Candice Landau • February 10, 2019
When I started working for myself back in 2016, I had no real idea of what I was getting into. All I knew was that I wanted to manage my own money. I wanted to be the cause of my success or failure. I wanted to be in control of my own self-worth. No longer was I willing to leave that up to another person. Why should they get to decide my fate? Why should I limit myself to being “a job description”?
Still, the idea of freelancing full-time took a few months to accept and so, I continued looking for other jobs. When I was offered a position as a Digital Marketing Manager, I balked. This was it. Decision Time.
I considered my possibilities.
On the one hand, a job meant a paycheck each month. I would know exactly how much was coming in, and when. I would have stability, or a version of it. On the other hand, it would mean a return to the 9-5 slog, to internal politics, to colleagues I didn’t get to choose, to an environment I didn’t get to choose and that didn’t change, and to a lack of stability.
Plus, if I took a full-time position, I would have to cut back on all the scuba diving I was now getting to do as a result of the free time.
I considered the alternative.
If I kept freelancing, I would have the flexibility to do what I wanted when I wanted to do it. That meant LOTS of scuba diving. But, it also meant work. Hard work. I would need to be “on the ball”. I would need to constantly look for new clients, or upsell services I was offering to existing clients.
I told one of my clients about my job offer, and about my feelings surrounding it.
What he said changed everything.
“Don’t do it. Don’t go back. I have plenty of work for you. I know people who will have work for you. Build your own business.”
That day I mulled over his words, and over the risk they implied. I thought about him as a person and a CEO. He was happy. He was always in and out of the office, but he was happy, bubbling with ideas, excited about the future, pure and simple, happy.
The advice felt right. I didn’t want to go back to depending on one person for my paycheck. I wanted to be in charge of that. And, I wanted to be in charge of the type of work I got to do. If I wanted to build a website, I would do just that. If I wanted to write for a scuba diving magazine, no one was going to stop me. If I wanted to design graphics, well I’d do that too. No job description was going to tie me up and limit me.
The last company I had worked for waxed lyrical about how each of its employees was “an entrepreneur.” But, at the end of the day, those “entrepreneurs” were still subject to face-time, to performance reviews, to the personal opinions, whims and moods of the bosses, and worst of all, to that dreaded job description that implied what they were allowed and not allowed to do. Each of those employees could still have their self-esteem damaged by someone else’s opinion. Each of those employees could still be fired. No thank you!
I went back to the company who had offered me the job and told them that unfortunately I would not be able to accept. I explained my decision, mentioning most of the reasons I outlined above. The owner appreciated my honesty and openness and asked if given what I’d said I’d instead be interested in taking on contract work from time to time. My heart leaped. That’s exactly what I wanted. “Yes, I told him vehemently. “Absolutely!” He ended up becoming a long-term client who gave me multiple projects.
Fast forward a year…
I won’t lie and say it’s been easy getting to the point where I’m self-sufficient, but it has been worth it. My self-esteem is back to normal, I’m a qualified Divemaster helping out with teaching at our local dive shop, and I’m doing writing and marketing work that I love!
The things that have been challenging are also not the things that I expected. When I first started, I was worried about finding enough work. The opposite has in fact been the case.
The harder part is actually scheduling the time to do the work and sticking to that schedule. When your whole day is yours to decide you have to be particularly disciplined, especially when you’re someone like me with diverse interests. It’s too easy to agree to meet a friend for coffee and push work back a couple of hours.
The other learning curve has been figuring out the best system for getting paid as fast as possible. I have had to wait on many an invoice long after I felt comfortable. For bigger projects I quickly learned to break it up into manageable payments for my clients.
And that’s the best part of all of this: the clients. I have met so many incredible people since I started working for myself. And I have had so many wonderful opportunities—these will definitely go down as a couple of the best years of my life.