Two and a half years ago, Alice Everdeen worked 50 hours per week and made $42,000 per year as a content manager for a supplement company.
But working at an office didn’t fulfill her. So, Everdeen left her 9-to-5 and started pursuing her voiceover acting side hustle full-time. Now, she makes up to $15,000 per month, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It.
Last year, she earned a total of $102,000 while working for clients like Amazon, Southwest Airlines and OnlyFans — in far fewer hours than her old job required. “I would say [I work] like 3 to 5 hours per day,” Everdeen, 31, tells CNBC Make It.
Everdeen used the extra income to renovate a school bus into a livable space — which cost about $80,000 — with her boyfriend. The couple plans to start traveling across the US in the bus on Monday, Everdeen says.
“We feel like we’ve made it as adults, by our standards,” Everdeen says. “We want to follow our dreams rather than what we’re told we should do.”
There’s a reason Everdeen keeps short, strict hours: burnout. She says she’s learned to set hard boundaries to avoid exhaustion and complacency. Those symptoms rear their heads in strange ways: Years ago, as a news producer at MSNBC, she found herself regularly staying at the office hours past her shift, even after her work was done.
“It’s not good when I want to stay at work longer. It means I’m distracting myself and not dealing with whatever is going on [in my personal life],” Everdeen says. “I realized I pour myself into my work when I’m not feeling fulfilled in life.”
Sometimes she feels those burnout symptoms creeping in. She struggles getting out of bed to take her dog for morning walks, finds herself mindlessly scrolling on TikTok or checks her Fiverr account in the middle of the night for incoming orders. She makes 80% of her income on the freelancing platform, she says.
“I used to get notifications from Fiverr, and when the noise would go off, it triggered this dopamine release in my brain where I was like, ‘Money!'” she says. “I was hyper-focused on my phone and responding to messages immediately.”
Slower months were worse, she says. Without the constant notifications, she was filled with self-doubt. “It’s really easy to look at those metrics and overthink,” Everdeen says. “I’d question myself and wonder what I could have done differently to be more successful.”
A JobSage survey released in April showed that 28% of employees reported burning out over the last year. More than one-third have reported they had experienced depression, lack of motivation or anxiety because of work.
That’s largely due to unreasonably high expectations, experts say.
“We live in a period in which there is a tremendous mandate for happiness,” Esther Perel, a therapist, author and podcast host, told CNBC Make It in June. “You have to find meaning, belonging, purpose and self-development at work. It’s over-packed with expectations.”
To fight burnout, Everdeen says she never checks her emails past 5 pm She also ensures her evenings are filled with activities that actually fulfill her, like cooking with her boyfriend, working to renovate the bus, and soon, traveling. She says she’s also hired a virtual assistant to help her with organizational tasks and editing.
Working so few hours doesn’t mean she isn’t passionate about her voiceover career, she says. Rather, it’s about making sure her daily life is sustainable.
“It took a long time to learn how to let go of what doesn’t matter,” Everdeen says. “Paying $4,000 a month for rent, and then working 60 hours a week is not what I want to do.
Sign up now: Get smarter about your money and career with our weekly newsletter
What people get wrong about America’s burnout problem, according to a therapist: ‘There is a tremendous mandate for happiness
I’ve traveled and worked remotely in 50 US cities: Here are the top 4—and they aren’t New York or LA