January will mark the third anniversary of my freelance writing home-based business. The actual first day was January 4, 2014 when I posted a profile on a popular freelance job website. My original plan was to try to find something extra for my wife, Brenda to do when she had some idle time in front of her computer at work. I spent a fair deal of time conducting various online searches in the weeks before stumbling across a freelance job website.
I posted a skeleton profile as that was the only way I could access the vast collection of job postings on the website. I was both amazed and impressed with the selection and started noticing many jobs that matched my own particular skills set. It was with that in mind that I started submitting bids for some of the postings I thought I could actually accomplish without a lot of time.
It didn’t take long for me to connect with a few different clients and in my first year I wrote a ton of articles. I was only working ‘part-time’ as I still owned and operated a small-town local community weekly newspaper at the time. I looked at the freelance work as two things at first. It was a creative outlet allowing me to write about various things that were not local in content (which was my main focus with the newspaper), and it generated some extra cash.
I was actually doing rather well with the earnings in my first year and slightly eased up on the volume of jobs I placed bids on in 2015. By this time I had been included on the writing teams of more than a couple of clients and had a steady flow of writing work coming in that kept me busy. I started to see freelance writing as a potentially new career path to keep me busy and still earning an income by the time I decided to seriously consider semi-retirement.
Although I kept submitting bids for writing jobs to fill some open spaces, I had even more clients pull me into their writing teams. I was also gaining clients through referrals from the happy ones. By this time I was getting serious about my home-based business launching a Facebook Page and joining the local Chamber of Commerce. Freelance work earnings were comparable to my business earnings by the end of the year.
In 2016 the newspaper suffered a serious blow and never fully recovered. I turned to my freelance writing to pick up the slack and by May we were looking at what we could do to stay above water with the newspaper not rebounding. The obvious choice was to start writing freelance full-time but at first I wasn’t sure it would work. I had doubts that there would be enough work so I turned to some of my clients.
They all assured me that they would keep me busy and to be sure I added a handful of new clients who were looking for low volume (weekly or bi-weekly) work but on a long-term basis. That was just the perfect fit for the cycle of work I had been developing so when we closed the newspaper in July 2016 I was close to making the complete switch.
I started full-time freelance work at my home-based business in September and it has been a steady stream of work since. In addition to the long-term clients I have had, I’ve added more and even had two former clients come back to me with long-term writing jobs. I could still add another one or two and probably will as a few of the jobs I am working on will eventually come to an end.
What I didn’t know in January 2014 was that I was putting the blocks in place to make a smooth third quarter transition. There was no way of me knowing that my third career was just starting and that I was grooming it along for me to leap into it as a new full-time source of income. I think having it percolating in the background as we struggled with our primary source of income may have had a lot to do with making the decision to shut one door that much easier.
As I approach 2017 I have several long-term clients in place and suspect that I will keep adding new ones as projects end or openings present themselves. If you are being faced with making a huge career shift going into the New Year, take a look at what you are doing outside of work. Possibly you have a hobby or activity you are involved in that could become a new career or at least an additional source of income.
Because I was not intentionally building my freelance work into a career at the beginning, chances are you won’t see a potential opportunity within your specific situation at the moment. That’s okay. All you need to do now is look at your social/leisure activities in a different light over the next little while. Then you may see an option that could open a series of doors for you turning into a new career. To learn more about how to do this, check out my eBook “Surviving Midlife Career Changes” on Amazon.
I must admit that the term ‘midlife crisis’ has always had me wondering. I am quite sure I passed the midway point of my life a few years ago and I don’t recall going through anything I would remotely consider a crisis of any kind. Sure, the regular pressures of life and living may have caused some stressful situations but never once do I remember anything resembling a crisis.
I guess it really has a lot to do with how we handle circumstances. My wife, Brenda, tends to refer to me as a ‘flatliner’ which is her reference to me being calm and subdued in most situations. Others may choose to use the word ‘emotionless’ to say basically the same thing. In my defense, I am not an unfeeling individual. I just prefer to approach any and all problems, issues or concerns with a cool head.
I think that is what helped me get through the transition into my third career. Don’t get me wrong, there were other influences including the fact that both Brenda and I were dealing with the next part of our lives together and that God was also in the mix. However, being able to take an objective look at things and reason it out with logic made the big decision a lot easier.
The big decision was to close our business. I had worked there for 16 years and had been the owner of it for just over 12. It was both scary and exciting at about the same measure and pretty much at the same time. I still don’t think I would have termed it a crisis. If anything, had we kept the business open and tried to keep treading water it would have become a crisis.
Where I get a lot of encouragement is the material I have been reading about what we have experienced. The rate of business start ups by entrepreneurs aged 50 and older is impressive and makes me think that if we are not part of a trend, we soon will be. In fact, Brenda and I chose not to go from business owners/operators to becoming full-time employees. Sure, we both have part-time seasonal jobs where we are ‘employees’ in some people’s eyes but in actual fact we are really contractors.
Our full-time gigs are entrepreneurial in concept and design. We both have home-based businesses we actually started as hobbies. Now they are our regular sources of income. Still, there is no crisis in sight.
Sure, I may sound like we’ve got it made because the common perception is that we sold our business and are living off a bag of money. That could not be further from the truth. We closed our business to stop it from losing more money than it had been over the past couple of years. We are carrying a hefty debt into our future but, you know what? Our future looks bright and it doesn’t really matter what we owe as it still is not a crisis.
I think where we see a crisis developing is from our personal fear of breaking away from something that has either been secure or feels secure. This is especially true for those of us in our 50’s as we all get scared about starting over in a new job or career at an age where we think there should be no ‘starting over’ parts and only comfortable, cozy and secure parts.
I was afraid of starting over for maybe a few minutes. Then it dawned on me that I wasn’t starting over…I was just switching gears and that got me over the scary part and pushed me into the exciting part.
If you find that you need a bit more proof and a whole lot more encouragement to get away from that life-draining job you think you can’t live without, I strongly urge you to learn more about our story and how we did it. I have written an eBook that will give you the tools to avoid the midlife crisis others talk about. It’s titled “Surviving Midlife Career Changes” because that is precisely what we did – and you can, too.
My name is George Elliott. I have been in the Media Industry since 1978. I spent 23 years in Broadcasting and worked in a total of six different radio stations located in southern British Columbia Canada during my career. In 2000 I switched gears and moved into the Print Media Industry at a small town, local weekly newspaper. In 2004 I bought the paper and operated it with my wife, Brenda until July 2016 when we closed it. I launched a freelance web content and article writing business from my home in January 2014.