“For most of my career, I was paid a salary. It was not very much, especially at the beginning, but it also seemed to exist on a different plane from my actual job. I worked as hard and as much as I could, and then twice a month a dollar amount materialized in my checking account. My time did not feel tethered to this money. My paycheck was just a byproduct of going into an office every day, and a pretty arbitrary one at that.
But once I started freelancing, things changed. I became hyperconscious of how much money I could (or should) charge for my time, and this made me unhappy and mean when my nonworking hours didn’t measure up to the same value. It was akin to the rage of watching cab fare tick up while you’re sitting in traffic, minutes and dollars dribbling away before your eyes. A freelancer friend recently commiserated: “I went outside to get coffee and ran into three different neighbors who wanted to chit-chat. I wanted to scream, ‘For every word that comes out of your mouth, I’m losing money!’”
The upside of becoming aware of the time/money connection is that I got better at managing my finances and asking for bigger fees — a good thing, especially when compared to how lackadaisical I’d been in this department previously. But I was also stressed out. I started sleeping less, and I stopped hanging out with my friends as much as I wanted. And I would sometimes fall apart completely, frittering away a Saturday in bed and feeling horrible about it.”