or concept of “Find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” It’s the cotton candy of career advice: pretty, fluffy, gone within seconds, bad for you, makes a mess, doesn’t really taste as good as you imagined, and generally ends up tossed in the garbage. Sorry, Confucius.

If you’ll allow me to channel my inner Mike Rowe for a moment, you need to be able to find the value (and fun) in what you do. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, take a moment to think about what it is about freelancing that makes it—or could make it—the job you love. Jenn Mattern wrote a nifty post on this the other day: “Why I Love Freelancing: Reminders.” Here’s my list:

  1. The freedom to do what I want, when I want (within reason)
  2. The subtle pressure of knowing that freedom is something I earn every day
  3. The thrill of starting a new project
  4. The relief of finishing a project
  5. Hearing the words “This is perfect.”
  6. Hearing the words “Send me the final invoice.”
  7. Getting a check
  8. Getting three checks in one day
  9. Signing a new client
  10. Choosing the people I get to work with
  11. Working with my longtime clients, with whom it’s like having ESP
  12. Hearing from a Halley’s Client—someone who only comes around once in a great while
  13. Figuring out what makes a new client tick
  14. Turning a challenging client into a great (or at least manageable) one
  15. Dumping a rotten client
  16. Sneaking out to play hooky
  17. Having dogs as co-workers
  18. Going for a run or bike ride as a reward for finishing something—even if it’s a 110-degree Phoenix afternoon
  19. The energy I get from waking up really early on a deadline-packed day
  20. The sense of accomplishment I have at the end of a day when I’ve written or edited more words than I wanted to
  21. The adrenaline rush of a call from a new prospect
  22. Thinking on my feet in new-client meetings
  23. Coming up with the perfect headline or concept the moment I sit down at the computer
  24. The relief of coming up with the perfect headline or concept when I’m nowhere near my computer…and still remembering it by the time I get home
  25. The knowledge that I’ve gotten better at what I do—much better
  26. The access to wildly diverse and interesting people and companies
  27. The ability to help those people and companies accomplish something worthwhile
  28. The realization that I still learn something every day—sometimes several things
  29. Writing a book
  30. Actually, writing two books at the same time and surviving it
  31. Figuring out the self-publishing process and turning it into a new business
  32. The unique charge you get from finding and imitating someone’s voice for a ghostwriting project
  33. Asking a question that provokes a client to say, “Huh, I’ve never thought about that before.”
  34. Getting to know my kids way better than I would have if I’d stuck with the 7-7 grind
  35. Enjoying more free time with my wife, and with a better mindset than I had during my corporate days
  36. Knowing that my entrepreneur dad would have been proud of what I’ve accomplished

I’ll stop there, because I’m actually in the middle of #19—a day where I’m up early and have a lot to accomplish. And I’ll leave the final word to Mike Rowe: “Good jobs look a lot like kids playing and adults working.”

In the comments, what are the aspects of freelancing that make it a job you love?

Photo courtesy of Vinicius Fujii.

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  1. says

    1. It’s a job that’s constantly new and exciting.
    2. No politics!
    3. I control my own destiny and my own price.
    4. Starbucks at 10 am.
    5. More productivity than I could ever muster in an office setting.
    6. When the checks come in.
    7. Knowing I own a thriving, healthy business that I created.
    8. Lunchtime walks in the park with no rush to get back on time.
    9. Slippers as my main footwear.
    10. An ever-changing list of projects.
    11. That feeling of getting up and going to work NOT sucking.
    12. Being able to push myself into new areas and challenges.
    13. Having that comfort level with clients that makes me feel more like a partner than a contractor.
    14. Loving what I do every time I sit down to work.
    15. Being able to say no to something that doesn’t fit.
    16. Making friends of clients.
    17. The camaraderie of the freelance community.
    18. Creating my own way of running my business.
    19. Having 9-t0-5ers envy what I do all day.
    20. Getting exactly why they do.
    21. Making great writing friends like Jake.

    Jeezuz. I was going to list just a few things. 🙂

  2. says

    ♥ Love this list, Jake. ♥ I have so many of the same and isn’t it funny how many of them have the word FREEDOM in them? 😉

    #24 made me laugh. This baby boomer records those brilliant moments in my smartphone when I am out walking – which fits in with your #18 – although I walk – don’t run – and the temperature varies – depending on the season. 🙂

    I like the freedom I have to be there for my 90-year-old Mom when she needs me.

    I like the freedom to say No to a project (try doing that in the corporate world). 😉

    I just plain ol’ love the freedom.

  3. says

    Cathy, I visualized you reading this using your Mel Gibson/Braveheart voice: “You can make me write 5,000 words, but you’ll never take my FREEDOM!!!”

  4. Laura Dangerfield says

    Thank you for this topic, Jake. It’s great to read all of the responses and I love them all.
    Although I’m really just starting out, I have to echo everyone else.
    1. The freedom (to do what I love with people I want to work with)
    2. The learning (this job is constant brain food for me)
    3. Knowing that I can make the decisions and even take the credit
    4. The sense of accomplishment in wanting to freelance and now doing it
    5. Being a part of a special community of freelancers, like all of you
    You have all inspired me and shown me a better way to work. I am happier because of you.

  5. Bonnie Nicholls says

    Excellent list! As a new freelancer, I hope I can live part of that list same time next year.

  6. Diana Schneidman says

    I have a kinesthetic work style. In other words, I get my best ideas while walking around.

    Back when I worked in an office, this meant I had to keep getting coffee and going to the pencil sharpener to justify so much time away from my desk. I threw out many unfinished cups of coffee and pencils shaved down to nubs.

    Now I can walk when I want without justifying it. I love it!


  7. says

    That’s an interesting comment, Diana. I am with you on the best ideas coming when you’re not at the desk–which will obviously get you in hot water in most corporate environments.