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The very best reason to quit freelancing and get a job

The very best reason to quit freelancing or other self-employment and take a regular job is when you can get valuable experience that will set you up for better freelancing or consulting opportunities in the future.

I did it myself years ago and it really paid off.

I was a freelance writer specializing in the insurance industry in the mid ‘90s when I experienced an unexpected slowdown in incoming assignments. So I did an unusually bold thing (for me) and phoned a few competitors as well as a woman for whom I was subcontracting to request their advice on where they saw the market for my services headed.

They told me that the market was in a slump for them as well. In addition, they said that the marketing departments of insurance companies were investing their budgets in website development at the expense of their usual print customer magazines and marketing materials.

Plus there was another trend that I could readily observe: Consumers were more excited about mutual fund investing and financial planning than insurance products.

I had a problem: I needed to learn about investment products and I needed to learn about the internet. However, I wasn’t in a position to study either.

I was underearning as a freelancer so I had only a modest PC with WordPerfect. It didn’t have graphical capabilities, so all I could see of a website was text. (Remember, this was in the mid 1990s!)

I didn’t know how to go about learning more, except for reading a few books that didn’t make sense if you couldn’t fully experience the internet. Also, since I’m not especially tech oriented, I was reluctant to invest too much for fear I’d be lost and it would be money down the drain. A family member showed me his fancy computer and I watched him play with it for a few minutes, but that wasn’t sufficient to make me computer savvy.

I also needed to learn more about investing. I tried reading books but it was boring and wasn’t teaching me what I needed to know. I learned that saving money is important, but that’s pretty obvious. At the other end of the spectrum, I saw stock tips and lots of specific information in the Wall Street Journal and similar publications but I couldn’t arrange the disparate facts into a meaningful story.

I wasn’t gaining the type of financial sophistication to understand what to write about from the inside out, and while I was collecting lots of ephemeral information, it wasn’t the solid basis I needed to develop expertise in new products.

I was feeling lost and pretty discouraged. I didn’t have the money to invest in coursework on what I needed to know, and what I needed to know was not clear to me except that what I was studying wasn’t the right stuff.

It was time to get a full-time job as a financial writer so I started contacting mutual fund and life insurance companies (though at the time, I was a little shaky in terms of what companies to contact and how to present myself).

Finally one day I got an unexpected phone call from a mutual fund / asset management company I had never heard of, located in Peoria, Illinois. I went down for the interview, accepted the offer, and moved myself and my three children down even though the school year had already started. Fortunately, the company paid for professional movers.

Although I asked my boss how she heard of me, I never did figure out exactly how my name came up. Apparently she received my resume from a financial company that I had applied to that was closer to home, but the details were sparse and eventually faded from her memory.

If the job had lasted, it would have been an excellent opportunity with attractive benefits.

When I left the company two years later, I had an impressive writing portfolio and strong experience in how to write marketing content for financial publications and marketing campaigns, as well as a credential in mutual funds.

And while I was not an expert in how to write for the internet—few people were in those days—I was much more comfortable with penning internet content.

A “real” job is a wonderful learning experience where they pay you to learn.

It’s not for everyone and not everyone can land such an opportunity when you need it, but I disagree with the common message from freelancing experts that returning to corporate employment is admitting defeat.

In some situations, it can put you on a better path if you decide to freelance or consult again in the future.


Originally posted 2-11-13

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