It’s been nearly four years since I said goodbye to my safe, secure and somewhat soul crushing job in SEO marketing and while there have been plenty of near misses and minor panics since, it’s up there as one of my best ever decisions.
Leaving fulltime work has made it possible for me to appear at festivals, to support friends at their readings, to go on writing retreats and write a whole lot of words. More importantly, it forced me to take writing seriously. I gave up job security and a pretty A to B career path on a gamble, forcing me to carry on rolling the dice, no matter how many times only Snake Eyes glinted back.
Lucky for me, I’d picked up the skills and lovely people around me I needed to make freelance contacts and keep myself in coffee and toast without having to put all of my eggs in the creative-writing basket. Things would’ve been very different if I’d made the leap into the great unknown hoping to support myself from fiction alone. I’d be a lot skinnier and I might’ve beat my caffeine addiction for a start. It’s a difficult time even for hugely successful and published authors.
I’ve also had a great time taking on small roles at various literary organisations, ensuring I never had a chance to get too comfy in my jammies and offering some much needed perspective. I’m currently working on digital content for the Writer Development team at Scottish Book Trust and it’s a real joy to see so many wonderful blogs, stories and experiences come in from all sorts of writers. It’s also nice to have a space to rely on in the uncertain world of freelancing.
A bunch of people have asked whether I recommend the freelance life (particularly recently, particularly writers) and my answer is always yes but with some big caveats. Do it only if you think you’ll be able to take the rough with the smooth, remain stoic in the face of what might be a steep uphill struggle and motivate yourself to get yourself to your laptop even when no one is breathing down your neck.
If that sounds like a nightmare, why do you think you need to give up the day job anyway? Tons and tons of incredibly successful writers maintain a fulltime career in another field. In fact, it gives them a whole host of perspectives they might miss out on if they switched to writing alone. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last few years it’s that there’s no clear path to becoming a ‘proper’ writer – only ditch your day job if it’s a lifestyle you expect to suit you in more ways than one.