Do Freelancers Sell Out By Getting A Full Time Job? by@thenimblenovice
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Do Freelancers Sell Out By Getting A Full Time Job?

by Nemo March 8th, 2023
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On being a writer Writing for a digital world Reflection 1: Separate your work from YOU. Reflection 2: Build your reputation Reflection 3: Recognise your own toxic traits Reflection 4: You are not your job Where I Sold Out: Landing my first Corporate Job Reflection 5: If you did it once, you can do it again Reflection 6: Know thyself and plan for success
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Reflections on work, life and balance

Disclaimer: I’m really thankful to have a job amidst the layoffs and hiring freezes, this is purely my experience after getting a job and feeling imposter syndrome.

On being a writer

Like every other writer, I dreamt of my work becoming good enough to be consumed by the masses- nay, I wanted to be PAID.

In a world where we expect content to be free for consumption, how dare I expect compensation for my time, experience and work?

I know. I should know better.

A myriad of entertainment avenues competing for eyeballs and an audience with a dwindling attention span meant that sometimes, you must tailor your craft- even if it means writing stuff you don’t want to write about.

The first time I felt like I sold out was when I started writing listicles.

You know the drill.

How listicles are made

Listicles are easy to read; they are designed for scrollability, giving you so many options at one quick glance. The millennial speak, the puns (I really hated the puns), the insertion of mystery: “Number 5 will surprise you!”, the use of the term “hidden gem”- I could go on. Do you even think of the hard work we put in when you scroll to number 27? Do you even read the text?

What took you 2 mins to read took me two days to put together. Needless to say, those numbers didn’t make me feel better about myself.

But listicles tell us a lot about what people want, and that is valuable/marketable information.

Writing for a digital world

“Amusing Ourselves to Death” by Neil Postman discusses the shift to visual media and how it changes the way we process information. As TV entered society, topics that used to be serious, like politics, news, education, economics-became entertainment to us. Especially when we look at everything through the lens of capitalism, attention becomes currency.

We’re being blasted with information every waking hour, and even the most informed can’t discern what is important, what’s real. At the same time, remaining cynical closes you off. In other words, if you want to make it today, you kinda have to sell out. For example, a listicle or a tiktok video cannot teach you what a 2-hour video lecture can, but which one will get more views?

Making things easy to understand is optimizing content for speed, not accuracy. So even if things can be misleading, journalistic integrity is not always the priority.

Do you know the kids that wrote exceptional essays in school and had dreams of becoming published authors? They wound up writing listicles (thanks a lot buzzfeed). While listicle writers are hardly considered artists of their craft, at least they get paid.

Listicles cater to the demand and solve a problem. They help you sieve through what otherwise would be too consuming to do on your own. They add value by organizing and giving readers curated options.

There is value in that. Catering to demand, solving problems, knowing your target audience, and curating information are key transferable skills that can be used across professions.

Reflection 1: Separate your work from YOU.

You’re more than your work. But for many writers, (myself included), ego can sometimes run the show.

Sure, the dream to write whatever the heck you wanted and get paid for can happen for some-but for the majority of us normal people, but this mindset will hold you back.

Think of it this way, many actors waited tables and acted at the same time, only after catching their big break can they stop waiting tables. In other words, you have got to pay your dues if you’re looking to charge for your work.

So look for work that is in demand. No one is going to care about what you write if they don’t know you, but listicles aren’t about you. A messenger gets paid for delivery, there is still value even if they didn’t make the product.

Reflection 2: Build your reputation

While listicles are hardly considered my best work, they gave me ground to build my portfolio + demonstrate that I knew how the digital landscape worked. Coupling this with Social Media (LinkedIn), I was able to brand myself as a content strategist and writer. This was good because people started to notice me. Now that you have something to your name, you can start writing a little more of what you want. For me, that was pitching opinion pieces.

Journey as a Freelancer

If you’re interested in the full journey, you can check out my piece here.

While I was in school, I took on an internship in PR and realized it wasn’t something I saw myself doing. I started looking for freelance gigs whilst I was there, got lucky with a few, started my own agency, continued interning to grow my network, and optimized my Linkedin profile. I broke into crypto and web 3, became a serial event go-er, and documented all my work.

TLDR, I looked for opportunities and never stayed comfortable even when I was.

As with the nature of freelance work, I spent 4 years feeling insecure. I also made $5k/month from freelancing and while that felt great, I knew it wasn’t guaranteed so I stayed cautious and constantly looked out for new opportunities.

Being constantly on the lookout for what’s next limits the time needed to reflect and grow.

Reflection 3: Recognise your own toxic traits

Being your own boss is great. You have freedom and flexibility, and you answer to no one. But, not many people can relate to you. You feel lonely and you start looking for people that share the same ideals as you for support.

Alas, you’ve fallen into an echo chamber.

I started to believe that working in corporate or having a full-time job would be a sh*t life especially since I tasted this “freedom” and could support myself financially. I never even worked a full-time job, why was I knocking something out before I tried it?

As hard as it was to admit, I disregarded full-time jobs because they rejected me in the past. All those failed internships can take a toll on you. That’s why I poured my efforts into freelancing, working at startups and even starting my own business because they had a lower barrier to entry.

I rejected corporate. Not the other way around.

I wanted to prove that I could make it on my own and that I didn’t need validation from a corporate job. Telling myself that a full-time engagement would be a crappy life to lead was my way of comforting and encouraging myself. To me, a full-time job never granted me any stability anyway so I built my identity around my side hustle. Adamant that I’d never get a “proper job,” I had planned on becoming a digital nomad.

I am a hustler, this was my brand, and this was who I am.

What I failed to realize was how I was straying from my own beliefs of looking for opportunities everywhere and anywhere.

Safe to say, things took a turn.

Reflection 4: You are not your job

When I first started “writing,” it was at a local publication that had lots of readers. Sure, my work would be seen, but it wasn’t exactly going to put me in the running for a Pulitzer prize.

I knew at the back of my mind that this was not the job I was going to do. Despite my doubts, this job did teach me about catering to your audience and it gave me grounds to start my side hustle.

I started doing content creation and selling my services. I outsource some parts of my work but a bulk of my time is dedicated to my passion.

I became very tied to what I did. This is dangerous.

Since my sense of fulfillment came from my side hustle, my day job didn’t necessarily have to be something I would be super passionate about, right?

Unfortunately, I don’t see myself doing anything other than what I do. At least not now.

So even if I were to take on a full-time job, it has to be somewhat similar to my side hustle. If my 9–6 and my 6–9 were just variations of the same thing, wouldn’t I just be “working” all the time?

Where I Sold Out: Landing my first Corporate Job

Taking the leap

I decided to take on a full-time role to reevaluate what it meant to have a job and have time to do other things that did not involve monetization and think about my trajectory- do I have what it takes to be self-employed? or do I exchange my time for money?

The good thing about a full-time job is that there is some structure and stability for the time you’re there. Because I did not have to worry about whether I had income for the next month, I could take some time and invest in some hobbies.

I often tell people that I did not have the intention of getting a full-time job. But that’s not entirely true. I would make exceptions, on three conditions.

  1. Flexibility
  2. Openness
  3. Level of opportunity

That opportunity came with my current job and I said yes. Everyone around me was happy for me, but I was terrified. For the first time in my life, I tasted imposter syndrome on a level that my brain failed to comprehend. What if I couldn’t hold down a job? What if I can’t get along well with people?

My biggest fear? Getting too comfortable to leave.

This scared me the most because I had built my personal brand around being a hustler and freelancer. Freedom was integral to my being. This full-time stability contradicted everything I believed in.

Reflection 5: If you did it once, you can do it again

Starting from scratch after building an identity is hard. Think of it as a rebrand, except you’re on your own with no team working to convince people that this change is justified.

I went from being a comfortable freelancer (comfort is relative) to a small girl in a big world.

I realize that it’s a matter of perspective. If I can convince people around me that this is still part of my brand, I can make this work to my advantage. In fact, I can take the lessons I’ve learned whilst being independent and apply them to my job. It’s just a bigger project that requires me to level up. I can do that.

Reflection 6: Know thyself and plan for success

Understanding your reason for doing things can help guide your next move. But, allowing things to flow with no planning can bring about unexpected surprises.

Know your why

For me, I crafted clear statements that outlined my goals.

Here is an example:

“I am getting a corporate job to network and grow my base savings. This will allow me to meet new, bright people that may inspire me on my future paths. I will also be giving myself the opportunity to challenge myself and learn from others who are experts in the space.”

This helped me align my personal values and purpose with the job I was taking on. I was able to fit myself into a space that I thought wasn’t for me. Turns out, it only required a few mindset shifts.

Know your USPs

Your unique selling point (USP) is the key to marketing yourself to anyone from anywhere. Knowing your USPs, and what you’re good at, will help you find your synergy with the people you work with. You’ll be able to slot yourself in and garner more opportunities. This mindset applies to life and not just a job. No one will hold your hand and guide you on a path that is yours to forge.

Have an action plan

Whether I choose to climb the corporate ladder or become a digital nomad, I’ll have to plan out my goals and how I intend to reach them.

I’m still figuring things out. Plotting things out and documenting “plans” have never been easy for me. Even after freelancing for four years, I have not found a system of organization, automation, or production that has worked so well that no more iteration is necessary.

So, can you imagine how overwhelmed I am with this new corporate role? Haha. It’s okay, I’m a firm believer in creating the MVP (minimum viable product), rolling things out, gathering feedback, and reworking my system. For all those lost and confused, no one really knows what they’re doing. My advice to myself?

Roll with the punches, adapt, and learn from your experiences.

Till next time.

Also published here.