Sunday, January 19, 2014

Finally think I found what I'm chasing after...

“Well, shit,” I said out loud as I tumbled to the ground and sprawled across the sidewalk, trying to land as gracefully as possible.

The time between that millisecond when you know you’re about to fall and when you actually fall can seem like hours. Your mind processes a million thoughts. At least, mine did.

Shit, it’s almost rush hour and there are a million cars passing by.


I can’t break a bone! I just gave up my chance at health insurance for the near future.

Oh God, is this how it’s going to go? Am I going to quit my job and fall flat on my face?

It was, indeed, how the day went. I was in the middle of one of my last work days at the office in Bellevue. I’d already broken the news that I was venturing out on my own the week before, when Boss Lady had called me into the office to offer me a full-time position (on the condition that I, you know, “improve my focus”... the focus I was already giving them!) and I’d broken the news that I’d be venturing out on my own. I’d just left another meeting with her where she explained that they would not be taking me up on my offer to do run their social media accounts part-time. They needed someone to be there full-time, she’d explained, who could do it all (and be under their watch).

I understood, and I wasn’t upset at all, but I was nervous. The acceptance of my proposal would have given me much more security and more of a financial cushion. Now I was truly taking a leap of faith, a leap with only two clients. The income would be enough to pay my share of the bills, but I would have to hustle for more work, and soon. And with that on my mind, I left the building to walk to the bank to get some cash for my upcoming trip to Eastern Washington.

And on that walk I lost my footing (while wearing sneakers!), in broad daylight, in front of half of Bellevue, and I fell hard onto the pavement.

No bones broke, and miraculously, none of my clothes ripped. But I had a few bloody scrapes I’d need to explain to my co-workers. I stood up, dusted myself off, turned around and took a giant bow to the oncoming traffic, as if I’d just completed a performance. Somewhere in the sea of traffic, a horn honked.

“You go girrrrl!” someone yelled.

A nice woman who’d witnessed the whole thing from the bank parking lot rolled down her window as she passed by. “Are you all right?” she asked.

“I am, just embarrassed!” I said.

And I was. There was that brief moment where I’d thought maybe it had been a sign, that maybe I should go running back inside and beg for the job on my hands and knees, promising to only focus on their company and never freelance again. But I couldn’t. Even though I was a bloody mess and a little shaky, my decision felt right.

Six months later, I can honestly say that it was right. And that’s a pretty confident statement, considering I didn’t do one damn thing the experts recommend doing before you quit your job and start your own business. I did not have a year’s salary saved up (HA!). I did not have a vast array of professional contacts or even a ton of clients. But I had enough.

And since that day, somehow, I have always had enough. And better yet, if there ever comes a day where I don’t have enough, I’m confident that I could find another full-time job. The economy is good here in the Emerald City, and honestly, I don’t care what I’d have to do to scrape by so that I could write at night. Job titles have never meant much to me. Passion, on the other hand, is everything.

Time management has been an issue. It’s impossible not to be distracted by the internet when you’re tweeting from a ton of accounts every day and SO many links have to be clicked on. It’s tough to tell your friends who want to chat all day that you can’t, because you’re no longer watching the clock and filling the hours with distractions until it’s time to go home. And I had no idea how much time to budget for anything, at first. The first week was a little bit what I’d imagine having a new baby is like…. long hours, pajamas all day, stress, fear, forgetting to bathe on occasion, and a couple of all nighters.

Eventually, though, the dust settled. It’s still settling. I have worked almost constantly since I quit the party invitation company. I have worked evenings, I have worked weekends, and I was scheduling Facebook posts on Christmas Eve. But I have not ever regretted my decision. Not once. Besides, every minute I DON'T spend working I spend doing what I want to do... like traveling without having to ask for time off.

I love what I do. I love that I work with amazing small business owners who care about what they do. It makes me care about what I do. I love that if I absolutely don’t want to work with someone...I don’t. And I love that, to a degree, I control what I earn and I control my motherfucking destiny. 2013 was the most empowering year of my life, and it’s carrying over into every other aspect of it.

And while I recognize that a small part of it was luck and being in the right place at the right time… if I can do it, anyone can do it. We can have what we want in life, if we’re brave enough to go for it. Things have a way of falling into place… and, as I’ve come to understand only very, VERY recently….things happens when they are meant to happen.

P.S. I still have a scar from that fall, which I have named “Battlescar Galactica.”

Also... I fell in love with this song during my transition, and I feel positive and happy every time I hear it.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

So, tell me what you're waiting for?

When you’re hired by a company in Seattle (and, I’m guessing, many other cities), one of two things happens: you’re hired as a full-time employee right away, or you’re give a “trial contract.” The contract is to see if your joining the team will be a mutually beneficial thing. Typically they’re for 3 or 6 months, and you’re usually on a 1099 basis.

When I left my last job in April, I was offered a 3 month contract… which, the female half of the couple who owned the company assured me, was guaranteed to lead to full-time work unless something major happened (I set fire to the building or they lost every customer, for example). I felt confident enough to take the risk, because I was ready… I’d learned all I could from my current job, I’d given them all I had to give, and I was beyond over it. So I quit the job, I went to Vegas and drank vodka until every annoyance was but a distant memory, and I returned ready to begin a new journey.

And I liked it! The couple who owned the company was nice, the office was much smaller than my building of 400 fake-happy, worked-to-the-bone employees before it, and there were no absurd, annoying, almost daily time-wasting meetings. I got to write about parties all day, I got to work from home once a week, and I got trained in something I’d been putting off learning about for years: SEO keyword implementation. A month into the job, I was put in charge of all social media accounts. Basically, it was a good move.

Of course, working for that company wasn’t part of my long-term goal. I wanted nothing more than to permanently return to the land of self-employment, a land that meant working from anywhere I chose and setting my own hours. Of course, it was also a terrifying land of no guaranteed income, no health insurance and no set paydays. After the scary transition from our lives in Idaho to our lives in Seattle, I rode the coattails of stability with pride.

From the day I started that job, I found myself making excuses for putting off my “real” goal. This company pays me more than the old one…. I mean, I can work from home once a week, that’s something… plus, when I’m hired full-time I’ll have health insurance. And paid vacation. So maybe I’ll just stay on with them until we have a baby or something. And for awhile after...for security.

Then, for a scary minute, it looked like the decision might be made for me. Two months into my new job, during a regular “check in” meeting with the owners, I was told there was some concern about my “focus.” Anyone who manages social media accounts knows that a great deal of focus is actually required...but there’s also a great deal of necessary multitasking. To the untrained eye, walking by and seeing your employee with 15 windows open on her computer screen probably looks like she’s messing around rather than creating content for three Twitter accounts, four Facebook accounts and a shitload of Google Plus pages.

I panicked. I worried I’d get fired for doing my job, something that seemed impossible. I couldn’t bear the thought of returning to my previous company with its long hours and low pay. So I reached out to every possible freelance contact I had. And I’m so glad I did, because as it turns out, I had everything I needed right in front of me and I’d never even realized it. Apparently my contacts did have writing work for me, and they had plenty of it. The work hadn’t presented itself to me because I hadn’t asked for it. It was as simple as that.

I was still terrified to leave the day job. Wasn’t stability and comfort what I’d been longing for all those sleepless nights I spent wondering how in the hell I was going to pay this bill or that bill? How stupid was I to leap right back off the cliff?

The gentle nudges from the universe got less gentle. The freelance jobs kept coming. The day job went into full-fledged micromanagement mode, something I’ve never been great with. The passive aggressive comments flew. The drive to Bellevue got longer by the day, with traffic jam after traffic jam leaving me sitting on the I-90 bridge enjoying the rare summer sunshine only through my car’s sunroof instead of on my building’s rooftop I pay good money to enjoy.

And then I went to Paradiso, cleared my mind for a mere moment and realized what I’d known deep down all along: I don’t want to be someone’s employee. I do want the self-employed life, even with its ups and downs. I don’t want paid vacation days...I want MY vacation days, whenever I want to take them. And all my fears about the money and work drying up were just fears I was carrying over from my previous life in Idaho. And that life has been dead for years.

So on the eve of my three month anniversary with the company, when I should have been preparing to sign my life over to full-time employment status, I was drafting a proposal. The proposal was simultaneously turning down their offer and making an offer of my own, to keep doing their social media part-time on an Independent Contractor basis. It was an offer I’d hope would help financially pad my leap, but I didn’t need it to survive. My decision was already made: I was going back on the freelance market. Like a boss.

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