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

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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. Katherine James

    “Have you made the leap to full-time freelancing?”

    When I made the leap into self-employment, all I had was 3 months living expenses and lots of enthusiasm.

    I think passion for your work can overcome a lot of the obstacles that can beset someone who takes the leap into freelancing.

    • Carol Tice

      That was pretty much my boat. Just knew I really wanted to make it work — we had just adopted a 16 month old from foster care and wanted to be home with her. And never looked back. If you’re motivated, it’s amazing how much business you can drum up.

  2. Rhonda Chapman

    Thank you for this and for giving me a nudge. I’m being patient yet active about preparing every single thing I need to do before I make the decision to go solo. I’ve got a checklist and going through it one by one.

  3. Michael Levanduski

    Thank you for sharing your mistakes and experiences with us. Since I still have kids at home I will be waiting to quit my day job until I no longer need the stability that comes with a steady paycheck and benefits. I’ve been making great money online for a couple years and continue to improve, but there are dry spells. That would be fine if it was just me, but I’m going to wait for the kids to grow or my savings and investments to do so until I take the plunge. I respect your courage for going for it though!

    • Carol Tice

      That’s funny — I had the opposite reaction. When we adopted our third from foster care at 16 months, we soon realized having day jobs was unworkable, and they’d only be young once.

      Within 2 weeks of starting to freelance, I couldn’t remember how I had ever hacked the day job! It seemed insane that I’d done it that long. There are so many teacher meetings, doctor appointments, playdates, so much to arrange…and such a short time to just be there during their young years.

      Also…when the kids grow, there’s college. The costs really never end, so don’t wait for that, I’d say.

      And finally…what’s stable about a day job? Just ask the millions who lost theirs over the past few years.

      Savings are great to have…but sometimes waiting to feel ‘secure’ means it’ll never happen.

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