On Returning to Full-Time Work
A few months ago, a loved one had an emergency. Today, this person is mostly okay, though there will be longer term legal and healthcare issues that they’ll have to endure. This experience, along with another tragedy some else in my life faced, started to make me rethink my choice as a freelancer.
I left a full-time, contract writing gig in August 2017. I could have stayed longer than the originally agreed upon three-month deadline, but I decided to do so anyway. While working at this gig allowed me to save money and pay down debt, I started longing for a freelance life. And, given that I’d be able to save on my health insurance costs by staying on my mom’s insurance, I knew I had a limited amount of time to get my business going. I had freelanced in some capacity since graduating in 2014, but it wasn’t enough to support me yet. In summer 2017, I realized that I couldn’t build my freelancing into a viable business if I didn’t give it a shot.
So, I left my contract gig with no credit card debt and a significant savings to start my freelance business. I reasoned that I could get a job elsewhere if I couldn’t get a business started. Low and behold, I was able to support myself with 1099 income in 2018. But, as other freelancers will tell you, that buffer fund was critical for sustaining myself while seeking clients.
Here I am 2019, still rebuilding. And the aforementioned emergency occurred not only as I was rebuilding but also during the costly holiday season. It was then that I reconsidered going back to full-time work. If I did, I’d have a (presumably) more predictable paycheck, and thus I’d have an easier time withstanding the ebb and flow of life. I could be a rock upon which my loved ones can rely in tough times.
It’s this line of thought that have led me to entertain offers from recruiters who are convinced that I’d be a good fit for their job. Plenty of people work in full-time jobs to provide for themselves and their families. Could I do the same? I sometimes wonder.
I don’t miss the daily anxiety of commuting to work, the sweat and discomfort of crowded trains and buses. I do miss the camaraderie of co-workers, without the drama, of course. I’ve began some of my closest friendships in the workplace. However, I hate using the office bathrooms. (I’m not the only one! Let’s be real!)
But I’ve been repeatedly asked during initial conversations the dreaded salary expectation question. To me, a writer who has written about the gender-racial pay gap, it’s quite off-putting to be asked about money so soon, often by women or women of color recruiters. Asking so soon, I assume, is the first of incidents in which the job candidate/new hire will be put in an awkward position for the benefit of the company. In the back of my mind, I know that companies have to filter out candidates to find the best fit. But it’s this practice that reminds of the not-so-great experiences of full-time and part-time gigs that ushered me into freelance life in the first place. Being paid late. Being ignored when asking for a raise. Coworkers crying at their desks after a scolding from the boss.
After much thought and conversations with confidantes, I’ve reached the conclusion that I wouldn’t mind returning to a full-time job. I would do so only under the condition that the salary is within market rate, the company valued its employees and the benefits outweighed those of a freelance lifestyle.
At a time when many journalists are becoming freelancers by force rather than choice, I feel grateful for my ability to sustain myself on my own. Some days are harder than others. Sometimes I grow frustrated with running my own business. But I’m seeking the same things employers claim to value in articles about millennial job hoppers and interview ghosters—loyalty and respect. If I come across a company that pays its employees fairly and on time, aims for quality rather than unrealistic revenue targets and treats workers like partners, I’d consider leaving the freelance life behind. For now, though, the stability of my writing future rests with me.
Do you consider returning to full-time work? Have you gone back to working a full-time job? Tell me about your experience in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.