Some would consider leaving a steady, well-paying job with decent benefits a pretty stupid move. When your children and spouse are also on that company’s health plan, it’s just plain crazy. But I did it. It was the scariest thing I ever did, and I don’t regret it one bit.
Because sometimes, it’s not about money or your career path. Sometimes, it’s about life and mental sanity. I managed Staffing Industry Analysts’ conferences for almost a decade. I enjoyed what I did and the people I worked with. There was no single reason why I left; it was a culmination of several reasons. Traffic, for one. It seriously affects your life when it takes two hours to get to work. My children are young, and I felt like I was not present. And I felt like I was doing the same thing year after year — even though we tried new things to keep things fresh and the work was always fun and challenging. I needed a change. My family needed a change.
Unexpected opportunity. It was not my initial intention to become a freelance event planner. I only wanted more time with my family. SIA gave me an amazing opportunity when I resigned by asking if I could continue to help as they looked for my replacement. It was flattering to know that I was appreciated. Most companies treat workers as dispensable, expecting they can find a replacement for you at the drop of a hat.
Instant reference. With my former employer becoming my first freelance client, I was able to set up everything I needed to be an independent contractor without worrying about finding my first client. And having that first client made selling to the next easier. I was able to talk to others about what I do and gained other clients in the process.
Word spread over time and I was able to gain new clients. It would have been a lot more difficult if I did not have my former employer as my client. Having a client made it easier to explain what I do and how I’d like my event planning contracts structured for future clients. Simply telling people what I do helped me gain more events. Updating my address book to let former colleagues and vendors know as I started working on new events, opened the door to other conferences and meetings.
Back office. The toughest part about being an independent contractor is that you are essentially running your own business. In addition to doing the work the clients hired me for, I also needed to set up all the back-office business aspects, like invoicing and obtaining a business license and insurance. I had the luxury of addressing each of these as I gained new clients.
Freelancing is not for everyone. It was initially uncomfortable not knowing what I would be doing next. Now I realize I like the excitement of working on different projects. It has enabled me to help my clients while gaining a variety of experiences. I know what it is like to be a corporate planner, so I have a little more understanding and empathy than other third-party meeting planners. It’s been amazing, the opportunities that have opened up.
I want to work full time, but I’m not looking for a “job.” Maybe it’s from working within the staffing industry for close to a decade — the independent contractor mindset may have entered my blood through osmosis. I focus on the project I am hired to do, and I move on. I meet new people, but I do not need get involved in any office politics — I get to be the neutral third party. Sure, there’s no promotion or bonus awaiting me at the end of the year, but I’m happy to be the consultant. I fully embrace the gig economy — the new way of work. It works for me.