Laid off? Now what? How about freelancing?

By Janelle Kihlstrom

Facing job loss at the time of a pandemic is nothing anyone would embrace, and it’s possibly one of the most difficult challenges of your adult life, but you still have options.  You could seek another job in your industry, a position suited to your unique skill set.  In a strong jobs climate, this wouldn’t seem as much of a gamble as it does right now.  Because, with the job market uncertain, what if you don’t find something right away, this month, or even this year?  

Maybe you’ve always gravitated toward the security of a full-time, permanent job because benefits like insurance were something you couldn’t compromise on.  Yet, at the same time, you dreamed of a freelancing career—being your own boss, making your own hours, choosing your own projects and having free rein to complete projects in the way you feel is most efficient, rather than spending a lot of time in meetings hashing things over.

But, on the other hand, with great freedom comes great responsibility, and maybe every time you’d mulled over your freelancing dream, you ended up wondering if you had what it takes to do things completely on your own.

And then, suddenly, the decision-making process became a little less hypothetical because, like so many at the onset and throughout the ongoing duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve been laid off, or have learned that layoffs at your company are imminent.  

If finding a new full-time, permanent job has suddenly become a gamble in itself, what about that seemingly pie-in-the-sky freelancing dream you’ve kept on hold for so long?  Sure, it may be just slightly more of a gamble in some ways than seeking another “permanent” job, but there’s one thing about it that is certain, in comparison to finding new full-time work.  

You can start right now. 

When you work for yourself, you can get started whenever you like, and you can work for as long as you like, and also rest and recoup for as long as you need to, provided you can meet your deadlines.  However, one thing you’ll discover quickly is that at the beginning of a freelancing career, there won’t be an inordinate amount of time for rest.  This is especially true when it comes to the very first steps of figuring out what your new self-determined career will entail and then going about checking each of those items off your list.  

The upside, though, is that the point in time at which you are most uncertain is probably also when you are most motivated.  Because now it’s all up to you, and every task you check off is getting you one step closer to your goal of earning a living as a freelancer.  

Until I started freelancing, I probably hadn’t spent more than a minute wondering about things like which insurance company offered a plan that was the best fit for me.  The choice was always made for me as part of the package of a full-time job, and as an employee I had little or no say in it.  

And, to be honest, It’s not a task I’d been particularly envious of—but when I had no other choice than to start comparing, I realized that some plans really were different than others and a better fit for my needs, and I realized the benefit (no bad pun intended) of being able to make choices like this.  Making more tailored decisions on things like health insurance meant that I could spend more of the finite amount of money I earned on things I needed and less on things I didn’t care about.  It’s probably something I never would have considered so seriously if I’d spent my entire career at a full-time job.  

I wish there had been benefits and resources like the ones available through CareerGig when I began my freelancing career.  They definitely would have helped shoulder some of the burden and uncertainty of dealing with the very necessary but often intimidating considerations like finding the right insurance and benefits tailored for my needs..  I also wish there had been a service that was more than just a job board, but something that prioritized matching the self-employed with the best gigs and contracts to be found, with clients and companies who are really searching for our particular strengths, interests and skill sets. 

I would have had more assurance and confidence in the idea that freelancing doesn’t have to be a complete leap off a cliff in terms of sacrificing safety nets  for the independence of working for yourself. And since then, I’ve discovered that there’s a stable middle ground where it IS  possible to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Janelle Kihlstrom is a freelance writer and editor, as well as a published poet and founder of an online literary journal. Learn more about Janelle here. 

Janelle Kihlstrom

Written by Janelle Kihlstrom

Janelle Kihlstrom is a freelance writer and editor, as well as a published poet and founder of an online literary journal.  She holds an M.A. in Writing from Johns Hopkins University.  She has edited, contributed to and assisted in the production of books, white papers, websites, and articles for organizations such as Carousel30, Yes&, the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, and American Journal Experts.  Her book reviews have appeared in the Iowa Review, and she has published poems in various literary journals, along with a poetry chapbook that appeared in 2011, with a second forthcoming later this year.  She lives with her partner and their two young children in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C.  You can connect with Janelle on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/janelle-kihlstrom-1356a1/.

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