I have a confession. Ever since I moved back to Edinburgh after quitting my digital nomad adventures, I’ve been wondering about – oh god, can I even say it? – getting a J.O.B.
Like, now that I’m based permanently in one city, would it be better to get a job rather than continue to be freelance? Obviously I have no intention of going back to barwork. CHRIST NO. For one thing, if I did that, I wouldn’t be able to afford this flat I rent any more. If I got a job, it would have to be a step UP, not a step down.
But still, it would be pretty fun to go in and work at a creative agency every day, wouldn’t it? Which is what I’d try to do, or else get an in-house job as a copywriter somewhere. (‘Er, I don’t have a CV exactly, but I’m really good at this! Come look at my website! Both of them! Come look at my PLURAL websites!!!’)
I was seriously considering this. In the end I decided not to, obviously. But occasionally I still think about it. There are clearly upsides to it. So I thought I’d share everything that went through my mind. Maybe it’ll help you decide whether becoming a freelance copywriter is the right path for you, too.
1. Getting to hang out with people every day
Seeing actual human beings with your own eyeballs. Having conversations with your mouth-hole instead of your fingertips. Going for drinks after work on Fridays. All that fancy stuff people who work in offices do. (The fact that I just described ‘hanging out with people every day’ as fancy indicates how luxurious life as a work-from-home freelancer truly is.)
I love hanging out with people. It’d be nice to do that every day, wouldn’t it? Hmm… maybe. But what if there are people I don’t like there? What if I’m not in the mood? What if I’m suffering the third-worst hangover in the history of my LIFE? (Nothing can ever surpass spots one or two. But let us never speak of this.)
Besides, I also love being alone. And if I have to choose to do one or the other all day every day, I choose the latter. Because if Carl from finance tries to talk to me by the water cooler about what he did with his kids on the weekend ONE MORE TIME, my brain is going to dribble out through my eye sockets. (Kiddiiiiing. I’ve never worked anywhere with a Carl or a finance department or a water cooler. Also what the fuck is a water cooler? Do we even have those here? I’m pretty sure we just use taps. I HAVE NEVER WORKED IN AN OFFICE, OKAY? LET’S MOVE SWIFTLY ON FROM THIS REVEALING INSIGHT.)
2. A regular paycheque
My expenses are now higher than they’ve ever been before. That’s what happens when you decide to rent an entire two-bedroom apartment all to yourself in the one of the most expensive cities in the country, I guess. Oops. (Totally worth it, though.)
Running your own business means you have a somewhat, er, unstable income, shall we say? I’ve had months where I didn’t earn anything – not a single penny – and I’ve had months where I earned enough to cover my expenses for the next six months.
And sometimes that imbalance can be scary, especially if, like me, you have the habit of pissing your money away as soon as it lands in your slippery palms. I mean, I spent all my savings and then started my business back in 2012. That was not a sensible thing to do.
But who wants stability anyway, am I right? Evidently I work well when my back is up against the wall. That’s not the case for everyone. Sure, some people bare their teeth, get scrappy, and figure out how to find the money they need on their own. But some people freeze up and panic and immediately run to the job centre or, er, wherever it is you go to get proper jobs that are not barwork.
Also, you noticed what I said up there, right? I once earned enough in a single month to cover the next six months. That’s never going to happen in a regular old job. The potential money you can make running your own business is so much higher, and that’s way more appealing to me than the security of a regular paycheque.
3. A balance between work and play
Okay, now THIS was the main reason I was considering getting a ‘proper job’. Historically, I’ve been pretty bad at slicing work-time and play-time evenly down the middle. I’m either glued to my desk working on something for Untamed Writing, or I’ve plugged my PlayStation into my arm like an intravenous drip. I’m either killing it on this client project, or I’m spending sixteen hours a day with my pen, daydreaming and making notes for my novel.
But why is that imbalance such a bad thing? So long as you’re making enough money to get by, it’s all gravy, right? Well, sure. But I know I’ll always do enough to get by. For me, making enough money wasn’t the issue. The trouble was how it made me feel.
I missed that feeling of going to work, finishing at 5pm, then coming home and spending my free time gaming or watching TV or whatever else I felt like – guilt-free, after I’d done a hard (okay, lacklustre) day’s work. I missed that clean cut. I still miss it. Even though I’m somewhat better at fitting work and play into my days now, rather than always being 100% one or the other, I still miss that feeling of, well – I guess you’d call it a kind of freedom?
When you run your own business, work from home, and don’t have set hours, there’s always something you could be doing. That feeling never goes away. But that’s as much to do with the fact that you actually have work you care about now, rather than just gliding through your days aimlessly. And that hardly seems like a bad thing.
4. Time for personal projects
Now that I’ve started writing novels, balancing my time has become harder still. I mean, writing novels is a kind of work, right? It’s completely different to reading or gaming or watching TV. And, of course, my dream is to become a wildly successful author with an insane fandom who draw pictures of my characters having sex. To spend my days dreaming up new books and then writing them.
But I can’t prioritise writing my books over doing my other work. Because writing a book is the kind of work that doesn’t pay. And might NEVER pay. It’s what I’d eventually like to make a living from, but the chances of it ever happening are slim. So I can’t bank on that. And even though having a job to go into would theoretically make it easier to make the time to write books – because of that clear divide between work-time and free-time – I have to acknowledge that writing books might never lead to riches.
I still want to try, and I still want to do the work – but when I know that it might never replace my income, I have to consider this: would I rather spend the rest of my life working for someone else or working for myself? And the answer, for me, is obvious.
5. Less responsibility
Sometimes I think it’d be nice to have work I don’t care about. Just go in, do what I’m there to do, and then leave. Beautiful. So simple. I’d get to spend my free time however I wanted. But I know this would get old fast. I LIKE having responsibility. I just prefer to be the one who decides what that responsibility is. And I don’t like having ANYONE above me. I mean, what’s the point of having responsibility if you’re still accountable to someone?
Incidentally, when I did have jobs in a position of responsibility, I often ended up arguing with my boss. For a job to work for me, I need to be at the top of the food chain (in which case, well, that’s exactly my situation right now, isn’t it?) or I need to be at the very bottom. And that’s definitely going to grate on me after a while. I mean, no one actually WANTS to do work they don’t care about. Sometimes they just need a break from the responsibility. Fortunately, as a self-employed person, I can give myself that. Also, if you stay at the bottom of the food chain, you’re never going to earn more, are you?
So, is going freelance worth it?
What it essentially comes down to is this: being self-employed means you have more freedom and control over your life. But whether you’re the kind of person who’s willing to give up in-person interaction, regular pay, proper free time and responsibility to get it is quite another matter.