Today we have a guest post from Mallory Lehenbauer. She’s sharing a behind the scenes look at how she’s made the leap to freelancing.
Call me crazy, but I quit my full time job in October 2017 to pursue a magazine start-up and freelance writing career.
My transition to freelance life was a long time coming. I’ve always been an entrepreneurial spirit. After moving to Austin in summer 2016 with a fresh a Master’s degree in marketing, I took my first “real” job as a marketing coordinator at a Texas state agency. This new and very professional job was exciting and it meant to a new wardrobe. Slacks, suit jackets and kitten heels became my norm. The glitz quickly wore off when they moved my cubicle into a basement and I realized maybe the 9 to 5 life wasn’t for me. For the most part I didn’t even love the work I was doing.
After almost a year at the agency, I found a small start-up marketing firm pursuing some exciting new ground in a fast-paced environment. It meant a significant pay cut for this job (about $15,000 a year). I not only lost money per month, but I lost all my awesome benefits. It’s no shock to anyone that working for the government can be very slow, so I was thirsty for some excitement in my work day.
I took the job.
The marketing firm was great and I learned so much about the inner workings of client relationships and business operations. But there was still no fire in my belly. I realized that marketing was wearing me down, and my true love was writing and creating.
Understanding What I Really Want
I tend to be a big picture thinker and am a dreamer. In my marketing job, I struggled with feeling like I was accomplishing a real purpose, or giving the customers I was marketing to any value. I wanted to feel connected, passionate and creative working with clients I loved and creating content I loved.
Prior to pursuing marketing, I was a journalist. I loved the hustle, the deadlines, and most of all the creative process. After I met my first freelance client, the amazing Love Intently team, I knew that I could do all of things I loved if I went freelance. Working with them showed me my passion was about creating, learning and writing. I’d found my true passion, and I took the leap to freelance writing. To do so, I gave up my steady salary (something around $40,000 a year).
Why I Could Afford The Pay Cut
I was able to make the cut for multiple reasons. My husband and I had a reliable savings account we could use as a buffer. My husband had a steady full-time job as a teacher. (I know, he makes the big bucks).
As a team in our marriage, we share all our finances. We have one shared bank account that we budget from based on a detailed spreadsheet of our financial obligations. In order for me to fully make the transition, it became clear we had to cut back.
I have a deep love for any and all subscription services and I canceled each one, like Julep beauty boxes, BarkBox, Fabletics, Stitch Fix, and an embarrassing amount more. We looked at our budget closely and cut back our grocery budget, how often we ate out and often we drank out with friends.
Essentially, we trimmed the fat. As a DINK (double income, no kids) household, we realized between my earnings and his salary, we had a lot more spending money than we knew. We simply weren’t being smart with it. With me going freelance and taking a risk, it forced us as a team to take our finances seriously. We began to really think through where and how we were spending our money.
More on handling money as a freelancer:
We talk about money now significantly more than we had in the past, which is new for me. I am the spender and Jake, my husband is the saver. But, this transition has forced me to think twice before I swipe my credit card and to actually abide by the budget restrictions we set up together. (I had a history in the past of blowing through the budgets and trying to make up for it the next month.)
Right now, we are heavily reliant on my husband’s steady salary. That’s how we pay the rent and buy the groceries. Sometimes, I feel inadequate or guilty for not contributing in the way I was before. I have always valued being a career woman who didn’t need a man, and now I rely on a man’s salary to live. But: we’re a team and if the tables were turned, I would do the same for him.
It’s been almost three months since I began working as freelance writer/marketer. I’ve found it extremely challenging, hard to balance, and financially unpredictable. My first month I made more than I did at my full-time job. The second month I made half that.
Now, I spend my days working on several projects. I started my own magazine and online society with my best friend, Writing Home, which will launch in summer 2018. (Websites can be much lower overhead than brick and mortar stores.) I now work with lots of small businesses on their marketing strategies and content creation, as well as spend hours pitching and writing to editors all over the country.
As much as it has been a financial burden to take the leap to freelance writing, I’m glad I trusted myself to do it.
For all you babes out there ready to take the leap into working for yourself, make sure you understand the business side of being a freelancer! That means taxes, marketing, and all things money. Check out our guide to starting a business right here.