This time last year I was working crazy hours for a solid dozen clients. I had nearly 30 girls on my virtual team and together we were pumping out an unbelievable amount of marketing material for clients across the world. I had also seen that the work and the hours had caused me to begin to dislike my passion. I was fortunate enough to stumble onto my passion when I went to work at a now-sold financial firm called Paramount Financial Group. I landed in the marketing department and discovered my “thing” was design and promotion. It wasn’t my hobby type of thing, which was photography, but it was magical to me.
After years of developing campaigns in a corporate setting and having my hands in on everything from strategy to design and websites, I followed that same path in my own business. Fast forward from 2004 when I left the corporate world to 2012 and I can build websites in my sleep and land clients (and myself) on page one within days. But, the story doesn’t end there.
For years marketing, development and design allowed me to work from home from iphone or laptop while the kids ran through the yard. The unfortunate twist is that any freelance marketer that is good at what they do can easily end up working 16 hours a day and sitting in the office while the kids play with a sitter or nanny. That was me.
While I found myself struggling with my work load (yes, I could have said no…) I also found myself going back to raw art. For a few months I considered giving up my rather large marketing client portfolio to focus on photography. I actually spent quite some time photographing people around us, decided I wanted to give up marketing to pursue that art and then quickly realized that there are more cows than people around me… and the chances of replacing my marketing income with photography were slim to none.
Then it hit me.
After all of those years of marketing and building and developing and after having built a team to help me get it done, I crashed. I didn’t start marketing and working from home to sit in the house while my kids played with someone else. I also never thought I would have a team of 30 or clients calling me at 1am (London clients… you are forgiven. USA clients… not so much.). In October-ish I became so sick from working long hours that I spent 8 weeks in bed or on the couch attempting to work and wondering why I never get sick but was so sick I could barely get off of the couch.
The answer was simple … stress.
I had toyed with going agency. I had thought about opening up and office and just allowing it to happen. I had also thought about opening a photography shop (again, my brain wanting to run to art as fast as it could).
By late November it was rather obvious why I was sick and not getting better. I went to the computer and proceeded to fire all of my clients via email.. well, except for my favorite LA gal. I may have been insane when I did it, but I knew that nothing could be as bad as being so stressed that I could literally hardly function.
By late December I had said “no” enough that I was free from most* of my marketing work. I began to work on a project that would allow me to walk away from my swarm of marketing clients, get back into “art” and continue to use all of the skills I had honed over the years.
The story is long and full of big hairy gremlins. I will share with you later on that. With all of that said, the conclusion to this blog post is this …
It is so easy to get swept up in your freelance world that you allow it to completely strip you of what you love. I loved marketing when I left corporate and started working my business. I admittingly allowed my clients** to push me to the point of nearly hating it. There must be a “no” somewhere in your language. I know that leaving it out of mine nearly drove me to quit all together.
The two questions I have been asked the most since I stopped promoting most of my clients have been;
Did losing my marketing client base hurt? The answer is a definite yes.
Did it hurt nearly as bad as realizing I had allowed my client base to drive my daily life? No. In letting my client base drive my daily life, I also missed out on a lot with my kids. I won’t allow it again.
The key is finding balance in what you do. If you are good at it and manage it properly it will grow beyond anything you could imagine. Be prepared to either allow it to grow wildly or reign it in if you can’t handle it.
*As a note, a freelancer with as many years in this as me will NEVER be able to just walk from clients. Nearly every day one of my clients contacts me about a project or to complain about their replacement. If you are taking the leap away from your core business, be prepared to refer your clients to another service provider.
**One thing to keep in mind is that clients in a virtual world have no idea your other clients exist. They want work from you and they honestly have no idea how much work you have from other clients. I allowed my clients to ask, push my deadlines and that eventually lead to 16+ hours a day of work. That was on me, not on my clients. Again, the magic of saying no.