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For those of you who know me, the title of this blog post is probably super weird. Cat Alford – having a 9-5 job? Say what?
Yes, many of you know I am a huge supporter of entrepreneurship. I’ve been self-employed for over three years now, and I chronicled every step of getting here on this blog.
The truth is, I’m still a fan of self-employment and working on your own terms. However, a series of recent events and my ever increasing debt caused me to take a look at the traditional work force again.
Let me explain:
Losing Thousands of Dollars in Income
A few months ago, in January, I lost three of my writing clients, which cut my income by thousands of dollars a month.
The scary thing was, it wasn’t just me. Several of the top personal finance writers in our industry lost clients, and it freaked us out.
In some ways it made me feel better that I wasn’t the only one. When you lose three clients in a row, you start to wonder if you did something wrong.
However, I kept getting emails from fellow writers and seeing in some of my private Facebook writer groups that several of my colleagues had the same problem.
One of my friends, who is an accomplished writer with 3 published books to her name, lost several freelance clients. Another friend, who is the highest earning freelancer writer I know, lost a $6,000/month client. One of the clients I lost was a consistent $1,500/month. Needless to say, I was devastated. And scared.
When yet another long time freelancer posted on Facebook that she was having trouble paying her bills because of lost clients, I started to wonder what the hell was going on. Was freelance writing dead? Why were all of us getting kicked to the curb?
The reasons for all the upheaval varied. One company wanted to stop working with freelancers altogether and only work with full time writers. Another company got a new COO who didn’t see the value in paying freelancers such high rates. (Can you see me rolling my eyes?)
Several other clients decided in the new year to switch web publishing platforms, so it was taking them a lot of time to move all of their content. These things take time, and some of these changes resulted in no assignments for several months.
Even having a client hit “pause” and promise to hire you back after a few months is pretty scary, especially when you’re trying so hard to #adult and pay your bills on time and feed children.
One of my clients promised to bring me back in the second quarter of the year, but when I e-mailed her just recently to ask about it, I got an e-mail back from someone else saying she no longer worked there.
It’s hard not to feel hopeless when you’ve built a strong portfolio of clients and you see them getting picked off one by one.
Applying to 9-5 Jobs
Because of all of this, I started to consider going back to the traditional work force. My income was varying so much that I was starting to get worried.
A large tax big ate up a lot of my savings and I realized if I lost one more client, we could actually be in real financial trouble.
I reasoned that if I got a 9-5 job, I could still freelance on the side with the clients I had left. This could be very beneficial for us in the long run.
I started to think about all the debt I could pay off with double the income. Plus, after being home with my kids for three years, I told myself I had paid my dues. I could do this. I could work a 9-5.
I ended up getting an interview for a job that was actually kind of perfect for me for a variety of reasons. It was a marketing position at a medical school, and I knew I could help them amplify their reach.
I did what I always do, and I majorly prepared for the interview. I looked my best. I took an Uber to make sure I didn’t have to worry about parking or being late. I printed out a really nice marketing portfolio at UPS on their shiny paper. I had nothing to lose, so I was very relaxed in the interview and when I left, I handed each of the 6(!) people who interviewed me a thank you note with their name on it.
I left feeling like it went really well but…
9-5 Jobs Are So Not Like Self-Employment
I jokingly asked in the interview what a typical day was like and if they had 6 meetings a day. (They said yes. Eesh.)
I asked if anyone from their office ever worked from home. (An emphatic no. Strictly a work-at-your-desk job.)
I asked if there was any wiggle room on the salary, which was about $35,000 less than I was used to making each year. (No. There is apparently a thing called a “salary cap.” No wiggle room.)
I asked if anyone had a family and how they balanced that with work. (Lots of awkward silence.)
Even after all of that, I still liked the idea of a job because I knew that I could do it well. Their social media accounts had a small following, and I knew with my skills, I could really help them amplify their message. I was truly excited about the opportunity, but it was apparent in the interview that my 7 years of experience as a blogger made me a bit of an unusual candidate for the position.
I left the interview and started to research daycare options. I talked to our nanny about going full time. I crunched the numbers.
The job wasn’t even a 9-5. It was an 8-5 that was 30 minutes away. It snows a lot in Detroit.
I spent time thinking about it. I cried a bit. I felt conflicted. I asked for a lot of advice from people I trusted.
In the end, I decided I couldn’t do it.
I just love the way my kids smell when they wake up from a nap. I love that I can decide to not go anywhere when there is a foot of snow outside. I don’t mind having one meeting a day, but six?
Also, what about all the women I tell every day that they can do this. They can be entrepreneurs and great moms all at the same time.
What kind of example would I be setting if I stopped when things got tough?
I’ve been in sticky situations before with my business, and I kept my business afloat while I was up every three hours feeding preemie twins all night long.
Was this really harder than that? If I could survive twins and severe post-partum depression and moving every two years, couldn’t I survive this momentary loss in client base?
I was texting my friend Stefanie, another young entrepreneur, telling her I felt like a failure and she said, “It’s not just you, and you’re definitely not a failure. I also believe in us, and I don’t think that belief is misplaced.”
I believe in us.
Her words meant so much. I really think that in order to succeed as a business owner, you have to believe you can do it. You have to know that it will work out. There are going to be moments of doubt – lots of moments.
Every day, I have to fight the self-doubt and block out the negativity. Every day I have to wake up and take a look in the mirror and remind myself that I am in charge of my destiny, of my work day, of my income. My mindset has to be strong. My faith in myself can’t waver.
And you know what? Once I made the decision in my mind to stick with my business and fix things, something interesting happened.
Attracting Success Again
It’s like I had some sort of recommitment to my job, a spiritual mindset shift if you will, that allowed me to be open to the possibility of my business doing well again.
It’s like once I decided that yes, my identity is being a self employed mom who is successful, something in my brain clicked and I started attracting that success again.
Here are some examples:
- I got several new writing clients and one content management client, which was exciting because it more than replaced the 3 clients I lost.
- One of my clients who “hit pause” came back and offered all of their writers an increase in income. They starting paying me $150 more per post than they did before they took a break.
- I started to look at my book proposal again to start the process of finding an agent once more.
- My blog traffic started to go up.
- I signed a huge 5 figure contract to create videos and content for a fantastic company.
- A writer interviewed me for an article she wrote for U.S. News.
- I made $500 in affiliate income in a few days without lifting a finger.
- One of my students from my writing course got her first freelance writing job ever at $100/post after just watching the first few modules of my writing course.
- That last one was the most important because I realized that I give advice to people every single day teaching them how to be financially successful and strong business owners. I know my advice works, but I need to start taking my own advice again.
What This Means For My Debt
As I mentioned earlier, the impetus for even looking for a full time job was a loss in income and crushing debt. It’s no secret that my husband and I are in debt up to our eyeballs. And, when you have six figures of debt at high interest rates, you’re constantly getting into more debt because of those interest rates. For example, my husband’s medical school loans alone rack up $70 per day in interest (no, not a typo.)
So, in order to reduce our financial risk we’re looking at doing a few things:
Using Pay Down Your Debt
We’re looking into signing up for Pay Down Your Debt, which is a company that helps you pay down your debt faster. For a small monthly fee, you sign up and enter in all of your debts/bills that you have to pay each month. The company then sets up smaller, more frequent auto debits for you on a bi-weekly basis so you can reduce the overall interest you pay. This is great for student loan debt like we have, but if you don’t have student loan debt, you can use their service for your mortgage and pay it off several years in advance.
Continue to Track Spending, Esp With Groceries
A big part of being financially smart is tracking spending. We use Personal Capital to track all of our spending and make sure that we stay on budget. We’ve also started using a service called The Dinner Daily which plans our dinners for us using whatever is on sale at our local store. We love it.
Stay Open to The Possibilities
I’ve learned through this experience to never say never. I’m not opposed to having a full time job working for someone else. In fact, I’d welcome one as long as I can have a flexible schedule. It’s just really hard to find.
I also want to keep a positive attitude and keep believing in my ability to run this business that I have cultivated from a tiny little blog into a full fledged media company.
I want to face our debt with confidence, knowing that we can and will conquer it. I want to serve as an example to others that six figures of debt does not mean life is over.
Most of all I want to encourage all the women and moms out there who feel pressure to provide for their families but also have a longing to pursue their own passions.
Please know that you are worth it. Your happiness and pursuit of fulfillment are worth any struggle that happens along the way.
Keep at it – I know that I am.
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