Lucky Number Seven

Seven years ago this month, I said goodbye to my corporate job and decided to press my luck as a freelancer.

As milestones tend to do, this one crept up on me – it caught me off guard when I received alerts on LinkedIn from contacts congratulating me on my work anniversary. Has it really been seven years?

I have learned so much since venturing out on my own – it’s been quite a ride, with all the highs and lows that are expected when you run your own business. I am also aware of how much more I still have to learn, and am happily embracing that journey forward.

Taking the Leap

Being a freelancer is freeing, empowering, terrifying and panic-inducing all at the same time. When I originally made the move to contracting (my post “The End … But Really, the Beginning” illustrates just how blissfully naïve I was) I was still married, so there was an initial safety net in terms of knowing the bills would be paid (and there would be health insurance) regardless of my client load. Not even six months later my husband and I split, so the financial security that comes from a dual-income relationship quickly evaporated. My entrepreneur journey therefore has truly been as a solo artist where the only person I can count on is me.

So yeah, that’s scary as hell.

I made the decision to become a freelancer following my brother’s suicide, when I took a critical look at what was making me happy and what needed to change. From a professional perspective, I had always done “the right thing”. I worked my way up the corporate ladder taking on roles with greater responsibility, building experience through non-profits, public relations agencies, small businesses and Fortune 100 corporations. As a type-A individual I was always challenging myself to progress faster, take on more, be better.

While many of my friends — very successful and talented in their own right — referred to me as their “successful friend”, I was horribly unfulfilled. When working 60 hour week is the norm, not the exception, it’s hard to have any kind of balance. Every moment is fueled by adrenaline. After 15 years of the act, I was over it.

I missed creativity. I missed art. I missed exploring passions. I missed learning — not about my company or my clients, but about those other areas in life that are interesting and fulfilling. I missed ME — my spirit was dead.

Going out on my own and embracing the freelancer life has provided me with incredible opportunities to explore alternate careers while growing and building my PR business — teaching yoga, becoming a circus artist, teaching flying trapeze. How lucky am I that, in addition to my public relations job that I truly love and pays my rent every month, I can do these other amazing things?

But Don’t Be Jealous

The freelancer life: my office assistant.

But don’t think for a second any of it has been easy, or that you should be envious of my decision and resulting life. The reality is I make less money as a freelancer than I would in the corporate world — although admittedly, this is by choice. I make the choice to explore circus and yoga and to do what I need to do to make me a more complete and happier person. I do not know what I would do if I didn’t have these outlets, these opportunities to physically, mentally, emotionally grow, the ability to teach and inspire a diverse group of people. Yes, I could easily make a lot more money, but of course I would have to sacrifice some of the other work I do that truly keeps me sane, healthy, and able to be the best person in my other professional and personal worlds.

The truth is, paying quarterly taxes blows. Having a health insurance plan I can barely afford with a $6,500 deductible blows. Not having money automatically arrive in my checking account twice a month blows — and so does making two, three, four phone calls to clients asking where the money is that was due one, two, three weeks ago. The 60 hour work week has not gone away, and taking a truly disconnected vacation or time off is still a fantastical dream. I can’t remember the last time I had a weekend off.

Overall, I work harder than I ever have in my life, but it is so much more meaningful. Oh my god the stress is still there, and it can be a ridiculous struggle. But these are my choices for better or for worse, and I stubbornly embrace the “for better”.

As the seventh year of my solo-preneurship kicks into gear, I celebrate the fact that I am on the right path, regardless of how challenging it may be. I know I have to be more aggressive in chasing new business opportunities and promoting myself — as the saying goes, “the cobbler’s children have no shoes.” It’s time to make myself my most important client. I know I have an amazing story to tell — and that helps make me a better storyteller for my clients as well.

So, anyone looking for PR, marketing and communications support? Give me a call 😉

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