Want to Freelance? Try Hallucination!
I love describing the moment I knew I had to quit my job. I was sitting in a meeting, seething about an assignment from a long-distance collaborator and trying to follow the KPIs. Somewhere between the weekly sales goals and quarterly projections, I became distracted by a vivid daydream of myself shedding my skin, popping out of my body, raw muscles and all, and jauntily sprinting away like a Keith Haring illustration. I gave my notice three hours later.
At this point in the story people look at me with expressions of admiration and “Hehe yeah, soo should I call you a doctor?”
It’s then I must explain that my graphic molting fantasy was obviously not the whole story. I’d planned to leave for months, but felt there was no earthly way I could transition right to another office job. I thought I might just go solo. I had pages and pages of notes about freelance life, the best resources for remote workers, how to find your “freedom number” and thrive on a budget, and how to work from home without losing your marbles. It’s much easier to do this research than it is to commit to making the moves, and I was truly stuck.
In hindsight this was classic burnout, though at the time it just felt like certain doom, which I made sure to describe to everyone in my life every single day in excruciating detail.
After months of not-quitting, finally quitting was a spontaneous decision (although I did wake up that morning, don jeans and a sweater, and wonder if I should have dressed up on the day I quit my job), but it was not an impulsive one.
Well, actually, that depends how you define impulsive. For all that research, I had neither a plan nor robust savings when I resigned. I was also recently single and considering moving to Australia, or Portland, Maine, or Portland, Oregon, or Austin, or San Diego, or Asheville, North Carolina, or Chicago, or really anywhere else but here. Although my applications weren’t turning up new job opportunities, I did sort of know what I wanted: to learn something new, have more autonomy and flexibility, and make the kind of money that reflected my market value.
But no, I had absolutely no idea how I was going to do this.
As I hurtle toward the end of my twenties and the world hurtles toward...something...I can comfortably and happily say I’ve gotten way more “woo.” Usually an overthinker to the point of paralysis, I can actually count off a number of times I just KNEW something was going to be the right decision for me. Every cell in my body goes, “yup, that’s it.” This chime of intuition isn’t usually accompanied by visions of shimmying out of my own skin in the middle of a business meeting, but if that’s not a sign it’s time to GTFO, I dunno what is. So I listened.
If I had decided to quit any earlier, forced that decision before I could say with perfect conviction, “I’ve squeezed everything I possibly can out of this experience and myself and I’m going to make room for something that suits me better now,” quitting would have been a terrifying reach and I most certainly would have bungled it. I was not, at that point, operating from a place of great self-confidence.
As it was, my resignation went well. No burned bridges, no hurt feelings, and I didn’t walk away feeling guilty for leaving after 3 years with the company. (Plot twist: I actually still do contract work for them, because successful freelancing is all. about. relationships.) I did give four weeks’ notice to help manage the transition, and booked two new clients immediately through personal connections (a swipe of kismet for which I’ll always be grateful). No live skin was shed at any time.
I can’t always recommend going rogue like this without a plan, but there’s something to be said for cranking up the pressure in order to shake off the burnout. Never have I had to learn so much so fast about advocating for myself, managing my finances and my time, and keeping life stable without the conventional structures of an office lifestyle and a regular paycheck. Seven months in, all I know for sure is that growth doesn’t happen when you keep your ideas to yourself. That brings me here: taking a good hard look at self-employment from the inside out.
What do you want to know?