While I now consider myself a full-time, self-employed freelancer, that was not the plan three years ago when I voluntarily left my job in the hotel business and ventured off on my own. At the time, the economy was still good, there were no problems in the housing market, and I figured what the heck, I’d take a chance. I’d been working on a writing project for some time, and wanted to quit my regular job to focus on that and stay at home with my newborn son.
The plan was to do this for one year, see how it worked out, and then make the decision as to whether to go back to work or not based upon the success of my writing. What I hadn’t planned for was the coming of the ‘Great Recession’ coupled with the fact that I neither succeeded nor failed at my freelance, and therefore wasn’t sure exactly what to do. What I was sure of though, was that my income had dropped to almost nil, there were hardly any jobs out there, and I was not fully prepared for the reality of going years without a regular income.
Here is how I survived those first three years…
Hoping for the Best, Preparing for the Worst
Whether or not you are currently unemployed or thinking you might soon or one day be unemployed, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst could be one of the best ways to get through your downturn. While a new job might seem like it is just around the corner, if it doesn’t happen what will you do next? What is your backup plan? How will you survive?
When I left my full-time job to pursue a dream, the plan was to be without a regular income for one year. This does not mean however, that I was unprepared to go for longer than that should something unexpected arise — which it did in the form of the most major economic downturn since The Great Depression. I had socked away more cash than I would need for a year off from work without any pay, but this didn’t mean I was doing myself any favors by soaking up what was once planned to begin my retirement nest egg.
It was time for a change in plans.
Self-direction, Initiative and Commitment
In many regularly structured jobs with bosses, managers and supervisors, while we may have a certain amount of leeway in our work, there is typically a structure involved, and major decisions as to our overall goals and directives come from the top. Many of us become accustomed to this order taking, and while we might not like it, it can make our lives simpler. When you’re without this structure however, it can be difficult to take the initiative and start making major job and career decisions on your own.
It came to a point in my long-term unemployment at which I realized money wasn’t going to magically appear in my bank account. The need for new books to be published just wasn’t there or I wasn’t approaching it in the right way. But there was no one else around who could tell me which way to go with my life but me. It was time to start thinking outside the box, take the initiative, make a decision and commit to it…and quick!
Up to this point I had been working almost purely on my book, and while this was my dream project, it was a dream that was earning me absolutely zero income. Luckily, at about this time, a family friend emailed me a link to a website that offered members the chance to write and submit articles in the hopes that a client would purchase said articles for a small fee. I made a decision to give it a shot.
My first article didn’t sell and was put on the website to earn a paltry residual income. But I gave it another shot. My second article sold, and I couldn’t believe it. My first published work! While it didn’t provide much in the way of income, it was better than nothing, provided motivation, some much needed confidence in my writing abilities, and it set me on a course for which I had never planned.
Rolling With the Punches
That first website, led me to another freelance website, which led me to yet another such website, which in turn led me to create my own blog. A year before this, sitting at my desk in the finance department of a major downtown hotel in Indianapolis, I had never in my wildest dreams envisioned myself doing such work, but here I was. And the amazing part about it was that my freelance work was starting to sprout legs, earning me clients and income from outside these websites.
Because I had made a decision and committed myself, and was able to roll with the various punches that learning the different angles of freelance writing presented, I was able to earn enough money to pay regular expenses, yet still have enough time to work on outside “dream” projects of my own. It made me realize that in a long-term unemployment situation, you can’t always stick with what worked in the past. You often have to start thinking outside the box, believing in yourself, and trying new things.
It has been a long and bumpy road, with plenty of hills and valleys along the way, and a ton of hard work involved in building my freelance efforts into any sort of worthwhile income (and there is still a long way to go). In such a poor economy however, I feel that something in the way of income is better than nothing, and I’ve been able to maintain confidence in myself knowing that I can be self-reliant and productive with or without what one might consider a regular employer.
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The author is not a licensed financial professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or financial advice. For financial advice, readers should consult a licensed financial advisor. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.