Why the Option to Work More Is a Blessing and a Curse

A woman working at home with her dog in her lap.

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I love the fact that I can do extra work and earn extra money. But sometimes, that benefit can backfire.

Key points

  • Freelancers can often boost their earnings by picking up extra work.
  • While that's a nice option to have, it can also be a source of pressure.

There are many things I like about being self-employed. I get to set my own hours, which is really helpful because it allows me to work around my kids' school schedules and save money on childcare. I also get to do my job remotely. Granted, a lot of people have that option now, but I've been doing it for years.

Another nice thing about being a freelancer is that the nature of my job is such that I can choose to work longer hours -- and boost my earnings -- when the need or desire arises. If I want to go on a nice vacation, I can pick up additional assignments to pay for a trip. And when emergency expenses arise, I can work more and boost my earnings rather than have to dip into my savings account every time.

But there's a downside to being able to work more when I please -- not getting a break. And that's something I've grappled with recently.

Pushing myself to the max

I like the fact that I can compensate for unplanned bills by working more. But that doesn't make it an easy thing to do.

When I talk about "working more," I mean working above the 40-50 hours a week I normally put in. That's not an easy thing to do, seeing as how I also have young children to care for and a household to maintain.

In fact, just this summer, my air conditioning system broke, costing me roughly $7,000 to repair it out of the blue. Thankfully, I had that money in my emergency fund, so I was able to cover the repair outright rather than take on debt because of it. But I've also been trying to replenish that emergency fund withdrawal since August. That's meant really plugging away every spare moment, to the point where I've been teetering on the edge of burnout.

It's not unusual for me to put in some time on weekends to free up hours during the week or ease my schedule. But there have been periods, like this recent one, where I've felt compelled to work every weekend. And that's a lot of pressure.

Striking a balance

At this point, I've managed to put back a big chunk of my $7,000 emergency fund withdrawal, but not all of it. I'm starting to scale back on those extra hours and tell myself that money will get replaced eventually.

But all told, I definitely need to do a better job of striking a balance as a freelancer. It's great that I can pick up extra work, but it's not great when I go through periods of minimal downtime and not nearly enough sleep.

If you're thinking of becoming a freelancer, you, too, may fall into the trap of pushing yourself to work more. There's nothing wrong with doing that -- as long as it doesn't impact your physical or mental health. If you find that it does, it's a sign that it's time to strike a better balance and set more reasonable expectations for yourself.

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