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

I’ve always had a thirst for independence. And I endured all those 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 any time sans a call time, have the choice of what to write about, and go anywhere without having to file for a leave.

That day came in January 2015, when I found myself with all the independence in the world. I wasn’t tied to a network and I could do whatever I wanted without a boss looking over my shoulder. Finally!

However, it wasn’t all as romantic as I imagined it to be. I was unemployed, wandering, and a bit clueless about the new virtual industry I was trying to penetrate. Not to mention, I was nervous that my bank account would run out before I even land a freelance writing project.

Though I didn’t have much financial responsibilities then, there were bills to be paid – phone bill, WiFi, laundry, groceries, my part of the rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Quezon City that I shared with three friends.

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

I’ve been a television writer-producer since the year I graduated from college. I spent most of my 20’s in 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. We, in production, were called “talents” – a classification that gave us good financial compensation (we were paid “talent fees”), but did not provide regular benefits including vacation leaves 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 security of tenure as our contracts were renewed every year, or every two years, depending on the TV show we were producing for.

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By the last quarter of 2014, my parents decided 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 which my program manager approved: I would resign to cancel my contract for the rest of 2014, and would come back to work in January 2015 under a new contract.

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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.

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 media entities. 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 regular employees.

Because of the changes, merely staying became a hassle. People were leaving. Many of my friends were leaving.

Trouble at work was not something I wanted to chew on while gorging on churros in Disneyland, so I tried to stay off Facebook Messenger and pushed worries to the back of my head for the rest of the trip.

As soon as I got back to NAIA and was greeted back by the sweltering heat, I knew there was no way I could further delay making an important decision which would be a turning point in my career.

If I was going to register myself as a self-employed professional with a writing business who issues receipts for completed projects, then why not go all the way and be an independent contractor?

So I talked to my manager and told him that I wouldn’t be reapplying for a new contract in 2015.

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

Though complying with the network’s new job contract requirements was easier than, well, not having a job at all, I saw it as a perfect chance to check out other possibilities.

I’ve had the privilege of fulfilling my dream of being a TV producer for most of my first decade out of school. Life was handing me a new opportunity to go after other things on my bucket list. And I took it.

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And so, we go back to that moment when I was sitting in my room, clicking away on Freelancer.com and what was then Elance (now Upwork after marrying oDesk). There was just so much to learn. How do I propose for a project? How does this Paypal thing work? How much should I charge or bid? What freelance jobs can I actually do?

Just as I was pondering on these things, I heard a ping and saw an envelope icon appear on my Freelancer.com window.

It was exhilarating and horrifying.

I felt a bit lost, but I also knew I was right where I was meant to be. I clicked on the envelope.

Are you currently a freelancer? What made you decide to choose this path? Let us know on the comment section below!

Freelance Psychotherapist Shares Inner Peace With Clients

You can’t give what you don’t have. In the field of psychotherapy, it seems paradoxical for a counselor to offer comfort and support to clients if he or she does not have tranquility within.

This is not a problem for Karin Brauner Hollman, a self-employed psychotherapeutic counselor and a freelance languages tutor based in Brighton and Hove, England.

cropped-fullsizerenderBeing her own boss allows Karin to work quietly and independently, without the pressure of conforming to requirements and preferences of a company or institution.

Her inner peace becomes a beacon of light to clients, many of whom are seeking guidance amid abandonment, relationship problems, life transitions, depression, bereavement, anxiety, and stress.

Though Karin has been working freelance since 2005, she became a full-fledged self-employed counsellor in 2013 a nd began offering freelance language tutoring services last year.

Karin tells Inspired Space how she keeps a peaceful yet productive work routine in her office. She also offers advice for aspiring freelancers before they decide to quit the rat race for good.

Inspired Space: What made you decide to be a freelancer? I like the freedom to do things my way, within ethical, moral and professional boundaries of course, without the bureaucracies that can come from working in a company with a boss.
Karin: My dad has had his own business (electrical engineering) since I was little, and this has been an example for me. I was always going to go into freelancing/entrepreneuring as I like the freedom to do things my way, within ethical, moral and professional boundaries of course, without the bureaucracies that can come from working in a company with a boss. Also, with the way things have gone in the NHS and the counselling professions, it is easier to find work independently, and market myself as a Private Practitioner (alongside a part time PAYE job while I reach my earning and professional goals). With the tutoring side of things it’s a similar thing, but it might be a possibility to do part time work in a school if it comes up.

IS: How difficult was it to start a career as a freelancer?
Karin: I think I am still in the midst of it, and always learning and adding skills, tools as a practitioner and advertising/marketing tools both online and locally. It is a steep learning curve but the benefits are great and am hoping to see even more benefits as time goes on! Four years is still the beginning stages of my freelance career in counselling, and one year is even more so for my tutoring career! Ask me again in 5 years, let’s see what has changed!

IS: What are the most challenging parts of being a freelancer?
Karin: I work from home, so my office is at home. This means I need to balance even more work and life – having time for self-care, for disconnecting from work and the admin it requires…

IS: What are the most rewarding parts of being a freelancer?
Karin: I get to set my own schedule, how much I want to earn, how much I want to do, and I enjoy it. Admin work is never really work, because I enjoy doing it and know the benefits I will reap from it – either from learning new things when writing a blog or attending a CPD event, or from engaging with people online and locally.

IS: Tell us about your work routine and how you keep yourself productive when working at home.
Gimp 1Karin: I have set a schedule for things I need to do for advertising and marketing online, I’ve split things into one or two things to do daily, the main bulk will be on Mondays and Thursdays, which are my busiest freelancing days. The rest of the days it’s just re-posting the blog, for example or adding more posts to postify. With counselling, sometimes there are cancellations and rescheduling so every week is different, but I try to keep to the same availability times each week.

IS: Tell us about your Inspired Space.
Karin: I love my office, especially since I moved furniture around. I have a DAB radio that I play on low just to keep me focused. I have everything I need in here – my laptop and a desk for it and for students when I teach, I have bought a laminator which is a highly satisfying task (try it! you’ll see!), I have all my books in here and a comfy sofa chair that I can sit and work from. My kitchen is not far away if I ever need a tea top-up or a snack.

IS: What advice can you give aspiring freelancers who are planning to take the big leap?
Gimp 2Karin: I would say, go for it, but don’t leave your day job until you are financially secure – I know others might say take the leap and the universe will conspire and sort you out…but the universe doesn’t pay the bills at the end of the month, does it! I am still working part-time at my care job which I enjoy doing, but hope that in the next few years I will be able to live from the counseling and tutoring business. Make a list of your goals for your business and put them on a wall where you can see them. Pick one or two that are manageable and get them down to the point that they become a natural part of your days/weeks. One thing at a time or you’ll get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing and with nothing!

Karin also advises learning as much as one can about marketing, advertising, and what websites work best depending on the products or services offered by the freelancer. She herself networked with a few entrepreneurs online who shares their experiences and tips to help one another in their endeavors. Learn more about Karin and what she does on her websiteblog, and Facebook page.

How did Karin’s freelancing story inspire you? Tell us on the comment section below!

The Benefits Of Being A Freelancer: Do The Pros Outweigh The Cons?

As with any career choice, there are pros and cons to being a freelancer. But are the benefits really worth that regular job you ditched it for?

We, freelancers, can think of a thousand benefits to being an independent worker. Abdullahi Muhammed, an entrepreneur and CEO of Oxygenmat, listed down seven particular advantages that you probably won’t get if you’re traditionally employed.

In his article for Forbes, Muhammed enumerated the following pros of freelancing:
1. You control your workload
2. You’re less likely to get sick
3. You get as many breaks and as much sleep as you want
4. You control your work relationships
5. You can exercise at optimum times
6. You’re your own boss
7. You avoid the long commute

Of course, some of this pros can easily turn into cons, depending on the work outlook and attitude of the freelancer.

The ability to control your workload and the allowance to take as many breaks as you want, for example, can become quick turns to non-productivity resulting in fewer clients and meager income.

The benefits of having a more relaxed working condition is definitely a priced advantage. Avoiding a long commute allows one to pass up on fatigue and escape exposure to pollution and seasonal viruses.

But it still depends on a freelancer whether the time saved for commuting would be used for something worthwhile like exercise, or if it would be spent in front of the television while snacking on a huge bag of chips.

In the end, it is the freelancer’s daily choices that either makes independent employment worth it or not. 

It is also these very choices that divides the line between successful freelance professionals and career drifters who are just passing up time before trying to find their next regular company job.

For aspiring freelancers, which of these benefits do you look forward to the most? 
And for existing freelancers, what is your favorite benefit in your current independent work setup?

Tell us about it on the comment section below!