Note from Jodee: Nacie Carson begin_of_the_skype_highlighting end_of_the_skype_highlighting, one of our readers, wrote today’s post about her transition from the corporate 9-5 to going freelance. If anyone else would like to contribute a guest post, please e-mail me. I look forward to hearing from you.
by Nacie Carson
In June I wrote a hope-filled blog post for FWJ called, “Don’t Quit Your Day Job,” where I agonized over the financial and lifestyle issues that were keeping me from leaving my corporate 9-5 in favor of writing full time. Well friends, I have some pretty exciting news: I finally did it.
That’s right – after six months of strategic planning, saving, and foundation building, I quit my corporate day job in mid-September, and have been officially self-employed as a freelance writer for just about seven weeks. And it has been absolutely fabulous. I love the freedom. I love the power. I love the control I now feel I have in my life. I love the way each day is flexible and can include a medley of activities and projects I never would be able to do if I was constrained by the corporate schedule. I am really learning who I am as a freelancer and as an author, and it has been incredible.
I’ll admit there have been challenges and unexpected aspects to this new life. For one, I never expected my saved post-corporate money would go as fast as is seems to be going. Now I have a little pad of paper next to my computer where I keep tally of how much I have earned for the week and how much I still need to make to come up even. I have to say I’m still not filling my financial tank each week to where it needs to be, but I am steadily making progress toward that number and that is good enough for now.
I was also not ready for time management on this scale; all my life I have been a great manager of my time, always getting business taken care of, making out neat little lists of to-dos, and filling each usable minute of the day wisely. But now that I have fifteen hours or more unstructured all day every day, I realize a blank state it is a lot more challenging to manage than a schedule that has activities and responsibilities to work around. Like my ability to make money, it gets a little better every week, but it has taken some time to really get comfortable with this new freedom.
Each day is a learning experience for me as a new freelancer, and I know a lot of FWJ readers are like me, trying to figure out a way to make writing a full time passion and vocation. For those of you in transition to this life, or thinking about this life, here are the top five lessons I’ve learned in these post-corporate weeks that may help you prepare:
1) Give yourself a vacation! Transitioning from one job to the next is stressful, even if it is what you want. The day after I left my corporate job I tried to sit down and start on my new life as a writer, but nothing came out. Finally, after five days of writer’s block, I decided I needed a small break and took four days off just enjoying sleeping late, reading good books, and relaxing. I got back to my work after my vacation and was able to write with no problem. The moral of the story: give yourself time to adjust to the transition, schedule a mini-vacation for yourself after leaving your current job, and relax. Don’t underestimate the importance of this recovery time!
2) Save more than you think you need. I spent hours before my job transition trying to calculate out how much I would need for a three month cushion after leaving my corporate job, and even though I reached that number I can tell you – OVERESTIMATE. Especially in this economy and especially with the holidays approaching, overestimate how much you need to save to make you job transition less hectic…it is sure better than underestimating!
3) Invest in your home office: if you are a “nights and weekend writer” right now, you probably have an OK but not great workspace to get your business done. When you are considering working at home full time, invest time into optimizing that space for your own productivity. Got a junky old chair? Replace it with something comfortable you can be in all day. Working on the kitchen counter? Invest in a desk. Your workspace has a huge impact on your desire to “go to work” in the morning, so make sure it is somewhere you want to be.
4) Learn to love to-do lists: I have found making a list first thing each morning of work and non-work related tasks helps me to achieve the most in both my business and personal life. Lists help me make sense of those fifteen unstructured hours in a way no other time management tool has helped me to do, and I recommend them as an essential habit to any and all freelancers out there.
5) Separate work time and personal time: When you are a freelancer working at home, the line between personal time and professional time is blurry. Add definition to that time whenever possible by being present in whatever activity you are doing. If you are working, make that your focus; turn you phone on silent and turn off the TV. If you are taking personal time, close the computer screen, close the email browser, and walk away from the computer. This isn’t possible all the time, but when you work where you live you don’t get the sense of closure and relaxation that comes from physically removing yourself from your work environment. Be vigilant about making specific time for each, or you could be headed for burn-out city!
My hope is as I grow and mature into this new life, my top five lessons will change and evolve as well. Yet with all these challenges and considerations, it is a real gift to be able to wake up and do what I am passionate about as my vocation. It is thrilling to look back at my fledgling blog posts at The Life Uncommon (http://www.thelifeuncommon.net) and see how far I have come in just a few months; I couldn’t have done it without the support and guidance of this community. Thank you!