So this one time, I got laid off.
And it extra special sucked ass, because it was a job that I didn’t even friggin’ have.
Let me back it up and give it a little context here:
Waaaaaaaay back in the stone age, before I was a freelancer… I was a corporate copywriter.
Cubicle hell was my home away from home.
Trust me when I say I spent too much time in the office… I even tried to convince the higher-ups that we should have a “build a nap station under your desk” contest so that at least when we were pulling 12+ hour days, we could sleep in style.
The routinely long days with little to no cooperation from folks outside the marketing department (and sometimes outright hostility) took their toll and it was getting harder and harder to psych myself up for the hour-long commute, let alone actually do the work.
So I quit.
I even gave them extra-EXTRA notice (3+ months) and tried to help find/train my replacement.
Fast forward to my first month freelancing, when I actually pulled in 5 figures…
Unfortunately I wound up working around the clock to deliver, burning myself out pretty hardcore.
I spent all that month producing, and prospecting fell by the wayside. My pipeline quickly dried up.
Month two I made enough to cover the mortgage and food.
Month three I made less than a grand.
And in month four, I was pretty much panicking.
Now, during all this my old boss and I had kept in touch. He assured me that if I ever decided to come back, he’d take me in with open arms.
Never was that offer more appealing than in my third straight month of failing to hit my income target…
So when one of my old teammates took a vacation, I happily accepted a week-long contract (and even commuted in to boot!) at the old office. Who better to fill in than someone who worked there for years?
Things were pretty uneventful the first four days. I got to catch up with old coworkers, crank out a ton of copy, and take comfort in the fact that at least I’d make enough to cover the mortgage this month.
On day 5, shit went downhill FAST.
One of the HR ladies came up to me, said she’d have to escort me from the building, and loomed creepily in my space until I reluctantly agreed to go.
I’d tried calling my old boss and all my contacts to no avail. HR lady refused to give context other than it wasn’t a reflection of my work, and that I’d be paid for the whole day.
So I sat outside in my car for a bit, confused…
Then my old boss finally texted me:
“We all just got the axe.”
I won’t go into detail about how it all went down… but it was UGLY.
There was lots of crying.
And we definitely all wound up at a bar at 10:30 in the morning, drowning our sorrows and drinking most of the day away.
I don’t tell you this story to make you feel sorry for me or my old team.
Suddenly, my lifeline was gone.
If I couldn’t make this freelancing thing work, there was no safety net. No cool former boss to welcome me back and toss me freelance work from time to time.
My colleagues at least got a severance to help them float by… me? Not so much.
It was sink or swim time.
And I realized in that moment that I’d put my faith in the wrong thing.
All that time I was trying to make it as a freelancer, I always had in the back of my head “I can always go back if this doesn’t work out…”
And then I couldn’t.
Consider this my righteous bitch slap of truth…
YOU ARE NOT SAFE.
Whenever you sit in a cubicle day after day, selling your soul for the “security” of a day job.
YOU ARE NOT SAFE.
Whenever you get kudos for a job well done, and tell yourself “just until I have enough in savings…”
YOU ARE NOT SAFE.
Just because you give a damn, you go above and beyond, and you bring your best to the table every day.
Your job is part of a business.
And the moment one of the pencil pushers decides you cost more than you bring in… you’re gone.
The best way to be “safe” in this (or any) economy is to bet on yourself.
To know that when shit hits the fan, you’re smart enough and resourceful enough to make it through.
To give yourself credit for the fact that you’ve made it this far and have a 100% track record of surviving whatever life throws at you.
If you take anything away from my story, I hope it’s this: the closest thing you can ever have to safety is control over your own destiny.
And that’s scary… knowing it all boils down to you.
Sometimes it’s easier just to take orders and punch a clock.
Sometimes it’s easier than trying to explain to those people who just don’t get this whole “start a business” nonsense.
Don’t fall for it.
Don’t buy into the notion that you’re “safer” working for someone else.
Don’t be like me, not taking your freelance career seriously until your safety net was taken away.
If this is what you want, do it.
You’ve got at least one person out there in the world (me) who absolutely 1000% believes in you.