November 2, 2017
Choosing to be a full time writer as my career was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It is also a decision that has brought a lot of self doubt to the foreground. I remember back when I started this journey how unsure I was. How worried I was that I was going to fail. I also know that I am not where I thought I would be- but that's okay. I'm where I should be. This post is for those of you who are about to take a leap and do something scary. I hope this helps you in some way!
I handed in my notice at my previous job exactly 11 months ago. I worked for a massive telecommunications company selling cell phones and tablets out of a storefront. It was a high pressure job with concrete expectations: hit your sales target (non negotiable), upsell, cross sell, ask for referrals, deliver the best customer service so that competing companies couldn’t steal your client. I hated every second of it. Except for the people I worked with. My team was incredible. We were a tight knit little family (give or take a couple lemons, as per usual) and I still see them as often as I can.
Anyways. That was 11 months ago. I remember driving into work one day feeling like the weight of the world was crushing me (pardon the cliche). I cried the whole way there- it was a thirty minute drive, folks. I knew I couldn’t keep going there. I knew I needed to make a change. But change is scary, especially when you’re barely making ends meet financially as it is. I also didn’t want to let down my husband, or any of my co workers or my manager, all of whom had become very close friends of mine.
I put off telling my manager until the very end of the day. She had packed up her bag and was about to head home for the day. I think she knew something was wrong, but she’s always understood that I’m a very private person, so she didn’t pry. When I asked if I could talk to her, she didn’t hesitate. We went to the back room and I unloaded how shitty I was feeling and how much the job was killing me. She said she had seen it all coming, and she was excited for me- she had been a major supporter of my writing dream. (Shout out to her, right here. She was a very bright light for me during a very dark time)
And, just like that, I had a final day of work: November 30th, 2016.
I had grand plans. I was going to commit all of my time to finishing my novel. I was going to work my ass off. I was going to pull this off. But it wasn’t that easy. There were some barriers on the way, and this is what the journey ended up looking like:
1. I felt instantly like a burden on my husband, Cody. He was working full time hours at a job that he wasn’t crazy about either. He had things he wanted to do but couldn’t because I wasn’t contributing financially the same way that I used to. His support was overwhelming. I didn’t (and still can’t) understand how he never resented me for my choice. He stood by me and told everyone he could that I was a writer. An author in the making. He had more faith in me than I could imagine. But it didn’t erase the guilt. I needed to make money. I needed to help out somehow. So, I got a job working for a friend who ran her own residential cleaning company. She let me jump in with little notice, and before I knew it, I was one of the girls. We cleaned Mondays-Thursdays (sometimes only 2 or 3 days a week, it depended on a lot of variables). I am so grateful to her that she let me work for her. It helped ease my conscience and let me sort out all the other things that I hadn’t yet dealt with. Which leads me to my next point…
2. I realized pretty quickly that earning money cleaning people’s houses was not for me. It’s tough work- I knew that going into it. I hadn’t, however, considered the fact that I hate people. No joke. Me and the general public are not sympatico. I can slap on a convincing smile at the drop of a hat and provide INSANE customer service (not to toot my own horn, but for real, my service can’t be beat), but once I’m fed up with you, you’d better watch yourself. I have a temper, and if I think you’re a shitty person, I’m going to make sure you know it. So, low and behold, the cleaning job made me bitter. We cleaned houses for people who took advantage of us. Let me just give you an idea, because you’re probably thinking, ”but Rebecca, that’s what a cleaning service is for, DUH,”. And you would be right. But here are some of the things I had to do that ARE NOT, and I repeat, ARE NOT, the responsibility of your house cleaner: cleaning one week old vomit out of your toilet bowl, picking up dog shit from every room in your house, doing your laundry (I’m not kidding, peeps), making your bed to find it decorated in vibrators and dildos (clean ones, you ask? Of course not!), peeling cat feces from a shag rug (good times)- I could go on forever. So, let’s just say when you combine having to do gross stuff like that with the fact that the people you’re doing it for are ungrateful assholes, you get a very, very miserable Rebecca. So I needed to quit. But I needed to find a way to make money another way before I did that.
3. I found Upwork- an online freelance site. I signed up for it on the spot, created my profile, took a bunch of tests to boost the score on my profile, and started applying to job postings. Within three days I had landed 2 ghost writing contracts. One was a novella and the other was a full sized novel. I started working, started earning, and quit the cleaning job. Praise all that is good. I suddenly found myself doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. I was working full time from home, and, more importantly, I was writing.
4. There was only one downside to the whole Upwork thing: I was putting my own novel on the back burner. I became obsessed with writing novels for other people. It wasn’t a bad thing, because I was making money and I was still doing what I loved, but I wasn’t working on anything that helped me long term. Everything was very temporary. So I signed up for the Surrey International Writer’s Conference. At this conference I would have the chance to pitch my novel to a publisher. This gave me something to work towards. It was a concrete event that I couldn’t back out of that I had to prepare for. It worked. I managed to split my time wisely between my Upwork contracts and my own novel.
So what about now? Now I’m still spending half of my time on contracts, and half on my work. So far I’m happy with the way everything is going. I’m not filled with guilt over not making money. I’m doing the one thing that I’ve always wanted to do. Things are good. I suppose the message I’m trying to send here is this: sometimes, to get to where we want to be, we need to make sacrifices. We need to choose what is worth struggling through. For me, selling phones and cleaning toilets wasn’t worth the money to support my brand new writing career. But, writing for other people so that I can write for myself was. If you’re in a similar situation, and you’re wanting to quit your day job, just consider the time it will take you to get to the place that you want to be. You may have to make some compromises and do some things that don’t necessarily fall into this ‘dream’ of yours. Just find what you are willing to struggle through for your passion. Once you do that, it’s all uphill. I swear.
PS. This is all coming from someone who’s not even remotely close to their personal finish line. No one ever sees the battle. They just see the version of you that comes out all shiny and sparkly after fighting the good fight for who the hell knows how long. Remember that. Don’t compare your third year to someone else’s fifteenth. It serves nobody.
Much love, Rebecca