How to Freelance Without Being Selfish

man working on computer with sunset in background
I’m writing this blog post at the pool. It’s sunny and 78 degrees.

I’m 26, and two months ago I started a digital marketing business that allows me to set my own hours and work pretty much anywhere I want. This may sound great (and I’ll admit it’s nice), but it scares me, too.

When work-life balance isn’t balanced

What scares me about running a poolside business is that I’m tempted by our generation’s approach to the popular concept of work-life balance. Increasingly when millennials say “work-life balance,” we mean work that fulfills us simply because it is enjoyable to us. A good job is measured by latte machines, vacation time, flexible schedules and how often the company caters lunch. On top of these fun perks, we demand interesting projects and supportive and fun coworkers.

Check out this Business Insider article titled “What It’s Really Like to Work at Facebook.” From breakfast buffets to on-site doctors, Facebook (among other tech companies) has developed a reputation for being more like a 9-5 playdate than a corporate workplace.

The article ends with this employee quote: “Every Sunday night, I go to bed and sleep great… every Monday morning, I wake up and I’m excited to come to work because I know I get to work on the things I’m most passionate about.”

With job freedom comes responsibility

And yet Business Insider published this article about corporate burnout just six months later. Guess who’s in the top 30. Yep — Facebook.

I’m not saying that if Facebook took a more Christ-centered approach to work-life balance, then burnout rates would drop by half. But I’m betting that as a Christian you’ve experienced burnout when your daily life, habits and purpose drift further and further from your walk with God. And I’m betting you’d agree with me that a health bar and office hammocks aren’t going to provide deep, long-term spiritual fulfillment or a sense of calling.

Now take the comfort and flexibility of working at Facebook and double them. In the eyes of the world, this describes a successful freelancing career. However, when you get to choose where you work, when you work, and with whom you work, it becomes very easy to focus only on “me” and to forget about God. I know.

This self-centered approach strips work of any real spiritual meaning and fulfillment. Christ calls us into the world to do the Father’s work, not to escape into a hedonistic bubble.

Chances are many of you will be in my situation at some point. Statistics show that freelancing and remote employment are growing. A Forbes article reported that “50.9% of the U.S. population will be freelancing in 10 years if a current uptick in freelancing continues at its current pace.” That was two years ago.

But as young adults continue to step into more occupational freedom, we need to ask this question: How can we use our flexible careers to pursue God instead of just self-centered comfort?

While there are dangers, freedom and flexibility in work can also be used for God’s glory. Here are three tips for freelancing young adults who want to avoid burnout and use their flexible career to grow closer to God and serve others. Even if you’re not your own boss, most workplaces are giving their employees more flexibility, which means the points below could be applicable to you, too.

1. Make room for unique quiet times

Setting your own schedule is great. The flexibility of working remotely lets you avoid long commutes, work from interesting places, and develop life rhythms that work for you. It means you can start work 30 minutes early and later pop out to the park for a 30-minute prayer walk.

Everybody has special ways of connecting with God. Freelancing lets you explore those. Nature, music, art, intellectual study — whatever your worship “love language” — you now have more freedom to pursue it. The trick is to be consistent and not let the other pressures and lures of everyday life crowd out your time with God.

2. Pursue mentorship and discipleship

A lot of freelancers I know work from coffee shops. You can also meet people at coffee shops or other venues. Chances are that your pastor, community leaders and retired Christian friends have flexible schedules too. Find out when they’re free and ask them to counsel you in your walk with God. They may even have some great career advice, too.

3. Serve others

I used to work at a local community outreach center and their service hours were usually from 1-4 p.m. I understand why the schedule is that way, but no office-bound young adult is going to be able to leave work to volunteer there.

It’s easy to forget, but people need God’s love during the hours of 9 and 5, too. As a remote worker, you’re in a unique position to minister to people. Find ways to pitch in, and leave margin for last-minute opportunities as well.

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In the end, it takes awareness and effort to pursue a fulfilling vocation in freelancing. But as more and more of us work this way, we need to fight the urge to listen to our self-centered culture that tempts us to make freelancing “all about me.” God has great work for us to do. Let’s get to it.

Copyright 2019 T.J. Neathery. All rights reserved.

About the Author

TJ Neathery

TJ Neathery is an ex-missionary kid who lives in Colorado Springs where he writes, snowboards, and dreams about the day his local coffee shop releases a 16 oz cortado. He also owns his own digital marketing agency where he helps amazing people grow their niche businesses. Find out more at www.tjneathery.com.