How I Became a Full-time Freelancer
Although I started freelancing in college, I never planned to become a full-time freelancer. I enjoyed the extra income, but my plans were to graduate from college and work a regular 9-5 in the advertising industry. When graduation rolled around, I ended up landing a temp project at a studio I had interned with the previous summer. I was working as a marketing coordinator with the idea that the project would turn into a permanent position once my time as a temp was up.
As I worked for the studio, I got to do a lot of things I really enjoyed. I got to help supervise movie trailers being put together, occasionally hang out with film crews while they shot promotional materials with celebrities, and was given free breakfast and lunch everyday. It was awesome! But as great as the environment was, I found myself doing the same, repetitive tasks again and again. Perhaps my situation was unique, but often times I’d finish my work early and have nothing to do for the rest of the day. I’d sit at my desk, thinking about how I could make things more efficient in my department or go to other departments to see how I could help them. Sure, there were waves of work and deadlines where I was constantly moving and getting things done, but it wasn’t consistent. My mindset was that if I’m going to be at the studio all day, then I want to be making the most of my time there. If I didn’t have anything to do though, I’d rather be spending time at home with my wife, who was already freelancing full-time.
However, it didn’t look good to go home early as a newly hired employee. I needed to put in my hours…even if there wasn’t anything for me to do. I kept working at the studio over the course of the next several months, but then another thing started bothering me: the pay. In my mind, I figured that if I worked hard enough, I could climb the ranks in a few short years and have enough pay to put toward a new home. For some people, they prefer apartment living, but I’ve always wanted a home with a good-sized yard (something that is absurdly expensive these days if you’re living in Southern California). I’m personally a fan of suburban lifestyle and the extra space. My wife and I had been living in a tiny studio apartment in LA and could barely afford it with the pay I was getting at the studio. I thought this would only be temporary, but as I began talking to other people in the studio who were several years older than me and been in the industry much longer than I had, I found that the majority of people I spoke with were renting apartments. Again, nothing wrong with apartment living, it’s just not where I personally wanted to be in the next 10 years. This got me thinking that raises and salary bumps weren’t going to be nearly as significant as I thought they were going to be over the next few years. I needed to do something more. I started freelancing with the company I worked with during college after work hours to earn some extra income. I wasn’t able to create as many videos as I previously had when I was at college, but it was nice having some extra savings. All of the work was remote, so I was able to work on the videos after I came home from my full-time project. I continued doing this on and off for the next few months, adding to my savings with the plan that my wife and I would move into a bigger place once our lease was up.
I still enjoyed my full-time project at the studio. I had a lot of good friends there, the atmosphere was great, and the project perks were fun. But then… well… the company got bought out and things started to change. This was my first experience having a company I worked for get absorbed by another one. We now had new company executives and people weren’t sure who was going to be staying and who was going to be leaving. Initially, there weren’t any changes, but as time progressed, more and more people were laid off as the new owners decided which departments they needed and which ones they didn’t. Every week, there’d be rumors of which departments weren’t safe and who’d be hit with the next wave of layoffs. Some of my friends stayed, and others were let go. My marketing department was supposedly safe, according to rumors, but I didn’t like the feeling of having no control over my career. This was my life, after all, and the reality that I may have to go out and look for a new project when I didn’t have any prospects was scary. What would my new full-time position be? What will the new hours be like? Would I have to drive an hour and a half each way in LA traffic? If so, how much am I going to be seeing my family if I’m already only home a couple of hours each day, even with a short commute? Needless to say, the experience was eye-opening. I realized that in the case of a company being absorbed, it didn’t matter how good I was at my project if the new owners didn’t think my entire department was worth keeping. I didn’t like that thought.
I began to think more seriously about going full-time as a freelancer. I could choose the hours that I worked, decide my own pay, and most importantly, always have work as long as I was willing to work hard enough to get more clients. I talked with the company I was freelancing with part time and they said they had plenty of work for me to jump aboard full-time. With everything lined up for me to make the jump to full-time freelancing, I talked with my supervisor at the studio about my decision. My supervisor was understanding, given the situation at the studio. He said that he could offer me a position that was most likely safe from being laid off, but i just didn’t like the idea of my department being safe one day and axed the next. Having no control over my employment status made planning for the future difficult, and so I respectfully declined the offer. I continued working at the studio until my time as a temp was up. I had signed on initially with the idea that my temp position would end with the holiday season, and my full time position would start in the new year. On my last day as a full-time employee, I packed my things, said my goodbyes, and went home to start the new year, and my new career as a freelancer. And I haven’t looked back since.