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My Journey from a Traditional Office Job to Freelancing from Home

After having a baby and moving to suburbia, the last thing this mom wanted was to commute two hours to a job she despised. Freelancing helped her to find her passion and grow as a person, a career woman, and a mother.
By Deborah Ng 

There are a lot of things I miss about living in New York City. I loved being able to run down the block to the corner deli to get a carton of milk at 10:00 p.m., and I enjoyed attending the opera in Lincoln Center and plays on Broadway. I especially appreciated how I could get anywhere I needed to go without having to worry about driving. However, there’s one thing I don’t miss at all: commuting an hour each way into downtown Manhattan to work at a series of office jobs.

It wasn’t the work that didn’t interest me. I enjoyed my tasks and moving up the ladder to other opportunities. It wasn’t the people that bothered me, either. I made many friends at my different jobs and I’m still in touch with a few all these years later. What I didn’t enjoy was the idea of wasting so much time on travel to work in an environment where someone was constantly looking over my shoulder and where people were quick to throw each other under the bus so they could get ahead. I wasn’t interested in playing any games or participating in office politics.

You know, we’re taught that all children learn differently and that we should teach our kids to learn in a way that suits them as individuals. I believe the same is true for adults when it comes to their careers. Just as not all kids are suited to a traditional classroom, not all grownups are suited to a traditional office. I didn’t enjoy working while hearing other people make phone calls, having to constantly sop what I’m doing for meetings, or dealing with superiors with power trips.

Setting the Stage

After about 14 years of commuting back and forth, I got married. My husband and I immediately began planning for our family to grow and to move out of the city into suburbia. The last thing I wanted was to turn my one hour commute into a two hour commute, though. The idea of becoming a full time freelance writer was becoming more and more appealing.

I have always loved to write. While the rest of my schoolmates groaned when we were assigned a term paper or essay, I was thrilled. I even did a bit of writing in my last publishing job, interviewing bands for a music magazine. Working with other freelancers as an editorial assistant gave me a solid foundation to launch my new career.

I began waking earlier in the morning and submitting my writing to various online and offline publications before leaving for my office job. In 1999, there weren’t as many online options as there are now, but the competition wasn’t as fierce either. I landed the first freelance gig I applied for - as an online humor columnist.

Transitioning to Full Time

I used the next three years to work on my freelance writing portfolio and grow my clientele. I wrote for content sites, private clients, and websites. In 2002, 8 months pregnant and weeks away from moving to our new home in another state, I quit my full-time job to freelance full time.

I never looked back.

Despite any romantic notions you may have read, freelancing with a baby is no easy feat. My son’s schedule and mine didn’t jibe the way I would have liked. After a few months I began waking at 4:00 a.m. to write for three hours before my family woke to begin their day. I kept this schedule going until my son was in preschool.

I also continued diversifying. My clients were content sites, private clients, websites, and even a weekly newspaper column. I wrote articles, web copy, marketing copy, and eBooks.

Wonderful things are happening

In 2005 I started a blog for freelance writers and it quickly grew to become the number one online community for freelance writers. The income I earned in revenue more than doubled what I was earning as a freelance writer. The blog also helped to bring in a new client base. Through blogging I cultivated new skills and in 2009 I began consulting as an online community manager and worked with several notable brands to grow their online communities and boost their online presence. My career was going so well that it was becoming more difficult to maintain my blog, even though at this point I hired other writers to help out. I sold my blog for a very tidy sum and continued freelancing both as a writer and social media consultant.

My work in social media and community management caught the eye of an acquisitions editor for a publishing company and soon I was writing “Dummies” books on social media topics. I also began working with event companies to help program blogging conferences.

In 2016, 14 years after leaving the traditional workplace for good, I have no regrets. For me, the secret to a successful career is that there are no “secrets.” Hard work gets you ahead whether you work inside or outside of the home. I also think diversifying – freelancing in different fields – helped me to not get bored. I’m still working with a blogging conference and freelancing as a writer, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

My advice to anyone who wants to work at home is to build up a client base or have a work at home job BEFORE you leave your full-time job for good. It’s a competitive playing field for people who want to work at home, and the last thing you want is to find yourself without a job and nothing to fall back on. After a few months in your home office, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start working at home much sooner!

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