Friday, July 4, 2008

My Declaration of Independence

Today is the anniversary of the day when our country declared independence from England. Two years ago, around the same time (although not exactly on the same day), I declared independence in my own life--I quit my job and started freelancing full-time.

I had been working as a GED teacher for an adult education nonprofit for two years before I started my freelancing business. Before that, I worked as an editor at a major educational publishing company. Not the type of editor who edits actual books, though; my job was editing test development software that administered licensing tests to insurance agents. When I was hired, I thought I'd be editing the actual tests. In fact, that was the original job description. Then budget cuts ensued, nearly the entire IT department was pink-slipped, and word came down from on high that us editors would now be "our own IT." I am not good at technical matters. I am not good at figuring out technical problems. When left alone with malfunctioning software I get impatient and frustrated and generally need to get away from the electronics before I break things. So this wasn't a good job for me.

Someone I knew gave me Bob Bly's How to Make $80,000 a Year as a Freelance Writer. I read it cover-to-cover and decided business freelancing wasn't something I could do; I'd majored in creative writing in college and I thought I couldn't credibly convince companies to hire me. Then a co-worker at the publishing company told me about Elance, where she made extra money writing. I checked it out, but it seemed like a lot of money--so I didn't buy a membership then.

After a few years I left the publishing company and got a job as a GED teacher at an adult education nonprofit. GED teaching was better for me than the job I'd had earlier, but it still wasn't something I felt I was great at. Still, I stayed for two years. At the end of the first year, I met a woman who had been freelance writing for several years. She was not much older than me, and had a similar background. I remember totally re-evaluating my opinion of freelance writing when I met her--I thought, if she could do it, there's no reason why I couldn't.

I didn't know anything about getting started at first, so I went with the only lead I had: Elance. It took me a little while, but after some time I built up a good reputation on the site and started making what seemed to me at the time to be decent money. Meanwhile, I was getting more and more unsatisfied with my current job--and more convinced that the only way I could be happy at work was to work for myself.

I talked to business owners, my parents, and others I felt would have good advice, and they all unanimously told me not to rush things. Save up money, build up contacts, don't do anything rash. But I reached a point where I felt I couldn't be unhappy at work for one more minute. So after two years of teaching, I left to start freelancing full time.

I can't say it wasn't terrifying, and I can't say this would be the right choice for everyone. But for me, jumping right in worked out well--so far. About two years ago, I declared independence from schedule slavery, a daily commute, and always feeling like my best talents weren't being used. Today, I feel solidarity with my country, which also managed to break away from a dependent situation and forge a new life for itself. The U.S. isn't perfect, but it's the oldest current democracy in the world. Hopefully my move to independence will lead to a future as stable and long-lasting.


Lillie Ammann said...

Congratulations on your independence as we celebrate the independence of our country.

Yuwanda Black said...

Jennifer, loved how you used the word independence to tell your story, while paying homage to the holiday.

It's little ditties like this that separate real writing talent from run-of-the-mill content.

Nicely done.


Jennifer Williamson said...

Thanks to both of you!

Anonymous said...

Jenny you ROCK!!! I love you girlfriend.