The guidance I was given in terms of a career always included getting a degree and landing a steady job with benefits. It’s to be understood as I was raised by a family of amazing and hard-working, but extremely underrepresented people. And when it came to this, I did exactly what I was told.
As a Black woman with, statistically, years of financial setback, I followed this path in providing for myself the only way I knew how. But after getting a degree and working corporate for 4 years, I broke the mold and went freelance. I can honestly say it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made this year. I’ve gained exponential career development, and after talking to people who have been in the business for so long I am learning that there is so much money to be made and consistently.
Some of My Fears Still Exist
Yes, I still get fearful about the instability of my income. The two ways I overcome this are by never accepting less than I deserve, and budgeting. I work now on a project basis, meaning I may have a job for anywhere from 2-months, 6-months, or 1 year. I think where people tend to get confused is remembering that this is still a commitment. If you are committing to a role for 6-months, make sure that it at the very least can financially support your lifestyle and preferably plus some so that you can save in the instance you end up out of work. Since these jobs are shorter-term and you’re probably not costing the company as much as a full-time employee with benefits, companies will be willing to pay more than you might receive for a similar long-term position.
Budget wisely. I would suggest you leave room to save money on a regular basis during the job, whether that be weekly or monthly. I’d figure how much it will cost to support yourself for 3 months unemployed, and then calculate how much you should be saving per paycheck to meet that savings goal. Then try to include that in your desired or negotiated rate. Being freelance also means that you don’t get PTO (paid time off), so the time-off you’re budgeting for doesn’t always have to be the result of unexpected circumstances. You might be saving up for a well-deserved break or vacation.
A Constant Change of Scenery
With freelance work, I encourage you to travel if given the opportunity. Traveling for work, with respective days off, is such a joy because you get to explore a new place while already having colleagues to hang out with and getting paid during. I like to think of it as a vacation where you’re earning instead of spending. Also, companies will pay for you to travel. So imagine a free flight and housing, a weekly salary, plus extra living stipends all while getting the opportunity to stay in a new city or country. I’ve had the honor of working in New Jersey, New Orleans, and even South Africa.
And even if I don’t get to travel outside of the state, the fact that I get to switch jobs/projects regularly helps fulfill my current need for change. I am almost always working with a new team, in a new office, or on a new project while doing freelance work. And while the job duties remain the same for the most part, the break in routine is refreshing. I was finding myself stuck in a rut of routine and working on the same tasks daily, but my current world has allowed me to continue developing my relevant job skills while regularly in a different setting.
A Sense of Security in Just Making Friends
You’ve heard it more times than you can count, but your network is your net worth. Throughout my journey freelance and full-time, I’ve met people who have reached out to inquire about me working on other projects. I personally still use job boards and facebook groups to apply for roles, but I’ve met so many people in my field who get call after call asking if they are available to work on an upcoming project or even join in on an existing one. These are the people who don’t struggle for work, and oftentimes even find themselves over-booked and forgetting to take actual time off. In addition, my network includes new friends. I made a friend on a project who texts me to let me know she misses our lunch breaks together, and a friend who texts me a picture of the menu whenever it has ‘shrimp & grits’ because it was the dish I ordered at every restaurant we went to. I believe in making connections like this in the workplace, because it makes the job so much better.
Although it’s been a short journey, I’m hopeful about my career in freelance with the things I’ve learned thus far. There are still different types of freelance jobs, so I encourage anyone looking to take that path to do their research either online or by talking with other who have done it. Learn about what project lengths, job duties, and rates you should expect in your line of work. Universally, I think budgeting and embracing change will always benefit. Salute to those killing it as free agents and I’m wishing prosperity on those wishing to take that path. Take the leap, and get ready to fly!
Asya is an accounting and finance professional who loves fiction novels, travel, writing, nature, and being a plant mom.