Why I left my job at a TV network to become a freelance writer

I’ve always had a thirst for independence.

I endured years of reporting for duty at the newsroom before dawn and working long, stressful hours by clinging to a dream that one day, I would have the freedom to wake up at any time without a morning show call time, have the choice of what to write about, and go on spur-of-the-moment trips without consequences.

That day came in January 2015.

I find myself with all the independence in the world, without ties to a network, and with the luxury of writing without a boss looking over my shoulder. Finally – the opportunity to be a freelancer.

Only, it isn’t as romantic as I imagined. For one, I’m technically unemployed and clueless about the new industry I’m trying to penetrate. Not to mention, I’m nervous that my bank account will run out before I even land a paid writing gig.

Though I don’t have many financial responsibilities, bills need to be paid – phone, WiFi, laundry, groceries, and my part of the rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Quezon City that I share with three friends.

How did I end up here, slumped over a desk in my room, counting on my laptop to find me a job that is excitingly – but also scarily – virtual?


My TV network backstory: talent without benefits

I’ve been a television writer-producer since the year I graduated from college. I spent most of my 20s at one of the top television networks in the country.

Despite working as a news and public affairs producer in that network for seven years, I never became a regular employee. Most of us in production were called “talents.” This classification gave us good financial compensation (we were paid “talent fees”) but did not provide regular benefits like paid vacation or sick leaves. For instance, if I was absent for a day, I would have to find someone to replace me. That pinch hitter would receive my talent fee for that day.

We also didn’t have the security of tenure as our contracts were renewed every year, or every two years, depending on the TV show we were producing for.

By the last quarter of 2014, my parents wanted to take us on a two-month family vacation to the US to see the sights and visit relatives. My parents were both self-employed professionals, while my sister worked for a company that allowed long vacation leaves depending on work merits. I was the only one who didn’t have the privilege of going on vacation for that long.

And so I devised a plan my program manager approved: I would resign to cancel my contract for the rest of 2014 and return to work in January 2015 under a new contract.


But while I was marveling at the lights of Time Square, staring wide-eyed at the Grand Canyon, and feasting on my first legit Thanksgiving turkey dinner and Costco pumpkin pie, new talent work policies wreaked havoc in the network where I worked.

The management amended talents’ contracts and changed our tax classification, resulting in higher taxes and a handful of paperwork.

They wanted us to register our writing service as a business and issue a BIR receipt for every payment cutoff.  Though it was stipulated in our contract that we don’t have an employer-employee relationship with the network, it’s not like we can do any other work for other clients. For one, we worked full-time for the network. And despite the lack of benefits, we were required to do the same amount of work as its regular employees. Because of the changes, talents were leaving. Returning to ground zero didn’t make sense, just as most of my colleagues were evacuating.

As soon as I got back and was welcomed by Manila’s sweltering heat, I knew there was no way I could further delay making an important decision that would be a turning point in my career.

Suppose I was going to register myself as a self-employed professional with a writing business that issues receipts for completed projects. Why not go all the way and be a truly independent contractor?

It was fun while it lasted. Call times earlier than the sun; the fierce race of who gets to break the news first; coverage in jails, evacuation centers, floods, and whatnot – all in the name of public service.

I’ve had the privilege of fulfilling my dream of being a TV producer for most of my first decade out of university.  Sure, stepping out of a workplace I called home for many years was scary.  But it was also the perfect chance to check out other possibilities. Life was handing me an opportunity to go after other things on my bucket list – who am I to say no?

Before the year ended, I told my manager I wouldn’t reapply for a new contract in 2015.

There was no turning back.


Goodbye, newsroom. Hello, uncertainty.

And so, we return to that moment when I’m sitting in my room, clicking away on Freelancer.com and Elance (now Upwork). There is just so much to learn. Square one is exhilarating… and horrifying.

How do I propose a project? How does this PayPal thing work? How much should I charge or bid? What freelance jobs can I actually do?

As I’m pondering these things, I hear a ping and see an envelope icon appear on my Freelancer.com window.  A new message.

I feel lost, but I know I’m right where I’m meant to be.

I click the envelope.


5 thoughts on “Why I left my job at a TV network to become a freelance writer

  1. Great post Carla and super interesting! I myself am a Digital Nomad but don’t do any freelance work as I find it easier not to depend on other to produce my income but this is a fantastic story. Keep living the dream! 🙂


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