Last year, after a whole lot of frustrating life events, I gave up.
After years of freelancing, small businesses, and working my ass off, I’d had enough. Nothing seemed to stick the way I wanted it to, and I was always in financial crisis mode. The constant hustling was taking a toll on me, and most of what I’d worked on, while providing incredible learning and growth opportunities, had been financial failures. (To be clear, I was always making money, but it was never enough to not worry at least a little bit about making rent every month.)
I decided I wanted a real job.
The kind where you made a salary, got health benefits, the whole shebang. The consistency sounded so sexy and secure given how not stable my living situation was at the time, and it meant I didn’t have to always be hustling so hard.
Cover letters were written. Applications were sent out. And I interviewed with some pretty impressive, name-drop-worthy companies. In one case, I made it to the top 7 out of a pool of 150 for an executive position with a swanky Portland hotel – with exactly zero industry experience.
But as flattering as the interviews were, no one hired me.
Finally, I got hired by a tech company, and then another. I’d gotten exactly what I wanted – a content marketing position with a funded startup based out of San Francisco. Go me! Great success!
I visited San Francisco back in March, which was a fascinating experience (especially since I’d made the final call on my relationship split before I hopped the plane). I did tequila shots with Imgur’s CEO, danced with someone in a giraffe suit, and finally felt like I fit in somewhere for a change. SF is all abuzz with this unquantifable ambitious energy generated by people who want to reach their goals as badly as you do. But as an acquaintance noted, “SF is like a pressure cooker.” A few days there, and I was toast.
Highlights aside, the trip was very, very strange, and a month into working for this new company, I had my doubts about whether or not this was the life I actually wanted. As it turns out, the majority of bro-centric startup culture is awful for someone who doesn’t think work should be your whole life. At least not working for someone else. Harumph. It wasn’t a good culture fit, you might say.
These things don’t always turn out like we plan.
Sometimes, you get what you want, and you realize you were chasing somebody else’s dream.
I’d been frustrated as a freelancer, but that’s because I was doing it wrong. Always stressed, always launching, always falling short of the work I wanted to put into the world, and always, ALWAYS terrified of doing the kind of work I desperately wanted to, I had found myself in a struggle business owners often do – I’d built myself a job I hated.
A short list of things I did wrong as a freelancer:
- Not charging enough
- Being inconsistent
- Going off-brand
- Doing ALL THE THINGS
- Failing to delegate 9 times out of 10
- Not niching down
- Not asking for help
- Not asking for testimonials
- Wasting time on tactics
- Working with just anyone
- Not following up after completing projects
I could go on, but I think you get the picture. If you could find a way to fuck up as a freelancer, you can basically guarantee I have done that.
Want proof? My first client was a stranger I’d met over Skype who I worked for a rate I couldn’t believe she was willing to pay me ($12 an hour), ghostwriting a book on man catching. Four months into this very strange project, I found out she was a 19 year old stripper trying to become internet famous. I was a little more careful with client intake after that one.
But I learned from my mistakes. Things got a little better every gig. Some projects went incredibly well. Others, well, they went embarrassingly poorly. But with this whole REAL job thing, I didn’t need to freelance.
But the chronically self-employed can never really ignore that siren call of being their own boss, because they just aren’t very good at working for other people. They have a vision of what they think the future should look like, and it centers around doing their work their way. (It’s also terrifying to have all your eggs in one basket if you’ve ever lost a job.)
A former client who I’d had a wonderful engagement with years ago reached out to me about the time I moved into Portland – oh synchronicity! – and asked if I was taking on any work. Her work is beautiful and vital. How could I possibly say no?
Working with her was every bit as joy-inducing as I remembered. Soon, another perfect-fit client was referred my way. Then another.
The projects I had were going so smoothly, I could hardly believe it. Clients were happy. I was happy. I started Paul Jarvis’s Creative Class just to make sure I didn’t fuck anything up. (Highly recommended. I’m still implementing all of the goodness from it.)
Between referrals and all of the guest posts lining up and driving more traffic my way, it wasn’t long before my freelance client load matched what my day job was paying me. Which was amazing, except that there aren’t enough hours in the day for that sort of thing to be sustainable for long.
The thing was working in tech wasn’t nearly as satisfying as working with creatives who are actively changing the world. It also didn’t pay nearly as well, since I started charging the rates I should be for someone with my skill set. (Writer with an acting background? Why yes, I can channel you almost verbatim on to the page.)
So last week, I made the choice to let that vision of being a Silicon Valley, full-stack content marketer go.
Don’t get me wrong. My job was great. I had a lot of creative freedom, had a lot of opportunities, and the title of this post is a total misnomer. I left with plenty of notice and all those polite things you do when you leave a company you don’t loathe. Today was my last day with that company, and I’m back to freelancing for the coaches and creatives I love working with so much. (Really. So much love for these incredible women I have the privilege of working with.)
Because maybe – just maybe – it’s okay to change your mind about these sorts of things.
So what’s next?
Well, that’s easy. More connections, more adventures, more of what makes me happy.
I love telling stories. I need the time to devote to writing my next book, to working with clients who I adore, to enjoying a summer being young and in love, to playing with my kids before they both are in school this fall. These are the things that matter to me, and these are the things that deserve my attention.
Writing Availability: I have a very limited number of openings for new clients for this summer, and I’m booking now for fall 2015. I just revamped my offerings to three very specific, story-driven packages – and I think you’re going to love them. Check them out here.
WDS Unconferencers Write-in – This low-key event is free, and I’ll be there as your host and to edit anything you’d like. Often at conferences, I feel like I need a detox from all of the ongoings – which generally translates into needing to hunker down somewhere and write. Please RSVP so I can let the cafe know how many to expect.
Stop Blending In: A Workshop for Women in Transition – Transition is fucking hard. But you know what’s harder? Waking up one day and realizing you’re living a life you never signed up for.
Complete with swag, mimosas, and a real relationship building opportunity, this two-hour workshop will put practical and powerful tools in your hands so you can stop blending in – and start stepping out into the world as boldly as you want to. This will be a very intimate gathering (in my living room!) and only 10 spots are available.