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After 3 Years of Self Employment, I Applied to a 9-5 Job

  April 14

This post may contain affiliate links.

This blog post is part of the Pay Down My Debt (PDMD) blog tour, sponsored by US Equity Advantage. PDMD is a solution that accelerates debt payoff and helps consumers monitor their credit and make smarter purchasing decisions. If you’re looking to pay off debt find out how they can help.


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.

Learn more about how today’s sponsor, Pay Down Your Debt, can help you get out of debt faster.

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32 responses to “After 3 Years of Self Employment, I Applied to a 9-5 Job

  1. I’m glad you gave the interview a shot, but it appears that this workplace was NOT the one for you. Different companies have different priorities, and this one did not align with yours. 🙂 So many people are too scared to ask the right questions, and oftentimes are then nailed down into a job that doesn’t suit them and that makes them miserable.

    I’ll be looking at the Pay Down My Debt. I am in the process of acquiring a mortgage (and I used Smarty Pig to save my money, at your recommendation!). 😀

    1. That’s so true, Erica. And it was a good lesson for me to realize that not all marketing people are into a flexible work lifestyle. 🙂 And, congrats on the house hunt! I’m glad you found Smarty Pig useful. It’s def motivating! Let me know how the house hunting goes once you secure the mortgage.

      1. I’ve already offered on the house and had it accepted! We’re just finalizing all of the details. 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing Cat! Although I’ve just started my entrepreneurial journey it’s not easy! But I know it’s something you just need to stick to if it’s your true passion.

    1. Yes I’ve enjoyed following your journey and you’re doing awesome! If you want to have a family someday, I think it’s great for the flexibility we have too.

  3. OH I freaking love you!!!!! You just inspired the crap out of me to go do something scary that I’ve been putting off for forever! And you’re so right – babies smell so sweet from their naps and it’s definitely worth not giving that up (and you’re brave because you know my Southern self doesn’t go anywhere even when there’s a hint of snow. 🙂 Sad but true. ). Sending prayers your way darlin’!

    1. Aww well I freaking love you too!! But you know this. You are definitely a strong and successful entrepreneur mama. I can’t wait to hear what this scary thing is! Also, yes, the smell is amazing. My husband told me I could still smell them on the weekends but you know, I think it’s a mom thing. I don’t think they smell the same amazing way to him haha. We are so weird.

  4. Wow Cat! Talk about hustle. What a roller coaster you’ve been through. Glad things worked out for the best. As I grow older, I realize it’s all about the lifestyle and less about the dough! 😉

    1. Thanks girl – it’s a wild ride! And yes I totally get that. I think the kids make me focus on the $$ a lot more than I would otherwise. It’s a lot of pressure to have to feed and clothe tiny humans!

  5. This is such a great post! That’s great that you gave it a shot and went to the interview, but it sounds like self employment is for you 🙂 Great job attracting success again too- I love that list at the end!

  6. Thanks for sharing your experience – this was a great post! Very inspiring for me and others. I’m struggling with numbers in my private lesson studio and my adjunct teaching position hours have been cut back due to changes from the Affordable Health Care Act. So looking for a full time job seems like the quicker solution but is it the best solution? And your blog post gives me a lot to think about. So happy to read you turned it around and have had much success!!

    1. Thanks, there have always been high points and low points in running this business but earlier in the year was definitely one of the lowest lows! Adjunct teaching is tough for sure. I used to work in academia before blogging so I understand. :/ What kind of lessons do you teach – music lessons or something else? Email me – There might be a way to increase your student count.

  7. What a great post, Cat. It was good for you to get out there. It helped you re-define what you want and why. And great news about things picking up again afterward! Wonderful news all.

  8. Aw Cat, you seriously are one of the strongest people I know. I think we all go through similar things and I was hitting that point, and I’m only 6 months into self-employment. I agree with the mindset shift. I made more a commitment last month and am seeing more traction.

    Good luck, not that you need it 🙂

    1. Aw thanks girl – We have to stick together for sure and keep each other motivated!

  9. Going back to working a 9-5 after being un(der)employed for 2 years was really hard – for a lot of the same reasons you mentioned. I can only imagine what that’d be like coming from a career you loved and where you made your own schedule. I’m not ready to make the self-employment leap, but maybe one day!

  10. I TOTALLY get this!! There are perks of working a 9-5 other than the pay stability, such as the camaraderie with coworkers. As you know I recently quit my full-time job and am having a bit of an identity crisis haha. I miss that part of my life – it was nice to have a group of people I had things in common with that was NOT having children. I chat with other moms on a daily basis, but coworkers are different, and I miss them!

    However, that being said, I can guarantee if you took a 9-5 you would be totally bored and wanting your freedom back within a few months 🙂 It would be fun and challenging at first, but after a while the dust settles and you realize you’re spending all of your days cooped up in an office away from your kids. You made the right decision!! But also, if you do decide to go back, there’s no harm in that either. You can always go back for a little bit and then quit haha! Nothing’s permanent 🙂

    I need to email you!! Hope you are doing well and I miss you!! 🙂

  11. Cat, I’m so proud of you for sharing this post with everyone. It is so hard to be self-employed, but it’s so worth it. Keep doing you. You are amazing!

  12. Congratulations, Cat! Sounds like the ups and the downs are real for anyone who’s self-employed. I myself was just reflecting on a traditional job opportunity again, and then a freelance client came to me with an exciting project that reminded me of why I have to stay committed to this self-employment thing. It’s hard work every day, but so rewarding! Good luck and thanks for always being a source of inspiration.

  13. What a great article! I am taking your writing course, which lead me to your blog, and this article naturally jumped out at me. I think the part about shifting your mindset is really awesome. Along with learning how to blog and make a side income, I’ve been on a similar spiritual journey and it is nice to read another personal finance blogger talk about how it all relates to shifting our mindset to attract what we want out of life. So happy that is working for you!

    1. Thanks Kim! Also, I’m so happy to have you as a member of the course. Looking forward to seeing you grow on your blogging journey.

  14. I can definitely relate. I quit prematurely the first time and I did go back to a 9-5. Making less than my first entry-level job. 3 months later I quit again and I became much stronger in my beliefs. I created new streams of income that have higher margins and 15 months later I’m still going. I know you can do it!

  15. We’re so sorry to hear about losing your clients! We wish you the best of luck in finding a 9-5 job and paying off debt!

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