This post was originally posted on WFA.Life. The Freedom Road series documents my transition to a more freelance, less corporate working life.
The freedom to choose…
I’ve got a confession to make.
I’m 52 years old and I’m sick of working.
Actually, that’s not quite right.
I’m 52 years old and I’m sick of working for other people in a job. I’m sick of the 9-5 grind, the having to be at my workplace because someone has decided that “being there” constitutes productivity. I’m over being told what to work on and what to do by “leaders” whose only real claim to fame is they managed to land themselves in positions of authority…
While I don’t want a job, but I do need an income. And I like working. I’m definitely at the age and stage of life where I want to work on real stuff with real people to make a real difference. And I want the freedom to choose.
And that’s the dilemma I find myself in at the moment: how to earn an income without having a job. I know there are a gazillion books and websites and gurus that say start freelancing. Learn new, marketable skills. Build up your side gigs, while slowly cutting back on work. Move to Asia. Network. Register with [insert freelance site here] and build your freelance portfolio. Become a digital nomad.
I’m here to tell you that it’s not that easy. But I think—and hope and pray—it’s getting easier.
Newer, better tools
In my late thirties, I was quite entrepreneurial. I had a communications consultancy—I have an MA in Communications Management—and did a lot of writing and editing and (would you believe?) English language tuition for professional people. But it was hard work. And there was a lot of wooing involved. The tools to run and promote a business were in their infancy. Twitter was but a chick, MySpace was still a thing, and Facebook was a college coding project. Trello and Slack and Blab and Snapchat weren’t even (probably) possible back then.
I was doing better than ok as a communications consultant when my one big client (I know, I know… my eggs were in one basket) pulled the pin. Actually, it was a person who farmed a lot of work out to me… and he tragically died. Work dried up, the Global Financial Crisis hit and I found myself having to look for a job.
I ended up as a lecturer at TAFE—teaching marketing subjects—and I was happy there for a couple of years. The pay was great for the hours (not many!), but slowly, ever so slowly, I was drawn back into (more or less) full time work. It was not what I wanted to do… I always wanted to have diversified income streams, but it didn’t end up that way. I moved sideways into the public sector… and the apathy of a fortnightly paycheck.
Fast forward to today and I have been in the public sector for seven years. I have even accrued long service leave. Am I happy? I can state with absolute, vehement passion: no.
While I have sometimes worked on interesting projects, I have to say that 60-80% of the time, I’m an under-utilised resource. Yes, I’m paid reasonably well, but I struggle with the political posturing, (mostly) poor leadership, (generally) dysfunctional cultures, and working on (too often) boring and mindless tasks for someone else’s agenda. What I struggle with the most, though, is how inauthentic and disingenuous and self-serving it all is. And how much of square peg in a round hole I am.
So I’m planning my exit strategy. Again.
And maybe moving to Asia on a part-time basis.
Let the adventure begin…
Photo by Visual Hunt. Used with permission.
Did this post resonate with you?
If you liked this post, then you’ll love my collection of essays about work.
Part memoir, part analysis of workplace culture, I consider the world of work and the definition of career success. And anyone who has found themselves disillusioned about the progress of their career—and that’s a lot of us!—will relate to this book.
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