Why I quit my job to be a freelance writer (and how I did it)

Resigning from the security of a job to go freelance is a big decision. Find out why one mum decided to turn her back on her 15-year career, and how she finally found her perfect freelance career.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve shared several of senior product manager Laura Sand’s blogs. We’ve always found them insightful, honest, funny and well-written.

So were were delighted when Laura informed us she wasn’t going to be a ‘senior product manager’ any more, and had made the brave but rewarding leap to freelance as a copywriter.

We asked Laura what had prompted the decision, how she chose copywriting, and how it feels to launch a new career. Here’s her experience in her words.

Am I mad?

Wow, I’ve done it. I’ve just started working freelance. Am I mad?

I had it all. A great job in a good company with promotion opportunities and a good salary. But it just wasn’t what I wanted anymore. Perhaps it’s symptomatic of my generation, wanting everything my way, but the demands of corporate life were just too much.

My desire to please everyone and do everything to the best of my ability went down a storm in a corporate environment, but was starting to take its toll on me. Sure, I looked like I had it under wraps; put some red lipstick on and wear a pair of killer heels and you look like you can conquer the world.

Despite appearances, I wasn’t coping

“I don’t know how you fit it all in”, said others. But the truth was that I wasn’t fitting it all in. Exhausted during weekends and holidays, I took it out on my family: grumpy and tired from the constant hunger of a large corporation.

And it’s not as if that was all I had to do. I had two beautiful children, a hard-working husband, loving family and friends. I was letting them down, or at the very least not giving them my all. I felt exhausted, guilty and as if I was underachieving.

What can I do that others will pay for?

But enough of the self-pity. I was working from home one day when our window cleaner popped by to clean the windows. A nice chap, I made him a cuppa and we chatted for a while, before I got back to my computer.

And then I got thinking. A bit of spare money’s nice, but how much do we actually need? What if I could earn enough money to pay the mortgage and the bills, and do so on my terms? Not being a window cleaner exactly, but what can I do well enough that others would pay for?

I started daydreaming: I love baking, I enjoy gardening, and I’m not bad at making a bathroom look spick and span, but working as a confectioner, gardener or cleaner had their own drawbacks.

One day, though, I saw an article about becoming a copywriter. Now, this was something that I could do – I love writing. I used to take an unusual pleasure in written exams at school, and always excelled in English classes. A bit of research and soul searching took place – yes, this was something that I could do!

I set a target for leaving work

Hold on tight, it’s time for a change. I’m so risk averse, it’s almost a joke. So I planned, planned and planned some more. This was not a time for impatience. I set a target date for leaving work and worked towards it.

I started a blog to practice my writing skills. I found it cathartic to be writing creatively, and felt reassured I was doing the right thing for my future mental health. I also researched copywriting courses and found one that covered a strong curriculum and offered sufficient flexibility for me to study whilst I was still working.

And I saved money. Saved, saved and saved. Right to the point of timing my notice to ensure I’d be 100% eligible for my full year bonus. Cheeky? I’d call it sensible.

After 15 years, I’m finally self-employed!

And I did it. After 15 years of corporate employment, I am self-employed. I’m only at the start of this journey, and I know that I will miss the safety net of corporate employment.

In my more panicky moments, I worry about the following:

  • No one will employ me.
  • If someone does employ me, then I’ll be hopeless and they won’t employ me again.
  • I’ll get lonely.
  • I’ll get fat (there is a kitchen in my house, and it is full of food)!
  • I’ll make no money.
  • The money I do make will somehow all go to the taxman due to some spurious tax law that I am unaware of.

In my rational moments I address these worries very sensibly, and convert them into these more reasonable concerns:

  • My amazing ability to procrastinate. I’m so good at this, I could write books about it …
  • Working out how to get my printer to work when it is on the blink.
  • Getting distracted by social media. I’m certain Twitter is the devil in blue.
  • A lack of self-belief.
  • Working all hours as a result of the first point.

I’m proud I had the courage to do it

But for the moment at least, I am proud to say that I had the courage to move away from a life that was disrupting my health and family life.

I console my fears by saying that this doesn’t have to be forever; I’ll be working for many years yet (any guesses on the pensionable age in 30 years’ time?) but at this precious time of my life – that of bringing up two small children to be the best people that they can be – this is exactly what I need, and my family needs.

So wish me luck, and advice if you have it. Becoming self-employed is a huge commitment and risk. One that I’m excited about, terrified about and passionate about.

I leave you with a poem by Erin Hanson that sums up this change beautifully.

There is freedom waiting for you

on the breezes of the sky.

And you ask “What if I fall?”

Oh but my darling,

what if you fly?

You read more of Laura’s writing on her blog. (And learn about the copywriting course she took here.)