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Old 15th May 2022, 22:01   #1
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Default Musings of a (Former) Freelancer | Quitting full-time work

Hi everyone, I recently joined the community after years of lurking around and made an Introduction post to say a few words about myself. To my surprise, @GTO replied, asking me to write a bit more about my profession. I am only too happy to oblige.

How do I earn my livelihood?

I am a copywriter and content strategist. I specialize in long-form copy that goes on marketing collateral. I have also ghostwritten several eBooks and one published book. I consider myself an independent contractor but there is a fine line between that and a freelancer. Both are forms of self-employment but as an independent contractor, the hours I work are more or less set through contracts or retainers. This way, a sizeable portion of my income stays consistent. And unlike most freelancers who may go through a dozen projects in a month, I rarely work with more than 4 clients at a time.

How did I start?

A big and frankly, personal question for me as I did not choose this profession. I never dreamt of being a writer but you know what they say, when it rains, it pours. And so through a series of (un)fortunate events, I was forced to look for employment and become the primary breadwinner for my family.

I was browsing job boards and applied for a research position but the person liked the way I spoke (wrote) and asked if I was willing to write a travel guide. I needed the money so I happily agreed and that was that. My first gig.

Over the next 6 months, I worked around 16 hours a day. I would start my day with emails and end it the same way. It was exhaustive and stress from my personal life only made things worse. I ended up having mild hypothyroidism and cataracts in both eyes (stress being the primary but indirect contributor).

Fortunately, I am doing much better now health-wise. I don't regret working as much as I did either as I believe it laid the foundation for my relatively fast career growth early on.

How is freelancing going now?

The best I can say is "eh". Don't take me wrong, I am beyond grateful for being able to provide for my family and myself but having been doing this for four years, I have developed mixed feelings.

In the past four years, I have slightly increased my yearly income but more crucially, I have more than halved my working hours which was my main goal all this time.

I work with amazing individuals and companies who are flexible regarding how I work and let me set my own hours and my own deadlines. The problem is that I feel like I've become complacent. The last two years seem all the same and I can barely pinpoint any career growth.

What's next then?

I didn't write "former freelancer" in the title just for dramatic effect. No, I am really calling it quits and I plan on wrapping up my retainers/contracts before the end of June. I had already been "firing" clients since March but the decision to quit full-time came very recently.

As stated, I felt like there has been zero career growth in the last two years and that was a key reason for my decision but the biggest reason is that I simply am not happy anymore. I believe happiness comes from within and for most of my career, I've been content but it feels like for the first time, I am not even content anymore.

In the grand scheme of things I am very young and there's a lot to see and a lot to learn. Thing is, I love to see and learn and so I'll be taking this time to explore not only my career options but also my academic options. I dropped out of my dream college to pursue copywriting full-time and I am considering if going back to school would contribute to my personal growth. I wanted to study abroad but the finances of it all are a little daunting.

I love studying so I am also considering preparing for UPSC although that seems even less likely.

The most likely path for me seems like going back into the active workforce after a short break but this time as an employee. I have never been a salaried employee but I want to give it a shot as I think I can learn a lot from the right opportunity.

That said, I have a long list of requirements for the ideal employer so there's a possibility that this might end up not happening at all. If that's the case, then I'll once again look into self-employment but this time with more "employee-like" contracts/retainers.

Financial planning: Keeping the ship afloat

I have wanted a break forever but I have just been unable to do a break longer than a week because of crippling anxiety. For the last two years, I have had savings enough for 6 months but I could never imagine quitting and I would be thinking of work even when I was supposed to be away from work.

More recently, I've expanded my savings to last me over a year and the 2020-me would never feel comfortable with quitting with even a 1-year cushion but the opportunity cost of continuing doing something that makes me unhappy seems far too great.

Therefore, this is a risk I am willing to take.

I started investing last year but the vast, vast majority of my savings are liquid. I plan on doing more due diligence and investing more sincerely in the coming weeks, leaving only 6 months of cushion as liquid assets.

Short-term future plans?

In four years of working, I have never once needed a resume but I suspect that may change soon so I am working on writing a nice resume. I also want to work on my mental health, raise awareness, and try and reduce the stigma. I also want to focus on community work to help people who are in the same position as I was four years ago and help them get one step closer to financial independence. These are big goals and certainly won't be easy but it's sharing knowledge is something I am very fond of and would definitely be putting in the time and energy towards this.

Final words and some Q/A

I hope I did not sound too tone-deaf in this post regarding finances and how difficult it is to earn a livelihood in this country. However, I think we focus too much on our income and let enjoyment, health, and loved ones slip away. I am guilty of this too but it's something I am working on improving.

If you're in a similar position, I would be happy to talk to you about it. Other than that, here are answers to some questions that I think you guys might have.

1. How easy is freelancing, really?

Freelancing is definitely nice and the freedom that comes with it is undeniable. But it's not easy, at least not for all. For people like me who get distracted easily, working from home can be a pain. The freedom of deadlines starts leading to procrastination and that impacts your quality of work.

Having a schedule helps but when you're working from home every day with family around, sticking to that schedule isn't easy. Overall, I would say people really underestimate the amount of self-discipline you need to make it as a successful freelancer.

2. How much money do you earn?

It makes sense you'll be curious about this but instead of giving an actual figure, how about I just say that we live comfortably as a family of four.

3. What about job security?

What's job security? Kidding aside, this was a serious issue. Even a year into freelancing, I would be worried about how much money I would be making next month and if I would have to eat into my savings. This becomes 10x worse if you have anxiety as I do.

4. What about your educational/professional background?

Nothing relevant to writing, really (or even slightly extraordinary). As I said, throughout my career, no one has asked for a resume. I don't have a degree in creative writing, English, or communication. What I do have is a knack for understanding the psychology of the written word and how businesses operate. I usually know what my clients and their audience want to hear and that's what I write.

I am also a quick learner so early on, even if I didn't know how to do something, I would quickly learn it and deliver.

5. I have more questions.

Please, ask away. I'll try to answer each and every question.

Thank you for reading and I hope you all found it enjoyable.
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Old 16th May 2022, 08:33   #2
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Default Re: Musings of a (Former) Freelancer | Quitting full-time work

Good luck! I took a permanent break from work almost three years back (2 days shy of my 40th birthday) and one of the big challenges has been finding ways to fill my time, been engaged with my farm, building a farm house, traveling (A lot less than anticipated thanks to the pandemic) and have recently gotten back to doing some freelance consulting.

It is a great choice if you're mentally prepared for it. Wish you all the best with your 'Early Retirement'!
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Old 16th May 2022, 09:08   #3
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Default Re: Musings of a (Former) Freelancer | Quitting full-time work

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Originally Posted by slipperyslipped View Post
.. I ended up having mild hypothyroidism and cataracts in both eyes (stress being the primary but indirect contributor).
I would like to point out that this is not due to stress. This is due to insulin resistance which is the result of taking in too much carbohydrates, especially sugar.

I would suggest any health or fitness minded person to keep tab on insulin through HOMA-IR test .
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Old 16th May 2022, 10:09   #4
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Default Re: Musings of a (Former) Freelancer | Quitting full-time work

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Originally Posted by slipperyslipped View Post

As stated, I felt like there has been zero career growth in the last two years and that was a key reason for my decision but the biggest reason is that I simply am not happy anymore. I believe happiness comes from within and for most of my career, I've been content but it feels like for the first time, I am not even content anymore.

In the grand scheme of things I am very young and there's a lot to see and a lot to learn. Thing is, I love to see and learn and so I'll be taking this time to explore not only my career options but also my academic options. I dropped out of my dream college to pursue copywriting full-time and I am considering if going back to school would contribute to my personal growth. I wanted to study abroad but the finances of it all are a little daunting.

Financial planning: Keeping the ship afloat

I have wanted a break forever but I have just been unable to do a break longer than a week because of crippling anxiety. For the last two years, I have had savings enough for 6 months but I could never imagine quitting and I would be thinking of work even when I was supposed to be away from work.

More recently, I've expanded my savings to last me over a year and the 2020-me would never feel comfortable with quitting with even a 1-year cushion but the opportunity cost of continuing doing something that makes me unhappy seems far too great.
A timely post for me personally, since I've been swamped with thoughts around quitting the workforce for good as well. I'm still young, and with a toddler to provide for, but I can't help think about how incomplete my education and accomplishments have been. I'm still a good 7-10 years away from early retirement, but I like to think I've been planning well for it. I have about 2 decades worth of expenses squirrelled away in various investments. But this way of living has put a strain on my relationship with money, where even though I technically have enough funds to buy a BMW up-front, I would think twice before even looking at an i20. (for more on the pitfalls of this mindset, I'd recommend this thread- https://www.reddit.com/r/financialin...m_source=share)

Your post has inspired me to start thinking about hanging up my boots and pursue my interests a bit sooner than the timeline that I had in mind. After all, the amount of money you need can be modified based on controlling your expenses, but the time you have left in your life cannot. No harm in taking a break to reevaluate, and this is something that I will consider in the short term. Thanks, and good luck!

Last edited by Sudarshan42 : 16th May 2022 at 10:23.
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Old 16th May 2022, 10:32   #5
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Default Re: Musings of a (Former) Freelancer | Quitting full-time work

Guys if you are planning on hanging up your work boots, you need to be mindful of a few facts.
The first is the 4% thumb rule. You can't spend beyond 4% of your liquid assets each year if you wish to preserve your wealth. This is very important to those who have several decades of living a retired life or for those who want to leave a legacy of wealth for their dependants.

The second is: you need to be clear of what you need to do in life. If you have no clear plans, boredom will set in within a few months. Goals such as travelling the world will be complete within the first few years, you will need something more solid to motivate you.

And finally, please cater to big ticket expenses like your kids education, wedding, family illnesses etc before taking this step.
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Old 16th May 2022, 10:44   #6
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Default Re: Musings of a (Former) Freelancer | Quitting full-time work

Great post, thank you for sharing! Great to see and hear someone young taking stock of his life in a very independent way!

The job security is a real tricky thing. Everybody who starts on his/her own, be it free lance, independent contractor, starting own business will face this. There is always the worry where the next pay check will be coming from.

Itís not for everyone. A very good friend of mine, started his own business some years ago. He was actually quite successful. But his wife just could not handle the stress of not knowing where next monthís money was going to come from. Eventually, he stopped and got a regular job, she was a lot happier and then he got made redundant.

But the financial worry of anybody trying to make it on their own is very real. It is the cost of being independent I guess. It has its toll on not just the person in question, but also his/her family.

My son in law is a journalist. Until recently he worked free lance and completely independent. Never had a regular contract. That is how he preferred it. He did a lot of work for one particular news company. They liked his work very much and asked him to join on a permanent basis. He had to give it a lot of thought. In the end he did join. He was married (my daughter!), and they also have a daughter (my grand daughter!) and a house and a mortgage! So whilst the move from freelance to a fixed contract was something he pondered about for a long time, my wife and I were secretly hoping and praying he would take it. If anything, it would give us peace of mind.

He did take it, but only for a couple of days a week, so he can still work independently on articles and research he enjoys. He had a special arrangement written up in his contract so he can work independently, as long as there is no conflict of interest.

Neither he, or my daughter have ever worked full time. They enjoy their lives to the max, taking turn to stay home with their daughter. They never seem to worried about financials, the mortgage etc.

Itís good to see a new generation shaping their lives in a very different way than their parents did.
Jeroen
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Old 16th May 2022, 11:04   #7
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Default Re: Musings of a (Former) Freelancer | Quitting full-time work

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Originally Posted by RoadTrippin View Post
Good luck! I took a permanent break from work almost three years back (2 days shy of my 40th birthday) and one of the big challenges has been finding ways to fill my time, been engaged with my farm, building a farm house, traveling (A lot less than anticipated thanks to the pandemic) and have recently gotten back to doing some freelance consulting.

It is a great choice if you're mentally prepared for it. Wish you all the best with your 'Early Retirement'!
That sounds great, happy for you! I would love to get a place with some more greenery in the short-term, tired of the concrete jungle. Regarding, early retirement, I expect to be back to work in the next 2-3 months as I doubt I can keep my mind occupied much longer. Besides, I enjoy working but it's good to stop every once in a while and look back at all the progress you've made.

Best of luck on future endeavors!
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Old 16th May 2022, 11:11   #8
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Default Re: Musings of a (Former) Freelancer | Quitting full-time work

It is so heartening to see a young man with so much clarity of thought as well as courage of conviction, and the confidence to put even very personal matters with such openness and in a matter of fact way.

A few small takeaways, if I may weigh in with some unsolicited observations (you seem a very sorted young man so feel free to entirely trash this away of course).

Education: I didn't quite gather from your introduction post or this thread how far ahead you managed to get in terms of education. While many may debate the actual value of our degrees, there is no doubt it opens certain doors at the right time. Early on, do consider getting some relevant educational degrees that might stand you in good stead at any point in future, regardless of where your work takes you. Whether this is through distance education or full time is up to you of course.

Anxiety: Again, it is heartening to see someone recognizing anxiety and taking actual steps to do something about it. I like the way you are thinking and its important to constantly assess whether what you're doing is furthering your personal and professional growth as well as assess whether it is extracting an unacceptable toll from you in the larger scheme of things.

I wish you the very best and look forward to reading more about this journey over the coming years.

Cheers.
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Old 16th May 2022, 11:15   #9
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Default Re: Musings of a (Former) Freelancer | Quitting full-time work

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Originally Posted by Sudarshan42 View Post
A timely post for me personally, since I've been swamped with thoughts around quitting the workforce for good as well. I'm still young, and with a toddler to provide for, but I can't help think about how incomplete my education and accomplishments have been. I'm still a good 7-10 years away from early retirement, but I like to think I've been planning well for it.
I am glad that you found value in my post. For what it's worth, I think you're in a decent position to take a break, you can always join the workforce later. I especially agree with the part about the FIRE mindset. I am somewhat similar but I think this usually ends up with me making a large, impulse purchase rather than smaller Quality of Life purchases.

Either way, I think you'll be just fine Best wishes!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeroen View Post
Great post, thank you for sharing! Great to see and hear someone young taking stock of his life in a very independent way!
.
Thank you so much. Honestly, I think I've done well to manage my anxiety around job security but I agree it takes time and it's not for everyone. it's especially harder on family members who may not feel "in control of the situation".

Happy to hear about your children managing work and personal life in such a wonderful way. I am considering a similar work arrangement as your son-in-law. I know in my industry, retainers, especially for consultants, can be extremely lucrative so I could see myself once again working for a few companies at the same time.

Funnily enough, I was offered a full-time position by one of my clients because they really did not want to let me go. Alas, I turned it down - gotta take risks. Besides, with my portfolio, I can always turn back to freelancing should the need arise.

Last edited by Turbanator : 16th May 2022 at 11:26. Reason: Back to back posts merged. Please use multiquote function. Quoted posts trimmed.
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Old 16th May 2022, 11:27   #10
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Default Re: Musings of a (Former) Freelancer | Quitting full-time work

Kudos on taking/talking (about) this big step.

The ~40 year old me tells me this is too early to call it quits for someone who's just exploring his professional journey and has still a lot to grasp and learn from the world.

But the 35 year old me (~4 years ago) who took a similar step cutting all ties completely with my employer and team celebrates this step and wishes you the best going forward.

In the end, what I have realized is everyone's journey is different with its own set of values for the different variables that life throws at one. Family commitments. Monetary savings. Inheritance/family money. Liabilities & dependencies (on one). Mental situation. Stress (from both family & work life). Personal issues/problems at hand. And so many more. The decision one takes is a mix of some or more of these variables and the each of these variable hold a different value for each of us.


So all the best in your next steps. And on a side note, I must say your writing skills are excellent (what a great & clearly articulated first post!). It is no wonder your career was going well.
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Old 16th May 2022, 11:35   #11
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Default Re: Musings of a (Former) Freelancer | Quitting full-time work

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Originally Posted by Axe77 View Post
It is so heartening to see a young man with so much clarity of thought as well as courage of conviction, and the confidence to put even very personal matters with such openness and in a matter of fact way.

A few small takeaways, if I may weigh in with some unsolicited observations (you seem a very sorted young man so feel free to entirely trash this away of course).

Education: I didn't quite gather from your introduction post or this thread how far ahead you managed to get in terms of education. While many may debate the actual value of our degrees, there is no doubt it opens certain doors at the right time. Early on, do consider getting some relevant ...
Thank you so much, you sound very humble and I think I would be a fool to trash any advice

Regarding my education, I just wrapped up my UG (B.Com) from Delhi University but a terrible college (most of them are terrible if we're honest) after dropping out of my dream college earlier.

I was looking into a Masters's degree in Psychology and possibly a Ph.D. in Indian education policy because I am very passionate about the subject but I am not sure. I think I'll have to continue on my unorthodox path - save money, study, and repeat haha.

Regarding, anxiety, it's all good. I have come a long, long way and but I think mental health for some folks including myself is a neverending journey. That's okay, you get some, you lose some. I wouldn't feel bad about it.

I am excited to share my journey too! I have a lot of plans and hopefully, I'll have the time to put them into action as well.

Thanks once again and wishing you the very best! Cheers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ninjatalli View Post
Kudos on taking/talking (about) this big step.

The ~40 year old me tells me this is too early to call it quits for someone who's just exploring his professional journey and has still a lot to grasp and learn from the world.

But the 35 year old me (~4 years ago) who took a similar step cutting all ties completely with my employer and team celebrates this step and wishes you the best going forward...
Thank you so much but I am quitting forever. I just want to take a break, reassess my priorities and join the workforce in a different capacity, maybe as a full-time employee or consultant. But I really do enjoy working and putting my energy into something constructive so I could never see myself not working.

And thank you - I didn't even proofread the original post and just rambled on so I am really glad you enjoyed it (visible grin on my face).

Everyone - thank you so much for your good wishes and advice, I appreciate it a lot. I just wanted to say that it sometimes feels odd that most of my colleagues are twice my age but you guys have so much more wisdom to offer and besides, part of me has never found people my age very relatable, anyway.

I know I am going to enjoy my time here very much.

Mod Note - Please use the Multi-quote function to reply or use the Edit window.

Last edited by Turbanator : 16th May 2022 at 12:39. Reason: Merged back posts.
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Old 16th May 2022, 11:36   #12
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Default Re: Musings of a (Former) Freelancer | Quitting full-time work

Interesting thread! I am in a similar position. I have been a graduate student and adjunct lecturer in the US for the past few years, but am now looking for alternative options. Being an adjunct is similar to being a freelancer insofar as you have no idea whether or not you'll have money after the current semester. The uncertainty is hard but as I have no-one besides myself to provide for, it's comparatively easier to live with. I am going to move back to India permanently and I have no idea what sort of work to look for or what to do, and reading this at this time feels opportune. I have no specific questions, just want to say thanks for sharing your experience.
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Old 16th May 2022, 12:34   #13
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Default Re: Musings of a (Former) Freelancer | Quitting full-time work

Its so heartening to see you taking risks. It is better to take a risk earlier in your career and try options. I didn’t have the risk appetite when i started, had a few freelance jobs that came my way, and I opted out. Yes, it was the certainty of a salary that attracted me towards a fixed job. Now 23 years down the line, while aspiring for early retirement, I wonder if freelancing could have been my answer.
One suggestion I would give you is regarding education- make sure you get the best possible education that can establish tour credentials upfront. While success in career depends on many things including hard work, a strong education can give you a head start.
I had an engineering degree, did IT work for first 10years across countries, moved to MNC tech firms and now in top tier management consulting. While i did relatively well as compared to my engineering peers, I meet a lot of younger chaps with ivy league degrees achieving much more at a much younger age.
That brings me to the next point - aspiration- have a high enough aspiration that motivates you to study/work hard. I started at a time when my only aspiration was to land in the US, own Nike shoes( that was a big deal for me) and own a sony camcorder. When i look back, i think I could have aspired more, planned for more.
Don't mean to make this too long, to sum it up- aspire high, work hard, take risks while you can. Wish you all the success in in your career and more impor in life.
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Old 16th May 2022, 12:37   #14
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Default Re: Musings of a (Former) Freelancer | Quitting full-time work

thanks for that insight, @slip.

Considering you have a knack for writing, and you are exploring being a regular employee - do you want to check out Technical writer roles ? It will be more dry compared to what you have done so far. Growth path ? I am not aware - hope some one who has that experience can help you out. One option is to look for education & communication type work in the organization you join.

All the Best !
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Old 16th May 2022, 12:50   #15
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Default Re: Musings of a (Former) Freelancer | Quitting full-time work

Most of us here at TBHP are good at English vocabulary and comprehension skills, but I am assuming are not lucky enough to get that first gig so that they can build on it.

The most pressing question I have is how to get started. Like are there any freelancing websites where you can showcase your English writing skills to clients? Would really help many if you can advice on this possibly.
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