Why I Quit My Job to Freelance — And You Might Consider Quitting, Too

I used to be just like you. My old job as an executive recruiter meant long hours with little to show for my work. I was working my tail off and making a lot of money for the companies that employed me, but I wasn’t profiting at all. If you’re like me, that sounds about as appealing as actually eating those proverbial sour grapes.

Because I’ve always had a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit, I let it take hold of me. My drive to build something of my own motivated me to go the freelance route. I sold my car, moved to a smaller apartment, and cut my bills in half. Everything grew from there.

So when I say freelancing is real, valid job, I’m speaking from experience.  

Some people think freelancers aren’t truly employed. They think — or maybe just want to believe — that there’s no way to work from home and make enough money to pay the bills, save for retirement, and have insurance. But that’s not the case.

What Makes Freelancing Better Than Corporate Life

Several benefits come from freelancing that simply can’t be experienced in a corporate environment, such as having the freedom to turn down bad assignments and collaborate on your own terms.

For example, if you’re a freelance copywriter and three projects hit your desk at the same time, you can choose which ones to take and which to turn down. If the first two projects offer great pay, but the third one does not, you can tell the third client, “Sorry, but my plate is too full.” Good luck saying that to your boss in your corporate job.

It may seem like you don’t have much human interaction in a freelance setting, but that’s not true, either. Depending on your business, you may work with numerous clients and contractors every day. You can share an office with someone downtown if you want, and you’re free to mix in lunch dates with your friends. The freelance lifestyle is sometimes portrayed as lonely, but it most definitely isn’t.

These are just a few of the perks of working for yourself that you’ll never experience in a corporate setting. Do some more research to find out whether, for you personally, the benefits that freelancing can offer outweigh those provided by more traditional career paths. The personal and professional benefits can be incredible.

If you’re considering taking the freelance path, don’t just dive in headfirst. You need to ask a few questions to determine whether freelancing is right for you:

  • Can I make enough money to survive? This isn’t Silicon Valley, where you raise millions of dollars for your software idea, then work on it until the money runs out. If you’re considering going out on your own, you should keep your day job while you build up your side business. I know this might not be the advice you want to hear, but it’s practical — and you should take it.
  • Is there a market for my service? You may be the best ventriloquist you know, but can you make enough money performing your skill to consider your act a business? Test the waters by Googling the type of service you’re planning to offer. Make the search specific to your area. Talk to potential clients and your friends. Hammer out the details of your idea before taking the plunge.
  • Am I disciplined enough for the freelance lifestyle? Does working freelance mean sleeping until 11 a.m. and knocking off at 3 p.m.? Unless you’re making an amazing hourly rate, freelancing doesn’t mean sitting around in your pajamas and completing the occasional project. Be prepared to motivate yourself to work hard.

Are You Ready to Make the Leap?

People get stuck in their ways; they think you can’t make money online or believe that the Internet is full of nothing but scammers. But if you know what to look for and which resources to use, freelancing opens up a whole world of possibilities. You truly can do full-time work from home and make plenty of money.

However, it’s important to understand that you need to be prepared to work hard. Freelancing is a grind. I left the corporate world because I knew I could do better for myself, not because I wanted an easier job. But don’t let fear or misunderstandings hold you back. Freelancing was, without a doubt, the right path for me — and it could be the best one for you, too.

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Melissa Cooper, a freelancer, net entrepreneur, and micro-enterpriser, is author of Freelance Nation.” Dedicated to career and organizational effectiveness, she’s earned SPHR and PHR designations. Starting with $700 and a VoIP phone, she grew her first company to more than 400 virtual workers, selling it for several million dollars.