Monday, December 28, 2009

Is Freelance Writing More Stable than a 9 to 5?

Yuwanda Black shared an interesting post about how aspiring writers can begin taking steps to make their dreams of freelancing come true in 2010. Aside from my obvious jealousy that she’ll be flying off on yet another steamy adventure for five weeks in Jamaica (just, kidding, Yuwanda – have MUCH fun and be safe!), what really caught my attention was a bold headline further down in her post that reads, “Freelancing Provides More Job Security.” I’m inclined to cautiously agree.

What “working for the man” used to mean

My father has worked for the same company for over 35 years. Over the years his job has presented its employees with an absolutely awesome benefits and retirement package, turkeys and hams for every major holiday, bonuses, lavish gifts celebrating 10, 15, 20 and 30 years with the company, company car, beeper (back in the day) which was eventually upgraded to a company cell. You get the picture.

This is what my parents also wanted for me. It's what I was groomed as a little girl to want and go after, and so I did. Two months after graduating from college I hit the corporate jackpot and relocated to Atlanta to accept an advertising sales assistant position at the local paper. Four months into the job, I knew it wasn’t for me.

Leaving a “good job”

Even though I didn't care for my job I stayed because it provided "security." Eight years later when I told my dad that I was quitting what he affectionately referred to as my “good job,” He thought I was crazy. I had a two year old, newborn twins, a mortgage and car payments.

I completely understood his point of view. He had a “good job” that had been there through my mother’s untimely illness and inability to work again, financed my college tuition and allowed him to pay off his mortgage and cars. He wanted the same security for his only child.

But I could see the writing on the corporate wall early on. Even if I was cut out for the cubicle lifestyle, corporate America was no longer what it used to be. Now it’s plain for everyone to see: massive layoffs, cuts or no provision for benefits and furlough days have become the new norm.

The job security myth revealed

Last year many of my dear old coworkers at the paper became victims of a huge department layoff, as did many other newspaper workers across the nation. The Internet has done a lot to fragment advertising media. My “good job” turned out to be anything but. Which brings me back to the point of Yuwanda’s post…

The idea of job security is to a large degree a myth. High unemployment has forced many of us to become much more resourceful and depend on skills we developed in the corporate jungle to survive via freelancing and contract gigs. It’s a win-win situation for us and the big companies who no longer have the funds to maintain creative departments yet still require our services.

I also agree with Yuwanda’s idea that being a freelancer forces you to learn more. Although I worked on a computer eight hours a day for eight years at my old job, I was woefully computer illiterate when I left. Why should they bother teaching me more than they needed me to know to get the job done?

It wasn’t until I began working for myself that I forced myself out of my comfort zone to learn new skills. When you work for yourself, staying on top of small business, technological and Internet trends is a necessity.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

I think the success of working for yourself depends largely on not putting all of your eggs into one basket. This is certainly the case for freelance writers where you must constantly market your services to build up a roster of clients who will supply steady work.

Depending on just one client would be career suicide. When you have 10 or more clients sending you work, you won’t feel the sudden departure of one client as much. One might consider relying on a “good job” in this economy to be the same as putting your eggs in one basket. What will you do if suddenly that job is no longer there?

Start with a plan of action

Now I don't suggest that as an aspiring freelance writer you should just run out and quit your job. You have to have a plan for any business to work. Start freelancing for clients as a side gig, or work to set aside 12 months of savings before you make the leap. I recommend the information from these sites to help get you started:

Inkwell Editorial

All About Freelance Writing

Freelance Writing Jobs

About Freelance Writing


Article Writing said...
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Dee. A. Mony said...

Hello Avid Writer. I am just starting out as a blogger and a freelance writer. Saying that it is HARD is putting it in a very easy manner. But it is from the likes of you that I garner inspiration and faith that it is doable. Keep up the good work.

Lori said...

What I love about this post, Kim, as with every post of yours, is it reveals a truth. We as freelancers are much more "job secure" than our corporate counterparts. If a 58-year-old employee is laid off, where does he go? Age discrimination is against the law, but it's a law that's constantly broken.

As writers, we are always looking five steps ahead. We have to in order to survive. Our survival skills are stronger and more transferable (and our ages are hidden behind computer monitors).

Kimberly Ben said...

@ Dee A. Money: Thank you for such a kind comment. You made my day. And congratulations on your decision to begin blogging and writing. Create a plan and stick with it. If you visit any of the sites listed at the end of this post you'll be on the right track. Good luck!:~)

Kimberly Ben said...

Lori, I agree - freelancers do have some pretty incredible survival skills. Age discrimination is an issue I hadn't really considered but it's definitely alive and well.

Honestly, Lori, if it weren't for freelancing I wouldn't have half the skills I've developed over the past two years. Now I think nothing of pushing myself to learn new things because its part of my job.:)

Devon Ellington said...

I've been a freelancer my entire working life, and, although I'm not rich by any means, I've had more emotional fulfillment and steadier paychecks than most of the people I know in "regular" jobs. As a freelancer, if you're good, motivated, and seek opportunities, you're always working.

What I love about a freelancer is that, to survive well, there's little room for mediocrity. You can't stay in your comfort zone. You have to challenge and learn and grow.

Kimberly Ben said...

Hi Devon - hope you had a nice holiday.:)

Although I've worked for others most of my life (Whew! Thank goodness that's over!), I couldn't help but notice how quickly I was making the same, if not more, money on a weekly/monthly basis on my own.

The biggest challenge for me has been stepping out of my comfort zone to learn and implement new skills and strategies. Having bills to pay and kids to feed is a huge motivator, Lol. I agree about venturing out of your comfort zone. As with most things, when you see that your efforts make a difference, you can't help but to continue doing putting forth the energy and growing.

Jenn Mattern said...

Great post Kim, and so true.

I think my generation has seen the flaws in the "company loyalty = job security" myth for a long time. I remember growing up hearing my mother tell me to get in with a good company and stay there -- that's the way to succeed and keep a job. And then the lay-offs happened (this was more than a decade ago, and I'd say things are even worse now). No matter how loyal a worker might be to their employer, the fact is that companies are NOT loyal to their employees. If they have to cut costs, they have to cut costs.

When someone is responsible in freelancing, they don't rely solely or primarily on a single client. So if we lose a gig, that's okay. We still have others bringing in income while we look for a new client to plug that hole. Freelancing is absolutely the more stable option when managed well by the writer.

Kimberly Ben said...

Hi Jen and thanks for stopping by to comment. I know exactly what you're talking about. I'm a Gen Xer and that's what most of us heard over and over growing up. My father has really come around and tells me all the time how impressed he is that I made this choice.

He's seen big changes in the way his employer treats its employees. The only reason he's still there (he really should be retired by now but refuses to go) is because he's been around so long and the higher ups love him. Anyone else would have been shoved into retirement a long time ago, ready or not.

A 9 to 5 corporate job absolutely doesn't fit my lifestyle. And even if it did I'd probably end up losing all my hair stressing about whether or not my job was "secure."

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