I’ve been working as an online coach for a few years now. What I’ve learned has changed my perspective on many things, and I’d like to share a few of those lessons with you. Even if you’re not involved in fitness coaching, if you’ve ever thought about working for yourself, I think you will learn something too.

1. Find out what freedom means to you.

When I was younger I knew that I would never work for anyone else. I hated the idea of working to make money. And even worse, I believed that everyone slaving away at a desk for a living was a fool. It was all beneath me. If I could’ve lived on pure ideals and knowledge, I would’ve done that.

I thought that was freedom.

Then I realised that money is permissive.

Now I don’t care how much money I have, but I care about what it allows me to do. When I started working for myself, I struggled to make enough money to live. I couldn’t buy new clothes, travel, and I didn’t have any savings.

For a long time I struggled with a poverty mindset, I wanted to spend less in case I made less. I lived each day as if everything would be taken away from me.

Then I realised that I needed to change. The freedom I imagined before was actually a prison.

I decided that if I wanted more, I would work harder and make more.

I refused to be limited by money.

I learned that you cannot have complete freedom. I believe there is a kind of universal conservation law at work. You have to pick which type of freedom is important to you.

For example, being free to work for yourself, to dictate your own schedule, requires you to motivate yourself too. You have to plan your time, push when you need to work harder, accept the uncertainty of having no guaranteed income, and every decision you make is your responsibility.

Working for someone else means that you’re almost always free from worrying about those things. But you trade that freedom off for having to do what someone else tells you to do.

Find out what freedom means to you, and choose wisely.

2. Make deeper connections.

It’s easy to connect with people on social media.

(Especially on LinkedIn.)

But how deep are those connections?

Do you care about any of those people at all, or pay attention to what they’re doing?

When you run an online business, it’s easy to lose touch with the people that matter in your life. If you don’t cultivate friendships, you will be left alone at your laptop, talking to people on Facebook.

Force yourself to go out and meet people, to make time for them, even if you have a million things you need to do for your business.

When you network with people professionally, look at what you can offer them, and not just what they can offer you.

And when you do use social media, remember that it’s not a funnel. It works both ways. Don’t talk about yourself all the time and expect everyone else to care about what you’re saying.

If you want strangers to help you, smile. For those close to you, cry.

Nassim Taleb*

Remember that the reason you’re doing all this is to build a life that you want. But don’t forget to build friendships too.

*Yes, I know I quote him a lot…

3. Make many small trips, a few big trips.

I now keep a suitcase packed with travel essentials, ready to go.

(Including protein powder and protein bars, to trick people into thinking that I’m part of the #fitfam)

I like knowing that I can throw a few clothes in there, grab my laptop case and leave. In the last year I made a decision to make more small trips to see friends, experience new places, and break out of the routine of sitting at home, or in a coffee shop, working on a laptop.

But because I run an online business, with a little more care I can also plan big trips. I spent New Year in Sydney and I didn’t come home until February. While I was out there, I signed up new clients and I made more money than I was making back home. This year I plan on visiting Thailand.

I realised that the winter is a difficult time for me, my mood is low, I feel drained, and I find it tough to stick to my usual routine.  Why stay at home and suffer through it? Living in Sydney allowed me to break out of that cycle and come back feeling refreshed, avoiding the seasonal depression I struggled with in the past.

There’s a balance to maintain. If I travel all the time, I won’t have a stable routine. But if I don’t travel, my routine will become stale and destructive. Small trips are easy to plan and fit around my schedule, even at short notice. They don’t disrupt my routine.

A big trip, a planned disruption for a few weeks, is important. I take time to rest and recover, and to find fresh inspiration and motivation. I don’t train, I eat what I want, and I try to let go of all the things that worry me.

So make many small trips, and a few big trips.