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For most of my life, I followed the “rules” as the world defined them. And I was really good at it. I got good grades, was skilled at the sports I played, attended practices, was accepted into a good college where I double-degreed (that’s right, not just a double-major (eyeroll)), graduated with a job offer in-hand… you get the picture.

But when I got into the “real world”, I had a distinct sense of dissatisfaction. “This is it?” was a common thought. I couldn’t believe that the rest of my life, through retirement, would be spent in an office from 9am-5pm (usually later) working for someone else. Answering to someone else.

My over-achieving personality didn’t fit well into the corporate world. I was constantly anxious that I was not performing well WHILE in actuality I was consistently out-performing my peers. I was smart, efficient, and exceedingly unhappy. After some unexpected losses in my personal life, I decided it just wasn’t worth it. The daily dread. The crying in the office bathroom. The doom and gloom that arrived each Sunday evening.

So, in 2013, I quit my job. I started working to build up a little Etsy store I’d been running on an extremely part-time basis and crossed my fingers it would work out. Since then, I’ve learned a lot and made a lot of mistakes. Based on these experiences, here are my top 5 rules for living my life, my way, while still making money:

1. Stop caring what other people think.

Did you read that? Stop. Caring. What. Other. People. Think.

No, really. My greatest jumps in income as a business owner have occurred when I’ve made leaps in my personal development. I used to spend a lot of time wondering and worrying about what other people thought I should be doing… then I’d do what I thought they thought I should do. Huh? If that sentence seems confusing, just imagine what it was like to be in my head.

Something that really woke me up happened almost four years ago. I was griping to my therapist about my money-induced anxiety. I told her there was never enough, I worked all the time, was buried in debt, and could barely afford my mortgage.

Her response changed my life. “What if you filed for bankruptcy? Or, what if you sold your house and moved to a cheaper apartment?” While these questions may seem obvious to some, they metaphorically smacked me the face. WHAT? I said incredulously. I CAN’T DO THAT. WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK?

But then, I went home, and I thought…”Would it really be worse than things are now?” Long story short, we did it.

Fast-forward four years. I make more running my own business than I did working for a corporation. I’m finally out of debt. I live in a more affordable house. And guess what? My world hasn’t crumbled even though people disapproved.

2. Use your time wisely.

I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times – time is our only non-renewable resource. But it’s a harsh reality. The time you’re spending reading this? You can’t get it back. The time I’m spending writing it? Gone.

I used to spend a lot of time on social media. And watching Netflix (holla, House of Cards!). And haphazardly working.

Once I woke up and realized how valuable time is, I started making a daily effort to identify 1) what is important today?, 2) what NEEDS to be done today?, and 3) what can I get rid of today? Identifying these three things brings focus to my daily activities. I have small goals to work on, EVERY SINGLE DAY. Which makes every day count.

Sometimes? The number one thing is finishing an awesome web design project. But other times, the most important activity of the day is making memories with my family. Which I can do, because I’m using my time efficiently.

What could you achieve if you weren’t watching Netflix for an hour a day?

3. Charge a rate that doesn’t make you resent your work.

As I said earlier, my biggest income jumps have come from jumps in personal development. I had to learn to value MYSELF before I could charge my current rates. It’s not that I wasn’t worth my rates before, it’s that I didn’t believe clients would value me for more than the minimum rate.

$15 an hour for awesome graphic design showed potential clients that I didn’t value myself, or my work, and would do anything they needed for a minimal price. But I HATED what I was doing. Not the design work itself, but the amount of energy and effort I was expending for such a small return. It felt like I was working myself to the bone for these clients, who in turn just asked for more stuff faster.

Once I realized my talent, resourcefulness, and efficiency; once I truly valued the work I was putting into the world; I more than doubled my hourly rate. And you know what? I now work with a higher-level client that understands and values quality. Clients that I LOVE working with because we both value ourselves, each other, and the work we’re putting into the world.

4. Include margins in your schedule.

When you schedule your time, include some buffers. If you don’t, you’re setting yourself up for stress and will constantly be running late. Life is so unpredictable – add a 10-minute margin to the start and end times of your appointments and watch your stress level decrease. (You can thank me later.)

5. Make a Meal Plan

A penny saved is a penny earned. No, maybe I want to say… Unplanned spending is wasteful spending. One of the biggest categories I waste money on is food.

I’m not saying that buying groceries or going out for dinner is a waste of money. I’m saying that ordering pizza because you’re too tired to even think about finding ingredients to cook is wasteful. Do that 5 times a month and you’re spending close to $100 on pizza. PIZZA. You could be putting that towards building your business – a $97/month ClickFunnels account, a kickass course, or investing in coaching or better equipment.

Take a few hours each week to plan your meals for the next seven days. Go grocery shopping by yourself (if you can), then prep the meals when you get home. While it may seem tedious in the moment (it does for me), you’ll be thanking yourself later in the week when you’re dead tired but need to feed your family.

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That’s it. Easy, right? Haha, no. But so worth it.

If you implement even one of these rules into your life, observe how things change over the course of a month. Now imagine where you could be in six months, a year, five years. Small daily changes add up. I’m living proof. In four years, I’ve gone from charging the absolute minimum to almost matching my husband’s full-time income.

And I love my life. Because I’m following my own rules.