Saying goodbye to the freelance life

Have you considered ending your freelance life and returning to be an employee? It can appear a hard decision, but should it be?  Freelancing isn’t for everyone; your circumstances can change, and new challenges can appear.

I have freelanced for over 7 years. Most of the time I have combined freelance research and consultancy work with other paid, often part time employment and so would describe myself as a true multi-hyphen; freelance consultant – part time lecturer –  PhD researcher.

If you don’t know what that is, I recommend reading Emma Gannon’s ‘The Multi-Hyphen Method’

Whilst it can take some juggling, the multi-hyphen life suited me and allowed me to have more flexibility to be at home when the kids were little. It also enabled me to dip in and out of different areas of work that I love.

But more recently I started to find the juggle overwhelming.

I am bad at saying no to work and commitments and so found myself with too much work and not enough time to complete that and maintain a happy home life. 

Realising something had to change, I booked in a few sessions with a business coach who was recommended to me. I don’t think I am a very easy person to coach but I was surprised at how useful the sessions were at helping me to reflect and prioritise what I wanted from work. Well I will rephrase that – what I wanted from life.

It became clear that the things that I value most are my family, holidays, keeping fit and healthy. Money and career are lower down the list of priorities and so work in whatever form I choose to undertake it needs to fit in with the more important stuff. But increasingly (and I am sure this will sound familiar) I was finding work overtook those family times. Missing the harvest assembly because I needed to be at a client meeting. Taking reports away on holiday to  work on. Maintaining social media accounts on the increasingly rarer date nights.

I needed to establish some clearer work life boundaries and juggling a multi-hyphen career alongside busy family life was losing its appeal.

So, with the help of the coach, I re-evaluated and took the decision to apply for (and I am pleased to say be offered) a full-time lectureship post in a great local university. It is early days but for me, this time in my life, this feels the right move to make.  I take with me to my post so many skills from freelancing and a multi-hyphen career and who knows I may return again to more freelancing again in the future.

What have I lost?

Some of the flexibility: I am lucky in that it’s not a rigid 9-5 Monday to Friday kind of job but I am adjusting to full time hours for one employer.

Some of the excitement: who doesn’t love the buzz of putting together a great proposal, being successful and being awarded the work?

Less autonomy – I am now a part of a huge organisation and with that come more bureaucracy.

What have I gained?

  • Part of a team – on the flip side, I now have colleagues! Freelancing can be isolating so being part of something bigger feels good.
  • Clearer boundary between work and home – and a big part of that is having an office to go to that isn’t the room next to my bedroom!
  • Regular income – and there’s definitely something to be said for that

So, if freelancing doesn’t feel like it is working for you, re-evaluate what are your goals, values and circumstances?  Freelancing certainly isn’t for everyone and it doesn’t have to be your final career move.

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