I Quit My Job to Be a Freelance Writer: What Was I Thinking?

Editor

Freelance writer horrified that she has quit her day jobBy Teressa Campbell

Do you dream of the day when you can quit your day job and devote yourself to writing for money?

I did, too. So one day, I did it. I quit my $80k salary + benefits corporate job to be a full time freelance writer.

What was I thinking?

I thought being a full time freelance writer would be easy. That the jobs would flow in and I would have as much work as I could possibly handle.

Then reality set in. The work from the move-up mill I was relying on started to dry up. After that, the little money I had set aside was gone.

3 Things I did wrong

Mistake #1 was not discussing my decision to quit my job with my husband. I knew he would talk me out of it. No, I turned in my resignation almost two weeks before letting my husband know that I had quit. Bad idea.

Mistake #2 was letting fear prevent me from marketing. Because I wasn’t marketing — gasp — my writing gigs dried up. I let the doubt and depression from everyone telling me that I was crazy to quit my job for “a hobby” seep in and cause me to feel overwhelmed and afraid to put myself out there.

Mistake #3 was quitting my job at a time when I had three major events happening in my family’s life: a wedding, the end of my husband’s interim job, and legal action due to a dissolved business partnership.

What would I do differently?

Looking in the rearview mirror, I can see the things I should have done before I quit my job.

  • Keep marketing. Instead of waiting for a response after sending resumes and queries to job board ads, I would continue marketing on a regular basis.
  • Have patience. I didn’t want to wait at least a year to make sure my writing gigs were solid before I submitted my resignation.
  • Find support. Even if I couldn’t get total support from family, having one or two friends to go to for support would have helped get me through the rough months.
  • Save more money. When I quit, I had only one month’s worth of savings and a wedding to pay for that sucked up most of our cash.

I’m not saying that you should wait for enough money to instantly replace your working income. There is a point where you have to take the leap because the income is heading in the right direction. For us, saving at least six months’ worth of expenses would have kept us out of crisis mode until the writing gigs picked back up.

When should you quit your day job?

There is never going to be a “best time” or “right time” to quit your job.

However, if you have ongoing work and your part-time freelance work is starting to interfere with your full-time job, it might just be time to take that leap.

Even if you find yourself in crisis mode, desperation can force you to increase your marketing efforts. In my case, that marketing helped me gain three steady contracts.

Yes, I quit at the wrong time. But then again, maybe it wasn’t such a bad time after all.

Have you made the leap to full-time freelancing? Tell us how you did it in the comments — or what’s keeping you from making the jump.

Teressa Campbell is a freelance writer and training consultant in Nashville, Tennessee.

Freelance writing success

62 Comments

  1. Saurabh Adhiya

    Hi Teressa. Am going through a phase where its difficult to decide what i should do. To start with, i am from India. I am 27 and a promo producer in a sports channel, and i don’t know why on earth i took this job. May be for the good money. But i have always wanted to make films. (PS: I have made a couple of short films) I earn pretty decent with my freelance writing and have always wondered if i should leave my day job and focus on writing, film making, photography, travelling, blogging and so much more. I don’t have much of a support from my family though. As in, my dad’s worked in a government job all his life and he says i should stick on with my steady income. Its difficult to explain him what i want. Am sure you are wondering why do i have to ask my dad, though i am 27, earning pretty well… But like i said, i am from India. And back here, we sit down together to make important decisions. which means even my family is involved in my decisions. Although they are not completely against it, they are just worried, and so am i. What if i don’t make it. What if my writing job dries up. It hasn’t in three four years, am hoping it won’t even in the future. But its this “what if” that worries me the most. May be some day i will overcome my fear… May be some day 🙂

  2. Angela

    I made the leap today and I’m scared already! I left my stable yet horribly unpleasant restaurant management job (not on the best terms) to write full-time and within hours of doing so my excitement and confidence has turned to anxiety!

    • Carol Tice

      Well, hopefully you’ve made a plan for how to market your writing and set up your business, Angela. If not, you might want to take a look at a couple of my ebooks — I’d say Freelance Business Bootcamp and the Step by Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success, for starters: https://makealivingwriting.com/ebooks

      They’ve got ALL my tips on how to set up your business to earn well and find those first clients.

  3. Allen Taylor

    One emerging trend I see is the online branded magazine. Costco, Tractor Supply, and other brands are beginning to create their own branded content magazines, paying freelancers for original content that isn’t always self-promotional but that nevertheless highlights the brand’s image. I see more of these opportunities emerging. The full-time opportunity here, or part-time in some cases, is the editorial position. If you don’t mind being a brand evangelist, these companies are looking for skilled journalists and editors to manage the content production.

  4. Robert

    Teresa,
    I am currently a stringer for a weekly newspaper in St. Louis. I am their sports writer and I am paid per article. I have been doing it for 3 years now as a second job. For my full time job I am and have been trapped in the restaurant business forever. My goal is to get out and become a full time writer. Do you have any ideas on how to turn my experience into a full time salaried writing job. Does such a job even exist? It seems every time I start looking around freelance jobs are the only thing I can find. I also spent about 1.5 years as a public affairs reporter in the same capacity, which started as an internship in college. I appreciate any advice you may have.

    Thank you,

    Robert

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Robert —

      Not sure Teresa is still about, as she did this guest post a while back…but I’ll give you my input.

      There certainly are staff-writing jobs still in existence, both in journalism and copywriting…but many fewer than there used to be. I personally was a staff writer for 12 years, so I can assure you the concept is real!

      You might try journalismjobs.com or the journalism jobs on Gorkana – both will list staff jobs at newspapers and trade publications, and the occasional magazine. Trades tend to pay better than dailies.

      In general, creative jobs are increasingly being freelanced out. To earn more, you’d need to look for clients beyond newspapers, which are generally one of the lowest-paying types of markets.

      You might want to check out my ebook How to Get Great Freelance Clients, Robert, which talks about how to prospect, qualify, and successfully market your services to better-quality clients that can offer higher pay.

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