Freelancing to Freedom: Why I Chose the Struggle Over Cash Flow
A part of my lifestyle overhaul was to become fiscally more responsible. I’m not going to lie that goal might just have to be revisited for my 2018 resolutions. In short, fiscal responsibility is a lot easier said than done.
When I started off this year I had a lot of goals and reflections that drove me to make changes. I wasn’t happy with my exterior, my bank account basically assaulted me every time I went to check its balance, my denial regarding health issues was at an all time high, and I was stuck in a job/career that I hated and quite frankly made me miserable.
I’ve debated about whether or not I was going to do a blog series about my career for several reasons.
1. I’m in no way shape or form an expert. I doubt myself a lot despite my illusion of confidence, and I didn’t want to steer my readers wrong.
2. In order to create this series I had to be organized and very detailed about the actions I’m taking to become “successful”, which I find difficult because half the time I’m convinced any success I have is in fact luck.
In the end, obviously I decided ‘what the heck’ and ultimately that brings us to this post.
Let’s start at the beginning…
I graduated college with a degree in English, concentrating in Professional Writing. Often I get quizzical looks in interviews and at family events when I tell people about my education. Basically, I went to school to learn how to communicate professionally within a multitude of different industries. A lot of the students in the Professional Writing program took courses with a goal of working in specific industries or going to law school. Unfortunately, I was not so decisive. I took every industry course available. From legal writing to web based copy to writing for scientific journals. In my head the more courses I took the more marketable I would be. Sounds right, however, I didn’t take into account the sheer crap our job market is and how companies want people with 5-10 years of experience for entry level jobs.
When I graduated, like many, I was in full panic mode. I had no idea how I was going to find a job, no clue about what I wanted to do, and ultimately, no idea how adulthood worked. Hence, why almost three years out of college I’m still making goals to be fiscally responsible.
Cut to six months out of college I took a contract job at a local company as a Technical Writer. Sounds fancy but, in reality it’s code for misery. Basically, I sat in a cubicle for 9-10 hours a day writing manufacturing instructions for engineers and technicians. The topics were dry and I hated my life.
To explain what contract work is basically, I worked for an agency that pimped me out to large companies. I worked on an hourly rate with no benefits (or there is an option to buy your own), no PTO, no paid holidays, sick days, etc. That’s not even the worse part. I worked under a certain rate, with options of overtime, and there was no chance of bonuses or promotions (unless you’re contract is bought out by the company).
After a year working under contract I became hip to the game that was being played. As a contractor you get an hourly rate. Your agency when submitting you for the position, submits you at “bill rate” which they negotiate with the client/company. The bill rate and hourly rate are totally different. In layman’s terms, my hourly rate was taken from the bill rate. Being fresh out of college I had no idea about the inner workings of contracts and recruitment agencies, all I knew was I needed money, they were paying, and I hated the job.
Imagine my surprise when I found out my bill rate was twice what I was making. This means my agency was making the same amount of money for every hour I was working. In fact they made more off of my head because I had to pay for benefits and double the taxes. After a year of contracting, I went sabbatical and decided ‘screw it’ and I can pimp myself out, be more selective, and keep all the money for myself. Why should my agency get a cut when I’m miserable?!?!?!?!
It was at this point I decided to freelance write full-time.
Which brings us to the point of this post. Taking the first step into working for yourself is terrifying. I received a lot of push back from my family and Jojo. However, I knew I wanted to be happy and working in traditional work environments just wasn’t for me. I’m not a corporate type of gal. I thrive in environments that allow me to express myself and cultivate an unique voice. This is especially important for you writers out there. Passionate writing can’t be manufactured or forced from a cubicle. I knew I wasn’t happy and it’s impossible to put your heart into your work when that job is chipping away at your soul.
Freelancing, I can’t say is the easiest, or most lucrative job I’ve ever had. There were times where I was so stressed out I’d lock myself in my car and ball my eyes out. Points in time where I’d have to tap into my savings just to make my car payment. I relied heavily on credit the first few months. However, desperation truly forces you to be innovative. I had no real back up therefore, failure was not an option. I’m still trying to figure out my freelancing, nothing is perfect, and nothing ever will be. However, when I choose a career for my soul instead of my pockets, I felt like I could actually breathe.
Thanks for reading the first installment to my Freelancing to Freedom series. In this series I’m going to go over my steps to building my freelance business, Ink Cat, and the tips/tools I feel would best help anyone looking to start on their own.
Next post: Beginning Steps Every Freelancer Needs to Take