Q: I have a day job as a counselor at a clinic. It’s OK as jobs go—it is a fairly steady income (although if clients don’t show, I don’t get paid) and I do get to share my specialty, which is approaching therapy from a more spiritual, holistic perspective. But I want and need to make more money. Recently, I have had two former clients contact me—out of the blue–and ask if we could work together again, even though I’ve moved a few states away and we’d have to do our sessions over the phone. I said yes because I know these people and I know they’re motivated. But I’m also nervous that if I start supporting more people on the side that I’ll get burned out. I already feel depleted after a day at the clinic. Perhaps a part-time job that I don’t care about would be better, so that I don’t take it home with me at the end of the day?
A: Great question!
First, your fear makes perfect sense—if you’re already worn out from spending your days supporting others, it stands to reason that doing more of that would only intensify that depleted feeling. I get why you’re feeling that it might be easier to find something mindless so you protect what energy you have left.
When is the last time you had a job you cared nothing about? I can tell you, even the cushiest, easiest gig in the world can feel like an anchor around your neck if there is no part of you that enjoys it. I know where you are right now isn’t perfect, but I’m guessing you have moments of feeling like you’re really making a difference in people’s lives. Those glimpses may not add up to enough to sustain you, but they definitely help keep you afloat—most mindless gigs can’t offer that.
An important point to consider is that you are good at what you do. I’ll say that again: You are good at what you do. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have former clients reaching out and wanting to work together again. You also have a track record, so you know which kinds of clients are a good match for you.
Those two very important facts suggest to me that the fear you’re feeling is the result of an obstructed view. I’m guessing that, like most people, you can’t imagine a work situation where you have total control over whom you work with. I mean, how could you? It’s certainly not the normal experience—most of us go to work and do what we’re told, for the most part.
One thing I know to be true is that when you are working with the exact kind of people who get you and whom you know you can provide great value to, it is such a kick in the pants. Every interaction with a client gives you a boost—because you were valued, because you delivered value, because you had a true connection. It is downright invigorating!
You already have momentum in that you have a couple clients whom you enjoy working with. Give yourself the experience of only saying yes to more clients with whom you truly feel a click. Let the way you feel guide your next step.
Also: I’m not sure what kind of a part-time job you’re thinking of, but most no-stress gigs don’t pay that well. Be sure to do a little comparison of how many hours it would take working with clients privately to make the money you’d like to make, versus how many hours you’d have to spend at the part-time job to make the same amount. Numbers can be very clarifying if you’re asking the right questions.
For everyone reading this, one of the perils of going after things you want that you’ve never experienced before is: You can’t even imagine just how great it can be. And if you can’t imagine how great it can be, it can be really hard to propel yourself over the speedbumps that you will inevitably encounter along the way.
If you’re peering down a potential path and thinking “Mmmm, I dunno…,” challenge yourself to look for the best case scenario. The very, very best case–the one you may not even allow yourself to consider because it feels foolhardy. You need to practice entertaining realities that are way, way better than your current one. Otherwise, you’ll never put yourself in the kinds of situations that have the potential to end up somewhere radically different – and better – than anything you’ve experienced before!