In 2006 I started working full time as a freelance writer. Around late 2015 I was feeling burnt out for a number of reasons, so I went back to what I did way back in the day – non-profits. However, life is hilarious, because all I do lately is think about going back to writing full time.
I’m on the fence about what to do, but the last year has taught me a lot. I’ve learned that there are tons of pros and cons when it comes to working outside the home, especially after years of working at home.
Pros of a “real” job…
Work ends at some point: As a writer I felt like my days (and nights) just kept going and going. There’s always one more post, one more tweet, one more email to check and on it goes. A major pro of many day jobs is that you get off at a specific time and you don’t go back until the next day.
You get paid on time all the time: This isn’t true of all day jobs, but it’s true of mine. I send in a time sheet and guess what!? Money appears like magic in my bank account exactly five days later. Woot! No hunting down clients, no filling out endless invoices on the last day of the month, no waiting on a payment for months… it’s amazing!
You see real live people: I’ve had many close writer (co-worker) friends, but very few in my town. Seeing people in person is way different than “seeing” people online. A main reason why I decided to go back to working in the real world was because I felt like some days the only person I’d see was my mailman, while working on my porch. Yeah I’d see friends after work, weekends and such, but now I see people throughout the day at work too which is cool.
Health insurance costs are awesome: As a freelance writer it cost me $300+ per month to insure myself and my son (with lackluster health insurance). Know how much it costs for excellent insurance now? Something like $40 a month through my job. On top of killer health and dental, my day job also takes care of stuff like taxes, retirement, and other stuff no one helps you with when you’re a freelancer.
It’s interesting to do something new: While my day job isn’t too challenging, it’s way different than writing, which is refreshing.
People finally believe I have a “real” job: As a writer most of my friends and family thought I did nothing all day long. They thought I had unlimited free time and they for sure didn’t take my work seriously. Now I’m working a day job where’s there’s less to do, more downtime, and fewer responsibilities, yet people never say, “What do you do all day?” to me. They actually respect that I’m working when I’m working. It’s super messed up but still a nice change.
I get out more: When you work at home, it becomes easy to stay home. You’re already there, you’re chilling and writing and getting up and out seems hard sometimes. I can’t stand driving (see cons) but I feel like I get out around the town much more now. Plus, I’ve learned where places are. When you’re direction challenged (like me) and stay home a lot, you get lost every time you venture anywhere.
It’s healthier: I’m not big on food, or rather the time it takes me to eat said food. As a freelancer at home, I skipped millions of meals, surviving instead on pots of coffee. Being on-the-go at my day job I need to eat or I start dragging, so I do eat more meals. I also move a lot more. Let’s face it, writing, as you sit on your bum, isn’t the best cardio.
The number one pro of having a day job…
Less burnout: My day job can be challenging but it’s not even close to as challenging as writing full time. When I decided to take a break from writing in 2015 I was so tired. Tired of social media, tired of editors asking me questions, tired of all the email and research. Just plain worn out. Writing was starting to feel like a chore all the time vs. once in a while. Partially the burnout was my fault of course, because I could have mixed it up, worked differently, taken more breaks, or made different decisions, but there’s no denying that writing (for a living) is hard work all the time. My day job as noted, can be hard, but it’s cake compared to writing.
Cons of a “real” job (after spending 10+ years writing)…
I’m not the boss: As a writer I wasn’t always the boss exactly, but I was way more in charge of my work, time and ideas than I am now. My day job boss is great, but I miss the aspect of being almost 100% in charge of what I do all day.
Fewer days off are rough: I hate having to call in when I’m sick. I don’t like that I can’t run errands while everyone else is at work or school. I do not like planning so far ahead for days off. I liked it better when I could wake up and just not work if I felt like it. Yes, there were consequences, but if a day off was necessary I could easily manage it as a writer.
Writing takes a BIG backseat to my day job: When I made the decision to quit writing full time, I was smart enough to know I’d miss it if I quit entirely. That said, my original plan was this…
- Find a day job.
- Write after work and on weekends.
- Live the best of both worlds! Weeeeeee!
Nope. After a full day of work the last thing I feel like doing is writing. I mean I do FEEL like writing, but there’s stuff like dinner to make, chores, errands, and humans like my son, boyfriend, friends and family who want to see me. Plus, while I do get to leave my day job at 5, my brain is tired and not ready to flip over to writing. I cannot accomplish the sort of writing I’m accustomed to in a few free hours a week. I just can’t do it.
I miss writing: To elaborate on the above, I have no time to write, but I miss it a lot. At first it was nice to be free of my writing tasks, but slowly ideas creep back up on you and you want to write them down, but again, you’ve got zero time to do so.
I hate driving: When I wrote full time I only drove occasionally. I didn’t get what my friends meant when they complained about commuting, but boy do I get it now. Portland, Oregon, where I live, has become insanely congested in recent years. Traffic, gas prices and other drivers make me nuts.
I’m a little fish in a big ol’ pond: As a writer I knew everything! Ok, so that’s an exaggeration, but after writing thousands of posts and articles, and managing other related writing and social media tasks for 10+ years I’m a decent authority on writing, blogging, my pet topics, and so on. At my day job (non-profit) I’ve been out of the loop for more than 12 years. Most of my co-workers have more experience and more know-how. As a writer, I’ve already come far and I have the ability to advance more if I want, and it wouldn’t take years. At my new job, if I wanted to advance, it’s unlikely I’d do so in a way I’d like without years of commitment.
The $ isn’t as good: I made more money writing full time than I do at my day job. I didn’t actually feel like this was a con at first because one, a pay cut, at the time, was worth it to me in order to feel less day-to-day stress. Two, as I stated above, I figured I’d still have time to write part-time, but nope. Currently, the realization that I was making more money as a writer is annoying me. As a writer I made more $ per hour and if I needed some extra cash I’d just write a little more for a client during the month. My own blogs made more money too because I spent more time on them.
Money vs. stress is a tough call for me, but I will say that Portland has become SO expensive recently (rent increases here have become the highest in the country) and so money is a big deal. This is especially true because I live with roommates currently (like almost everyone in PDX) and need to get my own place again before I explode. However, with typical rents at $1,303 (for a ONE bedroom), I’ve got to start bringing in more income again.
It’s harder to focus: When I do get time to write I’m so overwhelmed with all the writing tasks I haven’t done lately, that I almost don’t know where to start. Plus, while I used to be able to write through an earthquake, now I feel like I need quiet which is near impossible to come by due to my loud roommates. The only time I feel like I can write is when no one else is home and that’s rare, so I’ve taken to writing elsewhere, which is a pain.
The number one con of having a day job…
I’m bored a lot: Boring, to me, is the kiss of death. I hate being bored and I hate feeling like I’m boring, As a writer I was up on the news, had a ton of interesting tasks to do and when I wasn’t writing I had cool stuff to discuss with my friends concerning what’s new in the writing world. Now I do the same old stuff at my day job every day. I’m not challenged enough and my brain feels fuzzy with the same old tasks. In my opinion, I’m less interesting than I used to be. Being creative is like exercise. If you don’t stick with it, it gets harder and harder to manage as time goes on.
I feel like going back to writing full time would be a more positive decision than sticking with a day job. Day jobs, at least in my case, have more cons than pros. Trying to suss out what to do is rough though. There’s a lot involved and more to consider. I just need to buckle down, focus, and make some decisions.