When my freelance career first started, my best friend mentioned something about someday returning to a full-time company job. I shook my head violently and said, “No effin way. This is my life now. I’m never going back to that.”
It was so different, having control of my work load, my schedule, my geographic location. I slept later, stressed less, felt like I was working on worthwhile projects instead of suffering through meaningless meetings and busy work. The thought of ever returning to the prison of office life filled me with unspeakable dread. It was a fear that kept me chasing new work and clients to sustain myself for more than two years.
Then it all changed.
Back in October, I took a three-month freelance contract at an advertising agency that involved developing and writing blog content for a major company. Accepting the offer meant I faced a major decision: either work round-the-clock, going to the agency during the day and handling all my other freelance clients at night, or end my relationship with most of my clients so I could have some semblance of work-life balance. After a few weeks of juggling both, I chose the latter.
When the contract ended in January, I had another decision to make. I could either take a few months to rebuild my freelance client base, look for another short-term contract or get a full-time job. I threw several irons in the fire, following up on contractual and part-time job leads to see if I could fit the puzzle pieces together. But as the weeks wore on, Option 3 became the most viable one. I wasn’t in the same position I’d been in back in 2009. I had a partner, an apartment, travel expenses and financial goals related to my future. It wasn’t the time to scrounge for a few months while I gathered new clients.
So I did something I never thought I’d do again — I started applying for full-time jobs. As a de factor partner on Brendan’s 457 work visa, I can get rightfully work without the same limitations as the 462 work and holiday visa on which I came to Australia (such as only being able to hold a job for six months). I carpet-bombed writing and editing ads on SEEK and, within two weeks, had an offer to write the online marketing content for an international IT services firm. The salary was more than double what I had made at my last job in the States. I had four weeks vacation and superannuation. The manager was American. Working in Australia at a mid-career level, I slowly realized, would be far different than having an underpaid position and only a week’s time off in the States. I accepted the job and started on February 21.
The time has already flown by. The days are busy and fast-paced. Getting up at 6:30 to drag my butt onto a sweaty train isn’t fun, but once again having steady, well-paying work is. Now that I have a wedding for which to pay, I feel like the timing of this job couldn’t have been better.
The greatest feeling of all is knowing that freelancing full-time and moving abroad actually helped my career. Developing a versatile client base meant I got experience writing in technology, finance, health, news, travel and other areas. It’s likely I got further along in both my skill set and my salary by freelancing full-time instead of staying in a full-time company job in the States. As anyone who freelances knows, it’s not just about the writing or editing you do. It’s also about being your own accountant, marketer and secretary. It makes you sharper because there’s so much you have to handle.
My new job doesn’t mean the end of my freelance career. I just had an article in Jetstar Magazine and my second piece on CNNGo. I am regularly contributing to PsychologyToday. I don’t rule out returning full-time to freelance in a few years, especially once I have kids. For the time-being, this job is the best decision for me.
I still get emails from people asking how they can freelance full-time and my advice remains the same: if it’s what you want to do, go for it. You’ll have to work your butt off, but the tradeoffs are worth it. And if you want to go back to full-time work, that’s OK too. Remember it’s all about flexibility and what works for you at different points in your life.
Image by sibertekt