The following is a guest post by WD Contributing Editor Linda Formichelli, from her new book, Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race … And Step Into a Career You Love.
You want to ditch the rat race to become a freelance writer—or do you? If you’re on the brink of making the leap but need some motivation to cut ties from the 9–5, here’s a kick in the pants for you.
Your Writing Dream
You’ve always had a thing for writing, or maybe you grew into it after years of experimenting with other hobbies and professions. It doesn’t matter. If it’s your dream, whether it’s from your childhood or a more recent phenomenon, it deserves a chance.
Too many of us don’t go after our dreams because the status quo is comfortable and, after all, it’s what people expect of us. Our boss expects us to do our work, our friends like us just the way we are (aw), and our families have this annoying habit of needing to be fed and clothed.
But what if I told you that you can have it all? I know dozens of writers (like me) who left the rat race to pursue writing as a profession—and they manage to pay their bills, feed their families and even match (and exceed) their previous 9–5 incomes.
It’s not easy. But if a dream is too easy, is it worth going after? (Then your dream would be something like, “I dream of working from 9–5 in a cubicle and then coming home and watching TV until bedtime.”)
Is Your Job Your Passion?
If you don’t love what you do every day, you’re just killing time until you hit the grave.
Imagine you’re on your deathbed and you’re looking back over your life. Are you happy that you spent X number of years working away at a job that didn’t light your fire? Or do you wish you had had a career you were so passionate about that you leapt out of bed every morning all psyched up about what the day would bring?
Don’t get me wrong—writers experience burnout too. I know I do at times! But the fun thing is that when you work for yourself, you’re perfectly free to change the parameters of your job to fit your ever-evolving passion. So if you’d rather drive red-hot spikes through your forehead than write another case study, you can move some or all of your work to blogging, magazine writing, or whatever else turns you on.
Everyone deserves to have a job they love. I hate when ads say, “You deserve [this new mascara/a sinful dessert/a fancy vacation]!” I always want to reply, “How do you know? Maybe on the way home today I knocked over an old lady and kicked a puppy.” But yes, you do deserve to enjoy your career.
Job Security, Schmob Security
OK, no more talk about dreams and passion and all that mushy stuff that doesn’t pay the bills. Let’s talk about job security.
Your friends and family may think you’re nuts to quit a steady job to go freelance. “You’re losing your security!” they say. And perhaps that’s what’s keeping you from making the commitment to finally take the leap.
Maybe that was true 50 years ago, but it’s not true today. Now, you actually have more job security as a freelancer than you do working for someone else.
If you’re employed by a company, your boss can literally stop your income—all of it—at any time. One minute you’re earning some nice bucks, and the next minute you’re earning zero.
As a freelancer, you’ll eventually have many clients. If you lose one client, you won’t lose all your income. You’ll take a hit, to be sure, but you can make it back by doing more marketing to land another client or by getting more work from one of your current clients.
The Money Factor
If you’re like me, you bristle at the idea of grinding away at a job to fill someone else’s pockets while they oh-so-generously pay you a fraction of what you’ve earned for the company.
I had more than 25 jobs before I became a freelance writer. Some people would say I had a bad attitude. I prefer to say I refused to settle.
There’s honor to be had in working any job to pay your bills and feed your family. I salute you! But there’s even more honor in striking out on your own so you can keep all the money you earn—so you can do an even better job at paying your bills and feeding your family (not to mention having enough money for fun and frolic).
Another money point: As an employee, how much you earn is necessarily limited. If you make $40,000, that’s what you make. Period. You can probably get a small raise here and there, but if you suddenly decide you want to earn six figures, you’re outta luck.
As a freelancer, you control how much money you make. Once you know what your return is on your marketing—for example, how many pitches you need to send out to make X amount of dollars—you can earn more just by doing more. And if your schedule gets overloaded with work, that’s a sign you need to raise your prices or go after better-paying clients.
There’s no middleman siphoning away your value and no boss putting a ceiling on your income.
Your Talents + Your Business Savvy + Your Hard Work = Your Income.
If you’re almost-but-not-quite ready to write your way out of the rat race, I hope these points help you finally make the decision that can change your life—for the better.
—Linda Formichelli has written for close to 150 magazines since 1997—including Redbook, USA Weekend, Writer’s Digest, Inc. and Fitness—and more than two dozen copywriting, blogging and content marketing clients. Her new e-book, Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race…And Step Into a Career You Love, has just launched. Check it out here for a special limited-time low price.
Check out the latest issue of Writer’s Digest—which features an exclusive dual interview with Anne Rice and Christopher Rice, and a feature package on how to improve your craft in simple, effective ways—in print, or on your favorite tablet.