Nobody likes feeling like they’re tied to their desk – or that they’re stuck in a dead-end job that they hate. It’s stressful, frustrating, and exhausting. You feel like you’re burning at both ends of your candle. Feelings of restlessness lead to a groundswell of apathy and anxiety. You think to yourself, Will it always be like this? Do I have to grit my teeth for the next few decades and hope for a good retirement where I can finally do the things I want to do?
If you’re feeling this way, you aren’t alone. Millions of Americans are going through the same emotional gymnastics. And while many people think it’s the result of “burnout,” this isn’t always true. In a lot of cases, it has more to do with feeling stationary. Career freedom is what you’re really seeking.
What is Career Freedom?
Career freedom means different things to different folks. To some, it’s about quitting your 9-to-5 job so that you can work as a freelancer and live a brand new life in Thailand. For others, it’s about starting your own business and having people work for you (rather than the other way around). And for others, it might still be working a 40-hour corporate job, but under more flexible circumstances.
While there’s no singular definition of career freedom, here are some of the typical expressions, feelings, and opportunities associated with it:
- You can reasonably say “no” to unreasonable requests (like being asked to work a weekend after putting in a full week).
- You genuinely enjoy the people you work with/for and feel respected by your boss or clients.
- You get some level of satisfaction and joy out of your job and the work you do on a daily basis.
- When you need some personal time or a flexible schedule, your career can easily accommodate.
- You’re able to live where you want and have the flexibility to work from anywhere (at least most of the time).
- You control your income. (Your earnings aren’t capped. If you perform better/work harder, you can earn more.)
This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but it gives you an idea of what we mean by career freedom. Yet, sadly, this is something most people don’t have.
3 Tips for Getting Career Freedom
If you wouldn’t currently put yourself in the “career freedom” category, it’s time to start thinking about how you can get there. Here are several tips and ideas:
1. Get Your Finances in Order
Ironically, one of the first things you have to do in order to set yourself up for career freedom is get your finances in order. This can feel difficult – particularly if you’re struggling in a job where you don’t make much money – but it’s a critical piece to this puzzle.
If you’re currently drowning in debt, blowing through all of your income each month, and making poor financial decisions, you’ll never be able to escape the chains of your career. You’ll be stuck forever – dependent on that paycheck to sustain your life of mediocrity.
Gaining control over your finances means paying down bad debt and creating liquid cash savings in the form of an emergency fund that can cover your bills for at least three or four months.
This gives you the freedom to call some of your own shots – meaning you theoretically have enough financial runway to quit your job and start something new. (Obviously, the more cash you have set aside, the longer that runway is.)
2. Choose a Scalable, Self-Made Career
The next step is to choose a career that’s (a) scalable and (b) self-made. What do we mean by that? Here’s some context:
A scalable career is a career that (theoretically) has unlimited earning potential. In other words, you aren’t defined by a salary or maximum income. Typically, this means working a job where you can earn commissions and/or you’re the business owner. Becoming a real estate agent is a great example. Your income is entirely up to you. The more houses you sell, the more money you make.
In terms of self-made, this means choosing a career where other people don’t control your future. The opposite of self-made is a corporate job where you have to rely on promotion after promotion before you can obtain the position you want. In a self-made career, you don’t have to get permission to move up – you just perform.
3. Build a Side Business You’re Passionate About
The final suggestion is to always have a side business. Always be working on a second career that you’re passionate about. The key word here is “passionate.” Because unless you’re passionate about it, you’re not going to want to work on it after your day job is over. At first, progress will be slow. But if you put in enough time, you can get your side business to a point that it provides passive income, which allows you to become less reliant on any one income stream.
Adding it All Up
Career freedom is achievable for everyone. It doesn’t mean you’re going to make a million bucks a year or be able to travel anywhere in the world without any stress or worries. However, you should be able to untether yourself from your job and enjoy the ability to set your schedule, say “no,” and control when you work, how you work, and (to an extent) how much you make.