Friday, April 8, 2011

Why I Choose Freelance Writing Over Employment

Is it just me, or does anyone else break out in a cold sweat (or hives) at the thought of working a “nine to five?” Please don’t think I’m some self-employed snob. I worked in a corporate environment for eight years, and I‘ll admit that I’ve sometimes wondered whether it would be easier to get a guaranteed check every week, employer provided benefits and paid time off for vacations, there’s nothing more satisfying to me than being able to provide those things for myself.

Why am I even discussing this? Well, something interesting happened to me this week. I was doing some marketing late Tuesday evening, contacting prospects by email about my services, when I unexpectedly received a response email from a company’s Human Resource Manager. She asked whether or not I would consider employment status over working for her company as a contract writer.

Her question caught me off guard for a moment. On the one hand I was being offered the promise of reliable pay and work, but at what cost? I know we’re still dealing with financially troubled times right now, and some might be reading this wondering what kind of idiot stands around questioning a steady pay check? Well I’ll tell you what kind.

My background is in the newspaper industry. Although I left my job before the industry truly crumbled, my position provided a front row seat to the unpredictability of working for someone else. Some of my coworkers had worked for this publication for 20+ years. This publication had a well-earned reputation as a place where employees stuck around until retirement. Then came the Internet, and around 2000, it’s presence was felt as print’s biggest revenue source was threatened – advertising. I could see the writing on the wall as I left. Unfortunately, many of my coworkers continued to be lulled into a false sense of security and the mass layoffs caught them off guard. My inability to pay child care for my soon to be newborn twins and two year old was the catalyst that led me to resign, otherwise I may have ignored the signs and continued working along with everyone else hoping for the best.

I have a family, so naturally the idea of security appeals to me; but my life also requires a great deal of flexibility. Even though this Human Resource Manager was offering me an opportunity to work from home, a flexible work schedule wasn’t part of the deal. And maybe I’m spoiled now, but I don’t want to be obligated to work on projects that don’t work for me.

So in the end I politely explained to the HR manager that I prefer to maintain a freelance status, and am always open to other opportunities. She seemed okay with my response and offered to pass my name along to the person in charge of hiring freelancers and other vendors.

I’ve been freelancing for five years now. I’ve seen my share of financially tight months, but I’ve managed to stick with it and find a groove that provides a contentment and security my old job could not. Working for several clients feels more financially secure to me than relying on one job, so sticking to my freelance writer status works best for me.

What would you do? Would you choose a full-time or part-time position over freelancing?


Lisa Vella said...

I'd do exactly as you did. The flexibility is too nice and especially necessary when you have children. I don't blame you one bit!

Hope you have a nice weekend!

Kimberly Ben said...

Hey, Lisa,

I really did sit back and weigh the pros and cons, but freelancing has been working well for me. The last six months spent traveling back and forth between caring for my dying father and my four kids really made me appreciate the flexibility more than ever.

Lori said...

I just answered an ad a friend had sent. It was for an editor/reporter position - telecommuting. I answered only because I was intrigued. It's a 9-to-5 for the most part, I suspect, but the pay is super nice for journalism. I'll play only as long as I figure it's not going to feel like a "real" job. :)

Kimberly Ben said...

That's the way I feel, Lori. I would consider employment status that allowed me to work from home AND have the flexibility I need (with 4 small kids-one with special health needs this is a necessity for me right now). As I told the HR manager, I'm always open to new opportunities.

Susan said...

Kimberly, I just ran across your blog, and I enjoy this over stuff that I have read because these are personal stories rather than "Do this, do that, etc."

As for full-time vs freelance, I don't think I can ever go back. I never adapted well to the required structure, wasted time (meetings followed by meetings), and now ... I work half the time for the same amount of $. If I work crazy hours, then I get paid well, which certainly didn't happen as an employee.

I do periodically get requests to work fulltime or consider employment at company XYZ and they always seem surprised when I respond "No, I prefer this over any full-time job."

Admin said...

Hi Susan,

Ahh, a kindred spirit. I couldn't agree more with your assessment of the typical corporate culture; and like you I much prefer steering my own ship. :~)

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