Do you "live to work" or "work to live?" It’s a question that every independent creative needs to ask themselves.
Years ago, at the age of 35, I found myself being defined by my doctor as a "heart attack waiting to happen." I was working an average of 70 to 80 hours a week – sometimes much more with late nights and working on weekends. Work consumed my life. My personal life was almost non-existent.
I had allowed myself to become the "design department" for an advertising agency client that suddenly represented at least 80% of my business and income. When the principal of the firm said "jump," I leapt into the sky without questioning the command. I was doing some great work, but I wasn’t sleeping, not eating well and my blood pressure was dangerously sky high. In fact, when my physician checked my blood pressure – three times – he thought his equipment was broken.
The doctor sat down and asked, "What the hell is going on in your life?"
I told him.
He responded that I needed to resign the major, all-consuming client immediately or I was going to have serious health issues, possibly a heart attack. I was stunned – and immediately my mind went to concerns about money.
It was frightening to request a meeting with the owner of the business to inform her I could no longer handle all of her design work. However, she understood completely and actually apologized for her business causing me undue stress.
I was a little freaked out about the loss of income due to resigning the account. Still, within a very short period of time, I had five new clients with a very manageable project load. The income situation balanced out; as did my blood pressure – which dropped 30-some points in a month without medication. My personal life showed great improvement as well.
The entire situation was a great life lesson. It helped me re-evaluate how I, as an independent creative, had been letting my work rule my life – instead of enjoying the life available to me as a result of being my own boss.