I turned down a high-paying job to freelance instead, and it's one of the best money decisions I've ever made
- Saying no to what seemed like a cushy job paying nearly six figures in favor of freelancing was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make.
- I'm glad I did it, though. Since then, I've been able to build the career and the life I really want.
- As a freelancer, I've been able to earn more than at a day job, and enjoy perks such as greater flexibility in my schedule and traveling while working.
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When I was offered a one-year, full-time contract job as a digital editor at a large investment company in Los Angeles that paid $46 an hour, I was torn. It would have worked out to about $96,000 in pay for the year.
I was at a career crossroads. Besides working a day job, I was moonlighting as a personal finance writer in hopes that I could get enough clients to be a full-time freelancer. If I took the job, I wouldn't have as much time to pursue a career in writing. When the recruiter offered me the position, I had the weekend to decide.I didn't sleep for two days. To this day it remains one of the toughest choices I've ever had to make professionally. I ended up turning down the job, and here's why it turned out to be the best career choice I've ever made:
It helped me lay the groundwork for what I truly wanted to do
In 2014, I landed my first gig writing personal finance articles. While I had taken freelance copywriting and proofreading gigs here and there, I never made more than a few hundred dollars a month. That bit of extra cash was used to "get ahead" on saving for small trips, and to make extra payments on my student debt.
My first gig writing about money revealed just how lucrative freelance writing could be. In that first month, I ended up earning about $3,500, which was roughly the same as my take-home pay at my job as a proofreader for a small publishing company. And in the next year, I was steadily getting more freelance work. The recruiter made it clear that the digital editor job was strictly a contract role and could last anywhere from six to 18 months. While it would have made for steady work and an opportunity to stockpile cash, I wouldn't have the capacity to work on what I really wanted to do: build a freelance writing business.
I always have the option to pick and choose the work I do
While feast or famine cycles and the threat of inconsistent income means I should consider accepting any work that comes my way, at the end of the day I know that I always have the option to say "no." That's not a type of freedom you can enjoy at a 9 to 5, when your boss might dump a pile of work on your desk and you can't exactly walk away. As a freelancer, if the assignment isn't a good fit, or if I'm maxed out on my capacity for accepting assignments, I'll exercise my earned perk to politely decline. After all, it's one of the benefits of running my own freelancing business.
I've been able to earn more
It took a lot of hustling and hard lessons, but near the end of my second year, I hit a milestone: I earned about the same as I would have at that job at the investment company. My income has been steadily increasing every year.Read more: I picked up a side hustle and grew my income by 50% using 3 simple habits
And now that I'm about to start the beginning of my fifth year as a solopreneur, I've found that one's earning potential is limitless. Unlike a day job, where you typically earn about a 3% increase in salary every year, opportunities to gain more freelance clients and make more money abound. Since I've become a full-time solopreneur, I've been able to increase my income to anywhere from 20% to 25% annually.
More flexibility in my schedule
Because I can tailor my work schedule according to my preferences and other obligations, I typically work in the morning. This is when I'm the most agile and in turn the most productive. Most days, I have my nose to the grindstone in the early morning and aim to wrap things up around lunch time. Along the same lines, I've taken various work-cations to New Orleans, west Texas, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. While traveling on the road with my partner, I've been able to work in hotel rooms before checking out, and at coffee shops while in transit.
There's greater job security
When I was quibbling over whether to take the contract job or not, my friend Sal, who is the CEO of Studio Mucci, pointed out that job security is an illusion. I know this is a point some people might dispute, but when you have a full-time job, there's a possibility that you could lose all of your income. If you're freelancing and one of, say, five clients drop out, you only lose part of your pay.
When I had a few of my major clients drop out within the same week, I initially panicked. However, I was still raking in some income from my other client work. And within two months I had landed enough new clients to match what I was previously earning.
While the decision to turn down that high-paying job came with loads of self-doubt, ambivalence, and stress, I'm certainly glad I did it. If I hadn't, I would have put my real goal of building a freelancing business on hold. And that would have truly been regrettable.