Writers: Two Questions to Consider Before You Quit Your Day Job

quitI’ve been a full-time freelance writer for eight years now. In 2007, I packed up two suitcases and a few cardboard boxes, called it quits on my editor position at Marie Claire in New York and moved to Atlanta to be with my now-husband Fred. People called me all kinds of things — mostly out of my mind — for leaving a dream, cush job like the one I had. And there were times when I questioned my own sanity.

But the truth is, I was in love. (I’ll wait while you go vomit… Done yet?… OK, moving on.) I couldn’t have my magazine editor career in New York and be with Fred every day, so I had to make a choice. It was difficult, but it turned out that being an editor at a glam magazine wasn’t really my passion, anyway. It was a great gig, a fantastic experience, and I wouldn’t give up the six years I spent learning the craft of writing and editing on staff at various women’s magazines for anything in the world. But, my real passion was writing. While in my pajamas. And making my own hours. And having the time to finally work on a novel, instead of just saying that I would write one, one day.

While all of those perks are great, writing full-time has its downfalls as well — namely, the fact that it’s feast or famine. There were months when I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to afford milk, much less my car payment. And then there were months that I had so many assignments, I wan’t sure I would be able to get them all done on time.

So when people ask me if they should go freelance, I ask them these two questions:

1. Can you afford it? Talent, passion, drive— all of that is great, but are you making enough money freelance writing that you can pay all your bills, keep a roof over your head and liquor in the cabinet er… food on the table? Do you have a back-up plan if you have a few famine months in a row (i.e. is Starbucks hiring)? Even if you score a sweet six-figure book advance (go you!), do you have more books in you? Will you keep bringing in big advances? These are all things to consider.

2. Do you like going to Target whenever you feel like it, wearing pajamas and day drinking?

If you answered yes to both of these questions, congratulations! It’s time to put in your two-week notice and get to writing.

Full-time writers — when did you know it was time to quit your day job? What advice do you have for people considering it? Share in the comments below.



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Colleen Oakley is the author of BEFORE I GO (Simon & Schuster/Gallery, Jan. 2015), a love story. A former editor for Marie Claire and Women's Health & Fitness, she's now an Atlanta-based freelance writer. Find out more at colleenoakley.com.

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This article has 5 Comments

  1. I had to make this decision a few months ago. I was working as a chef and although I enjoy cooking, I prefer doing it as a hobby. The hours were terrible, there was no support, and I was completely miserable. I finally made the decision that the money was not worth the stress and misery. It was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, even though I still struggle to make ends meet sometimes.

  2. I’m still kind of dealing with being a full-time writer. It seems like such a dream and yet it’s been a really hard adjustment for me. Still trying to figure out if I can do this full-time and stay sane.

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