Turning Money Down

Have you ever postponed making an important decision out of blinding fear? I postponed a decision for over six months because I was scared out of my mind. I want to tell you why — why I was scared and why I finally decided to take action.

The Dilemma

As the writer of a blog about making every day awesome and a book about achieving freedom, I was failing to live that dream myself.

I wasn’t walking the walk, and it felt like I was letting people down.

At the end of last year, I took on a client that quickly turned into a difficult situation. I won’t get into the details, but I do want to share the kinds of stress I went through and why I had to practice some bravery to finally walk out.

The project started off well, but it took a turn for the worse when I was faced with issues like these:

  • The scope of the project kept changing, but I was being held to the same timeline. I was providing value but constantly made to feel guilty for progress.
  • After a trip to a great conference, I came home to be chastised for taking the time to write blog posts and travel over the weekend.
  • Constant “email wars” made me afraid to check my inbox. The anxiety churned my stomach, so I learned to do breathing exercises to get through the torture of checking my email each day.

Seriously. Breathing exercises.

I did my very best to handle it professionally, but the working relationship was damaged beyond repair. It’s nobody’s fault, and I think everyone involved learned a lot. I definitely did.

But when it came time to pull the trigger, I dragged my feet.

No matter how hard my gut instinct tried to convince me that this work and this client wasn’t for me, I avoided calling it quits. I kept asking friends for their opinion and postponed the inevitable.

I was afraid. Afraid of the backlash. Afraid of disappointing.

Realizing I was afraid made it easier to finally pull the trigger.

Was it scary? Less so than I thought it would be. The client understood and most likely saw it coming. As the dust settled, I helped transfer my work to someone I referred them to and moved on with little fanfare.

In the end, I hope things work out for this client, and I hope they work with people that jive with them. They have a great mission pushing them forward, and I hope the end product is as great as they envision it should be.

But putting up with this situation felt like putting up with a nightmare boss. I worked so hard to set up my independence and freedom by becoming an entrepreneur. How did I end up shackled all over again?

Throughout this process, though, I learned the following:

Breaking free and becoming independent isn’t a one-off struggle. It’s a constant battle to uphold your ideals.

All I can hope to do in the future is avoid this kind of situation again. How can I do that?

  1. Turning down money when it doesn’t align with my values.
  2. Turning down clients that don’t understand my lifestyle and my approach.
  3. Turning down work that isn’t respectful of the value I create and my ideal life.

But hindsight is 20/20, right? Chances are that I’ll end up in a similar situation again, faced with work that is fruitful but toxic to my happiness and worth. What will I do then? What should I do when faced with that similar situation?

I won’t make the same mistake twice.

Now, I know the red flags I should watch out for. Now, I know the havoc it can wreck on my life. Now, I know how it feels to make the wrong choice.

No amount of money in the world is worth that anxiety. If I’m ever faced with a similar situation, the decision will be easier. I’ll walk away.

The Solution

No matter what path you take, no matter what adventure you decide to go on, there will always be a “client” to deal with: a boss ordering you around, a person purchasing your piece of art, a family member you’re trying to persuade, or someone reading your words.

The “client” exists, no matter what.

No matter who your “client” is or who you’re creating work for, there will always be a line that needs drawing.

Clients own what you create for them — but they don’t own you.

I will continue to work with clients on select projects, mostly awesome design. I will continue to serve entrepreneurs who want to create something amazing for the world to see.

I will continue to work with people who value me and share my excitement to create freedom and awesome results.

All I can hope for is the time to create all of that impact pent up inside me. Turning some clients down will help me do that.

Freedom isn’t something you fight for once. Gather a tribe around you to help fight every subsequent struggle.

It takes guts to keep struggling to stay on the path to awesomeness, but guts is something we build together. Without even knowing it, everyone reading this helped me gather the guts I needed to pull the trigger.

For that, I thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

I want to live the life of my dreams. And nobody messes with that.

Because I believe in the beauty and importance of freedom.

Because I believe that life is better lived when the people around us respect us and value our work.

Because I believe that life is more than trading hours for cash.

Because I believe that human development thrives on encouragement, not chastisement.

Because I believe that each of us can, with great care, make choices to create the life we want to live.

Since I started writing, I always felt like I was walking the walk, like I was living everything I write about. In one aspect of my life, I got lost along the way. Making the decision to walk away from this client put me back on track.

For that, I thank the people who read my words.