5 Important Lessons I Learned Working 3+ Jobs Right After College

Since graduating from college, I’ve been working three to four different jobs at any given time. I’m a writer who works from home, a social media marketer with six different clients, and a part-time babysitter. Also, I act. Nowadays, so many people push the notion that we need to be creating our own jobs, and I’m proud to say, that’s exactly what I did. In fact, I created my own job(s), and then some. My life as a freelancer, social media guru, babysitter, etc. has taught me a lot about myself, and while I think many people discount the work-from-home vibe, in favor of a traditional office set-up, the journey for me has been amazing.

Here are five important things I learned about myself by piling A LOT onto my plate, and taking the work-from-home plunge directly after graduation:

1. Being alone is okay.

At first, I was very unnerved by spending days not talking to anyone, or only interacting with the five-year-old I was babysitting. But as time went on, I became comfortable with the silence. I learned how productive I could be without distractions, and it helped me organize my thoughts. That’s the beauty of having no one else around. I started journaling more, and keeping a detailed planner for my day. It also made my few interactions with people that much more valuable. And I found, eventually, that I didn’t need to be surrounded by people and unnecessary chitchat. If my roommates are around during the day, I almost prefer to keep my headphones in so I can stay in my zone, and keep working.

2. I can work faster than I think.

A lot of my projects are done with a stipend, not hourly. When someone works in an office, and is salaried, they don’t (necessarily) need to be particularly motivated to finish a job quickly. Something that takes 10 minutes might not get done until the end of the day. But when I’m getting paid $10 to write a 500 word article called “How To Safely Give Your Dog A Bath,” I’m going to research and write that thing in under 40 minutes, if possible. When I’m really putting my hourly rate into perspective, I work much more quickly, which gives me more time during my day to pursue other passions.

3. It’s a relief to learn what you’re actually good at.

College was the time, for me, when a lot of things I thought about myself were put to the test. You were always a __________ in high school (dancer, athlete, artist, student government executive, etc). But in college, you had to figure it out all over again. So, I spent a lot of college questioning what I truly was good at. Working these three plus jobs has instilled confidence in my own abilities, and work ethic. It’s not just one company, and one boss, who thinks I’m a talented writer, it’s SIX different bosses who are willing to pay me for this. Challenging myself to constantly find new jobs, and deliver quality material, has helped me to discover my own talents. I finally feel like I have my thing.

4. It’s okay to be picky. In fact, it should be a requirement.

Working as a freelancer can sometimes make me desperate for a paycheck. But as time goes on, I’ve learned that I can put more thought into which jobs I select. The first time I applied to jobs, I sent my resumé to any job with “marketing” in the title. I understand that this sounds like I didn’t have a specific direction, but the fact is, I am positive that I wasn’t the only college graduate pursuing any “marketing” job listing they could find. Now, I pay closer attention to the industry, pay rate, and job details, because I know I can afford to be choosy. It’s okay to know what you want, and pursue it. I’m the kind of person who works that much harder when they actually care about something, which is why I aim to fill my schedule with things I’m passionate about.

5. Not having structure isn’t so bad.

Sometimes, I crave a system; a set desk, weekly meetings, my tupperware lunch stashed in the fridge, a coworker I probably dislike sitting three feet away. That’s the office dream, right? But at the end of the day, I love the freedom of working from my couch, my bed, my dining table, or on my balcony. I’ll workout in the middle of the day, roast a chicken while writing blog posts, and give myself the leisurely coffee-and-NYTimes-Online mornings I so love. I have activity in my day, and babysitting doesn’t just supplement my income, it changes up my routine. Overall, I might feel a bit untethered, but I’m much happier than I would be in a cubicle, even if the office had free snacks.

How to Exchange Money for Time

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about what I want my life to look like going forward, and what I can do to restructure. I’m in the process of reconfiguring my finances, as well as putting together a good life for my son and myself.

One of the things that occurred to me is that I’d like to have a little more time. This is a common feeling, of course. Most of us wish we had more time for the things that really matter to us. As I sat down and thought about this concept, I realized that there are some things I can do to get a little more time in my life. Most of those things cost money, but I think it’s probably worth the cost.

You Can’t Accumulate More Time

Time is valuable because there is no getting it back once it’s gone. I can’t just create more time the way I can earn more money. I can almost always do something different with my finances. I can invest more, raise the rates I charge for freelancing or take on a little extra work. There is usually some money available for me to earn. If all else fails, I can always sell some my stuff or donate blood plasma.

Once time is gone though, it’s gone. Time is far more valuable, so I want more of it even if I have to pay for it. The return on my investment is high — as long as I use my time in ways that benefit me for the long run.

Exchange Money for Time

My first purchase of time was made when I realized I spent far too much time on social media posting items for work. I didn’t have time to take care of higher priority work, and it cut into time I wanted to spend doing other things. I ended up hiring a virtual assistant (VA) to help me run my social media accounts. I still get in there and engage with people, but not for as long, and not as often as I used to do. Having someone else take care of all that has been very helpful to me. It’s been well worth the exchange because the amount of money I make with an hour of work far exceeds the amount of money I pay each hour to my VA. Now I get my work done earlier, I have more time to help my son with homework and hang out with him and volunteer.

I’m also willing to pay for more time to work. I take the shuttle to the airport now instead of driving myself. It’s a three-hour drive, and it costs about $50 more than driving myself, but I can get work done on the shuttle. Sometimes, I just sleep. Being able to take the time to relax and let someone else drive after a long trip can be worth the cost — and it’s worth the safety as well.

What Will You Do With That Time?

When you pay extra to gain more time, which includes paying for lawncare, oil changes and other services, it is also a good idea to figure out what to do with that time. Is the investment you make worth the cost? I use my purchased time for things like spending time with my son, self-improvement, development of musical skills, volunteering, exercise, self-care and fixing healthy meals from scratch. These are priorities for me, and they offer returns that I consider valuable. I can’t replace time spent with my son and keeping our relationship strong is worth the cost of paying for someone else to handle social media or getting a couple of writing assignments done while I take the shuttle.

I try not to fritter away the time spent on things that aren’t important to me, like aimlessly surfing the web or engaging in other activities that don’t either improve the quality of my life or help me learn new skills that can take my efforts to the next level. Even when I don’t end up with an immediate tangible or financial benefit from my purchase of time, I usually come out ahead.