I’m approaching the 2 year mark of the day I took a giant leap and became a freelancer – a worker in the “gig economy” and a terrifying foray into an unpredictable, unreliable industry.
I guess I never really articulated on here why I pursued this path in the first place. At times, I struggled with the details myself.
- I wanted to be my own boss.
- I had been at multiple jobs during massive waves of layoffs, and although I was fortunately spared in both cases, it made me realize that advertising is inherently untrustworthy when it comes to predictable employment. I knew freelancing was a risk, but if I could drum up enough business, I would actually be diversifying that risk so if the bottom fell out with one client, I had others to fall back on.
- Without becoming a VP or higher (which comes with its own stressors and challenges, including a higher risk of layoff potential), I had tapped out the top of my salary and I wanted the ability to control that faucet if things went well.
But the number ONE reason I began freelancing was that I wanted flexibility. Flexibility to choose my projects and clients, work as much or as little as I wanted, create my own schedule, and work from home (or wherever I was traveling). That was ultimately the dream. It was a risky dream – giving up consistency for flexibility. Things could have completely bombed. I feared I wouldn’t get enough business, or I wasn’t good enough to command my hourly rate. You know… whatever terror often goes with making a leap like this. And it’s wise to have that fear. I sucked at a lot of the business crap at first. It was like getting a business degree on the fly.
But Brandon and I talked deeply and decided that the timing would never be better to give it a shot. We worked out our worst, likely, and best-case scenarios and planned how we would attack things if “shit hit the fan.” I researched accountants and S-Corps and benefits. I laid a base with my leads and started blogging to generate some LinkedIn interest. And I’m thrilled that after nearly two years of hard work, I have had only a couple of months (the first month and last July) when I wasn’t 100% booked with work at least 40 hours per week. And it was my choice to take all of that on.
Demand has grown for my skillset and I sometimes have to politely decline leads, which I don’t at all take for granted. It kills me when I have to say no – I feel supremely privileged and fortunate. The reason I bring this up is because it’s led me to consider expanding and starting my own thing – sub-contracting folks under me and building more of a brand. I think there’s a great market out there and a lot of people who are interested, as I was, in this freelancing dream (scary as it is). There are a ton of moms who, like me, enjoy the idea of working part-time and have a lot to offer, but our industry isn’t set up for that in a formal way. I could see it working and I think the person who does it will be really successful. And maybe rich.
But I realized something recently that’s about me and me only, and it was difficult to come to terms with: I’m okay with my current level of success. I don’t need to build an empire, even if I could (and it’s a debate if I could at all, of course!). The reasons I pursued freelancing in the first place weren’t about world domination and retiring early. It was about finding a balance and diversifying my challenges. Being happier. Spending more time with my family. Traveling when I want to. Learning and growing every day. Maybe making some extra money – or choosing not to and having more time on my hands instead. Not being a CEO.
As Americans, it is implied from birth that the American dream means bigger and better; business ownership and, ultimately, Trump-like name recognition on your buildings or thousands of employees on your payroll. I thought for a long time that might be something I wanted. And God knows if I could ever make that happen at all. But I recently realized… I don’t know if that’s me. I don’t know if I want that stress, that risk, that responsibility.
Maybe having a lifestyle business that supports my family and gives me what I want IS ENOUGH. At very least – it’s enough for now.
I’ve seen my baby grow all year and we spend lots of time hanging as a family. I can confidently say I saw his first steps, and that makes me so happy. I can take a lunch break with him and his dad. We can keep him in part-time childcare so his dad can work, but Brandon loves having Mondays and Tuesdays as daddy/son time.
I don’t often work past 6pm. I work with companies and clients I’m passionate about, and I don’t feel like a slave to the business because I’m only responsible for my family – not for the families of a bunch of employees. I don’t have to manage anyone, have their one-on-ones, deal with too much political drama in the office. And I can’t tell you how refreshing that is (although I have to admit, I love mentoring employees… you don’t need to be their official “boss” to do that, though!).
As an ambitious person always trying to grow and succeed, it’s been a weird realization to come to – and honestly has very little to do with me becoming a mom. It has to do with realizing there’s more to life than work. And as I put my bullet journal together this year, it was fun to fill it with as much stuff focused on my life as I did for stuff focused on work. May we all have that kind of opportunity.
So to all my fellow dreamers, do you. Build your empire – or don’t. Be a badass boss babe, work for yourself, find a 9-5 that respects your time, or build a plan for passive income. There are so many ways to live life – we don’t all have to pursue the same things, and that’s part of what makes our experiences rich. There is still WAY too much inequality of opportunity in this world and it’s my sincere hope that we are soon able to see our way out of that as a country. (It’s a bunch of crap that I have the ability to pursue my dreams when so many others simply can’t.) But for me… I’m good where I am. And I just cross my fingers I can keep the status quo going. I am so freaking lucky and so freaking grateful.