Career has been on my mind a lot lately since I’ve just quit my job and am scrambling to figure things out.
My company has given me counter offers with more flexibility (home office, reduced hours, leave of absence, etc…), but no mention of money. And I’d like a raise too! To be fair, I didn’t talk about money when I was explaining why I quit – my thoughts were all about flexibility and that’s exactly what they’re countering me with. But I thought it was obvious that money is also an issue since I asked for a raise a couple of months ago. 😕
It’s in my interest to consider freelancing as it will grant me ultimate flexibility. I can set my own hours, say yes or no to jobs, and work from wherever. The money will probably be 2-3x my current hourly rate, depending on how I negotiate it.
So there’s no real benefit to me staying, even if they meet all my flexibility demands.
I’m a bit nervous to broach the freelancing subject with my bosses though. But I have a 3-month notice period, so have some time to get comfortable with it. Here are some things I am considering:
What’s in my favour to freelance
1. Specialized field – I work in the STEM field, and it’s hard to find suitable candidates for my role. We’ve been looking for someone for our team, and it’s been painful. Not even headhunters are finding us the right people. The job requires a related PhD, strong technical knowledge, good business and communication skills. (*I* don’t even fit the criteria…!)
2. Doing good work with different departments – I started in my company with Group A on a 1 year contract. I was doing so well that they reduced my probation period and gave me a permanent contract after a few months. I worked in Group A for 6 months, when they were forced to give me up to Group B. Group B is a powerful new group that was able to pick and choose people they wanted to work with. They chose me! So I’ve been with Group B for the last 7 months, and have been liking it a lot. Having worked in Group A before coming to Group B gives me great exposure to both groups. This means 2 strong areas I can tap for potential freelancing projects.
3. Accounting in favour of freelancers – Group A never replaced me, and are swimming in too much work. They can’t hire a my replacement either, but there’s room to hire freelancers. Freelancers cost a lot more than employees, but freelancers look better on the balance sheet since they don’t increase headcount and are reported in a different bucket. (Gotta please the shareholders!) I’ve kept in great contact with Group A the entire time, and though I haven’t spoken with my old boss yet, another colleague assures me it is very likely I can freelance with Group A. It is uncertain to me whether my current Group B will need/want me on a freelance basis. I’d prefer to do Group B work because it’s more fun, but hey, money is money and I’m also happy to take on Group A work if they’ll have me.
4. Hardship factor – Okay, I know it’s icky to use Mr. G having cancer to generate sympathy. That’s not what I want to do. But I’m also aware that it’s a consideration factor and politically, it makes it easier for me to manoeuvre my upcoming freelancing career when I have a hardship reason. Which, turns out, I do! Because this whole cancer thing – it’s hard. No joke. I’m pretty adamant about not talking about cancer too much, because it makes me feel uncomfortable. When people look at me with those sad eyes, gahhh, it really gets me. We can live on Mr. G’s income, but I prefer to have my own income in case something happens to Mr. G or his job. Plus, it’s faster to FIRE!
5. I’m a ‘people person’ – Although I’m an introvert and need a lot of alone time, I really like people and people tend to like me back. It’s not hard for me to connect with others, and I don’t have a shortage of friends or allies at work. The company I work for is a very friendly place, and we’re encouraged to mingle and network with each other. A big part of the job is knowing who to contact to get stuff done. I’m pretty good at that.
What’s NOT in my favour to freelance
1. New girl – I’ve only been at my company for ONE year, and I’ll need my company to be my biggest client. I’m still considered new and also quite junior.
2. Lack of education – I don’t have the PhD that most people in my role require. I do have a mildly related MSc, but there’s a big gap between a Master’s and a PhD.
3. Lack of knowledge – It’s true, I’m not as technically/scientifically strong as my PhD colleagues who really know their sh!#*$. I wouldn’t consider my job very easy for me, but I do enjoy it and try my best.
4. Personality type – I’m an INFJ, which is not a hardcore business type. I’m more the type to want to give everything away for free if it can help people. And if it can’t help people, then why bother doing it? I’m also not that great at negotiating, and I would be relying solely on my company as my big client. I don’t have the energy (nor skills, probably) to find other clients.
5. One client only – My blueberries will all be in one basket! In Germany, freelancers cannot earn 100% from one client. The Finanzamt doesn’t want you to freelance as an administrative step. My workaround this would be to grab work from another freelancer, and bill through her company. Since I haven’t even spoken to this freelancer yet, I’m not sure this is possible. So I’ll have to contact her to see what she says.
Health insurance issues
Everyone needs to be health insured in Germany, and insurance is pretty expensive. I spoke with an independent insurance broker and I have to stay on public insurance if I go freelance. That means I’ll have to pay 14.9% of my gross income to insurance, with a minimum of ~400 EUR per month. During the slow months at the beginning, I’ll be running at a loss. That’s okay to me, but I do prefer to make money!
My long term career goals
I’ve always wanted to be location independent. I don’t like being stuck in one place. I want to be able to travel, spend time with far away loved ones, and to work while at it. Plus, I’d like to try running my own business to see if I’ll like it.
I’d also like to retire early! If I wait a few years until I go freelance (my original plan), I’m wasting all these prime income generating years. Assuming freelancing earns me more than working as an employee (I think it does). Of course, freelancing is dependent on clients. But I think I’ve stumbled on a really needy client who has no shortage of busy work. If projects ever dry up, hopefully I’ll be retired by then. If not, I can probably get my old job back!
Basically, I really need to give freelancing a try. As much as this is a stressful time of change for Mr. G and I, it’s equally a period of growth and opportunity. It’s all about how we choose to define this moment. I’m choosing to leverage it to forge a life we truly want.