My name is Frances and I’m a freelance writer and editor. I used to work for a magazine publishing company and it was a really sweet deal—flexible hours, great pay, and the work was fun—but all good things must come to an end. The celebrity magazine I handled was shut down and for the first time in 13 years, I was out of work.
Wait. That’s not true. I was out of employment but I was thrust into the world of freelance writing, and it’s been tremendously exciting. I have never been this happy in my life! I choose when I want to work and who I want to work with. I no longer know what EDSA traffic is. But happiest of all, I get to be with my two young sons all day, every single day.
While you may think I’m trying to tempt you to leave your cubicle, I must also say that freelance work has its drawbacks. For one thing, its most attractive feature—you are your own boss—is also its most exhausting. So think before you take that leap and make careful preparations.
Here’s what I did before I became a freelancer:
I asked other freelancers. Before I said sayonara to the wonderful perks of employment, I checked if the freelance life is for me. I’m a mother, after all, and I was faced with concerns like health insurance and steady income. I asked freelancers about finding work, getting hired, collecting pay, filing taxes. Their stories both fascinated and scared me! Pretty soon, the fear turned to inspiration because these people seemed so happy. If they could make it work, I was determined to do the same!
I started networking. As soon as I knew my days in the office were numbered, I spruced up my personal website and my portfolio. I sent out feelers. I told people I’m available to do writing and editing work, even while I was employed (but I was careful not to do work for competitors!). That was hard—juggling my regular job with the other writing work—but in the end, it paid off. I was barely out the door but my calendar of projects for the next six months was already full! I also told my bosses that I was willing to take on projects for them. Yes, never burn bridges! As I said good-bye to my fellow editors, I thanked them for the friendship and gently reminded them that if they needed a writer, I’m available. They now call me regularly for writing gigs.
I saved money. I wanted to go freelance two years before I actually did go for it. Yes, it takes time to gather the courage to go alone! It also takes time to prepare financially. Money experts say you should have at least six months of living expenses saved up for emergencies like accidents and job loss. While a freelance career is not an emergency, it may mean lessened and even loss of income. Unlike with an office job, the freelance paycheck doesn’t come in every two weeks. Sometimes, the checks come in all at once, which is great. But what do you do when there’s no check at all? That’s why you have to have money in the bank. I put away a little money whenever I can, and every peso saved did amount to a lot!
I lessened expenses. Now that I work from home, I didn’t need household staff to clean my house and look after my children. My household budget immediately felt the change—no salaries, no benefits, no extra groceries and utility costs. Working from home also meant less costs for gas, parking and “work” clothes. The six months’ living expenses we’d saved up was suddenly plenty and this helped ease the worry over finances.
I talked to my husband. Saving up six months’ worth of living expenses is not easy. Neither is looking for clients, collecting checks, and juggling work at home with household chores. There’s also the emotional cost of freelance work—insecurity, frustration, doubt, fear. I needed strong emotional support and I needed that from my husband. I had to get his agreement to the new arrangement because not only will he have to deal with the ups and downs of my new career, he also had to be prepared for the impact this shift will have on him as a provider since my husband is also a freelance writer. It also took him a couple of years to get ready for his shift so he was supportive of my decision and helped me get ready, too.
A freelance career is exciting and the rewards are great. You own your time and you get to do what you love. You get to spend time with the people you love. But it is still a job and like all jobs, it requires discipline, responsibility and a whole lot of work. So carefully think over the pros and cons and if you do decide that freelancing is for you, then prepare emotionally and financially. Good luck!
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