Do we have to LOVE our work if we work for ourselves?

Today, Paul Jarvis and Kaleigh Moore spent some time on their podcast talking about a topic that’s top of mind for me: how work affects freelancers’ identity. Here’s their lede:

Do you have to be crazy passionate about your freelance work? Maybe not. In this episode, we're talking about the reality of freelance work and the fact that you're probably not going to be in love with it year-round, even if it does offer some serious perks.

As a sort of tangent midway through the conversation, they talk about the very thing that sparked my recent redesign: I am not my job.

Freelancers feel enormous pressure to be “passionate” about their work and to have their work define their personhood. But freelancers, like everyone else, aren’t their job. No one is. 

I think the pressure stems from the sense that we need to brand and market ourselves as thought leaders in a particular niche — and we may be — but people are more complex than their niche specialty or current focus.

And if, as is likely to happen, one day your passion changes (or the market forces you into a new line of work), over-emphasis on your freelance niche as the hallmark of your identity will force a minor career change into a full-blown identity crisis. That’s neither healthy nor necessary.

That’s what the recent redesign of my business is all about: taking a wider view and creating space for me to be myself.

The work I’m doing now is challenging, interesting, and profitable, but it may not be the work that defines my career. The best may be yet to come! But as a freelancer, if I do not keep myself open to the full range of my interests, skills, and the opportunities they afford, I’ll never have the chance to find out.