The decision to dump my steady desk job and enter self-employment felt kind of like jumping out of a plane. Now, I’ve never gone skydiving so I don’t totally know, but the mix of excitement, anxiety and fear settled at the bottom of my stomach like orange juice pulp—and it just stayed there and got thicker.
The chance to be my own boss, working wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted was a dream. But I quickly realized how much I’d taken for granted working full-time gigs throughout my entire career.
How would clients pay me? What would I do about health insurance (and every other kind of insurance that was always taken care of by my employer)? How do I pay taxes? What about saving for retirement?
Figuring out how to answer all of those questions could have easily sent me straight back to the office. It didn’t because even though I was no longer part of a traditional team, I still had one as a member of the Freelancers Union. With so many moving parts for me to think about, the endless resources, connections and guidance offered by the union provided security when everything else about my work world looked so very different.
While things like getting insurance and paying taxes are huge membership benefits, even more valuable is having access to a community that understands the challenges and issues of working independently. When you work for yourself it’s easy to fall into a silo and feel like it’s just you out there fighting for every dollar, every client and every opportunity.
As a member of this union, I know there’s a force much bigger than me taking up the same fight.
The freedom that comes with knowing I’m part of a community that has my back is invaluable, mainly because I want to keep working for myself. To do that, I’ve got to put on my ‘boss’ hat and be able to think strategically about the things that will keep me moving forward like networking, which is another game-changing benefit of being a member.
I know that to keep my independent status means connecting and following up with new leads on potential clients. Through the union I have access to other freelancers, in my industry and not, and that allows me to find out what they’re doing to generate and maintain business, as well as talk through other issues and challenges from dealing with clients who won’t pay to creating a schedule that maximizes productivity.
There’s so much that I didn’t know before becoming a freelancer. If I had known what I didn’t know, I may not have jumped. Ultimately, it was the best career move I ever made. Having the support of an organization like the Freelancers Union gives me the confidence and security of knowing I still have a team that’s working to make sure my now independent working voice is heard and protected.