Have you ever dreamt of giving up the day job to work for yourself?
Emma O’ Dwyer recently made the transition from office worker to
freelance writer. Trading financial security for flexibility, she gives us the
lowdown on what it’s really like to hand in your notice and never look back.
The Story of a Working Mother: My Transition
If someone had told me ten years ago that I was to quit my full time job as a technical officer in an administration office in favour of becoming a work-from-home freelance writer, I never would have believed them. And yet as I sit on my sofa, wearing my slippers with the TV quietly playing in the background, my laptop on my knee and one eye on the clock so that I don’t miss the kids’ school bus arriving, I’ve never felt more at home…literally. It wasn’t that I started to dislike my job but, as any working parent will know, things change dramatically after having children and extortionate childcare costs, long days followed by sleepless nights and simply missing my babies were all factors that contributed to my growing disillusionment with conventional work. After my first child was born I reduced my hours. By the time my second arrived I knew that a more permanent change was necessary. It was a big decision and it hasn’t been without it’s problems but ultimately I know that I made the right decision for my family. This is my journey.
What I did then
My job BC (Before Children) involved being in charge of the administration office in a relatively large construction company. My main job duties were managing budgets, dealing with clients, processing orders and other day-to-day clerical duties. I was also in charge of the admin staff and had to manage their workloads, sickness, leave and schedules. There were often targets to be met, issues to resolve and deadlines to keep so it was a fairly high pressured role and for many years I enjoyed the challenge. After having my first child I was lucky enough to be able to halve my hours as part of a job share programme but the balance of work/home life didn’t work for me. I felt as though I wasn’t able to fully commit to either role – I was out of the loop with things at work for half of the week and I was still having to put my daughter in childcare during my working hours which meant forking out a lot of money as well as missing precious time with her. When I found out that I was pregnant for a second time I handed my notice in soon after. I wanted to work but not like this.
What I do now
I have always loved to write. I graduated from university with a degree in English and had dreams of training as a journalist. But life didn’t go quite as I’d planned and my career went in other directions. When I resigned from my job I began looking into freelancing opportunities that I could do from home and was staggered to find how much was available. With an estimated 152,000,000 blogs and personal websites out there, there is huge market for ghost writers, content providers and copywriters and I quickly signed up with an online marketing company and began writing articles on a variety of subjects for their clients. As I grew in confidence and experience I began submitting articles to magazines and newspapers and have had several pieces accepted. Seeing my work published and receiving generous payment for my trouble spurred me on further and I took to social media, advertising myself as a freelance copywriter which in itself has given me a list of regular clients. My own website and personal blog brings in affiliates and advertising revenue too. This has all obviously taken time and dedication but as writing is something that I am passionate about it has been enjoyable too.
What are the benefits
Unsurprisingly one of the biggest benefits for me is the flexibility. I pick my own working hours so if one of the kids has an appointment or a school play I don’t have to worry about getting the time off work. I am still strict with my working hours and work to timetables to ensure that I meet deadlines but it’s good to know that I only answer to myself and can make the time up when it suits me. Usually I work during the day when the kids are at school and my husband is at work but I have been known to work into the night once they are in bed if I have a big project on. I also enjoy the variety of the work. I have a number of clients all of whom require different styles of articles on massively different topics. In the same day I could be writing about travel, nutrition, parenting and politics so it never gets dull or repetitive. Some of these areas I am more knowledgeable about than others but it has certainly encouraged me to hone my researching skills and now I am confident to take on any type of work and enjoy broadening my general knowledge. And of course, I love writing so a lot of the time it doesn’t feel like work at all!
Are there any drawbacks?
As much as I love being a freelance writer I’d be lying if I said there weren’t drawbacks. The work and therefore the pay can be irregular – I am lucky enough to be able to rely on my husband financially but this would be a problem if I were a single parent or had a lot of debts to settle. There is no pay for the days when I’m sick or on vacation and at the end of the year I no longer have the luxury of a payroll department to sort out my annual tax for me, I have to do it all myself. Perhaps the thing I struggled with the most is the isolation. Working BC meant being within an adult environment and socialising as well as working. Now my work is very solitary – one of the reasons why lots of studies suggest writing is a depressing career choice. I disagree though, there are plenty of online forums and groups for writers to communicate and share inspiration, ideas and concerns. And if I am ever in doubt of the career choices I’ve made I only have to look at my kids faces when I meet them everyday from the school bus stop – a simple thing that just wouldn’t be possible if I’d stayed in my previous job. Being there for them is something money can’t buy and that alone makes it all worthwhile for me.
Would you consider making the move from employee to freelancer? Perhaps you’ve already done so. What was your experience? We would love to hear your views.