Photo by Imani Clovis on Unsplash

Quitting My “Real Job” for Freelance Writing

What happened when I decided to go it alone on a whim.

I’ve been a full-time freelancer for four weeks now. Unlike most sane people, giving up my comfortable full-time gig for the uncertainty of life as a freelance writer wasn’t something I had planned for or expected. In the lead-up to my biggest career move to date, I didn’t go over my finances. I didn’t network like crazy. I definitely didn’t have a backup plan.

Just a month and a half ago I was sitting at my desk in an office in London’s South Bank — the Regional Content Manager for three of the city’s coolest designer hotels. I was three months into this new role, the one that I thought of — and smugly declared to any that would listen — as my “dream job”. This job would be the game-changer that would propel me to another level of career success, or at least an attractive new salary bracket. Yep, I was definitely smug. But there had been a dark cloud overhead, one that in hindsight, I should’ve seen from a mile off.

The impending gloom came in the form of my co-workers, one woman in particular who I was managing. Thinking me too young, too confident, or too Australian (?) for the job, what began as a frosty remark here and a subtle eye-roll there grew worse over time. One determinedly ignorant boss later and I was out of options — ones that I could live with anyway.

Things moved quickly after that. I packed up my room in London and headed north to Liverpool, seeking respite from London’s crazy rental prices and some solace in my other half. We decided to take the plunge and I, who normally avoids commitment like most people do spiders, moved in with my long-distance boyfriend after just four months together. Clearly, I like to keep things interesting. But more on that another time.

So far, life is easier. No longer having to gear up for battle each time I enter the office is a major plus. I don’t miss the tube commutes either. Not all my problems have done a disappearing act though — life is a dick like that. On the upside, I’ve swapped unmanageable problems for much more bearable ones.

My biggest headache right now? The internal struggle that comes with life as an unexpected freelancer. Emerging bleary-eyed after a career in the warm and cosy embrace of full-time contracts and sweet, sweet monthly paychecks, I’ve found conditions out here are bleak.

The following is an honest recollection of the thoughts (aka. barely-concealed panic) I’ve had throughout my first month of going solo as a freelance writer. If nothing else, I hope it amuses.

1. Shock

Working for myself was not something I aspired to do. I was happy with my steady income and cushy office life, thank you very much. Oddly though, my decision to wave the white flag and say goodbye to 9–5 life was made pretty much unconsciously. When it all kicked off, I knew it was what I was going to do. It didn’t make it any easier though.

I would describe those first few days stumbling around another new city, with nowhere to be and nothing to do, not even a laptop to my name (I always used the company ones) as completely bewildering. For anyone I spoke to in my week of stupor, I apologise.

2. Blind optimism, with a good dollop of avoidance

Everything will be fine. No really it will be. Forget what my bank account says, or the fact I haven’t left the house in days, it’s all going to be fiiiiine. So fine in fact, that I best not stretch myself too much. I’ll just pop on another episode of The Wire instead.

3. Plain, unabridged anger

“Why does nobody ever reply to emails ever?” was a common — albeit grammatically incorrect — phrase you’d hear me throwing around often during these fun few days. Actually, I still say it now. Cold pitching can be soul-destroying. Masochists should give it a whirl.

4. The real depths of despair

Finally, waves of unbridled and (let’s face it) wildly melodramatic sadness hit. Frankly I was surprised it took so long. Existential questions were asked, ice cream was eaten, desperate phone calls to parents in Australia were made. ‘Why do things not work out when you really want them to?’ ‘How can my white Supergas be dirty after one outing?’ ‘Am I ever going to get my act together and become a morning person?’ I was dealing with some really gritty stuff here.

5. Sheer terror

Whoever said money doesn’t matter clearly has never decided to go freelance on a whim. The cold hand of fear clutches my heart whenever I consider next month’s job prospects or wonder if that exciting proposition I’ve been told I’m perfect for will actually come good.

6. Indignant… and more than a bit snotty

Four and a half years I’ve been working in the industry. Four and a half years. Day in and day out writing for national magazines, lifestyle brands and creative start-ups. That is not a bad innings.

Surely I should automatically be granted access to all the freelance gigs in the world by now? I should be batting them away with a stick, should I not? This sounds, and is, incredibly naive and entitled, but feelings are feelings. Those have been mine at times. Please don’t hate me.

7. Not quite cautious optimism

Wouldn’t it be great if I could sum up this article nice and neatly, maybe with a quote about the power of positive thinking and ‘learning to let go’? I’m afraid I can’t just yet. I’m still right in the thick of it. I bounce between many of these stages daily, and that’s okay.

All I can do is keep on keeping on, have some laughs, and strongly urge editors to check their inbox for emails from alice.griffin@hotmail.com. They’ll be coming.


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