Not long ago, I wrote a blog post for a career site where some readers disagreed with my tips on avoiding age discrimination in the workplace.
One commenter looked at my online bio and pointed out that since I was a former editor at Fortune Small Business magazine, I must be unemployed. Her take was: What could I possibly know about careers?
Her post made me smile. Anyone who is around me on a daily basis will tell you I’m more than fully employed. My challenge for the past couple of years has been actually taking time off.
But she’s right. I don’t have a traditional job. I own a thriving freelance writing and editing business.
Her comment reminded me of an attitude that holds a lot of people back from doing the work they love: They think it can only be done in a traditional job someone has created for them. Anything other than that is the equivalent of unemployment.
Perhaps at one time that was true, but in a digital economy, there are many sources of work other than traditional employers. If you still have the mindset that the only form of steady employment is a formal job, then you may be closing of amazing opportunities to use your talents.
When I was making the decision to go freelance or continue on a traditional corporate track, I did a simple analysis: What did I like about my career? And what did I want to get away from? How could I get closer to a lifestyle where I was mostly doing work I loved and leading the lifestyle I wanted, as the mother of three young children at the time.
What I liked was working with a wide variety of interesting people and writing and editing. What I didn’t like was sitting in long meetings or having to work hours that interfered with my family life.
I realized that if I started my own business, I could enjoy all of the best aspects of my career without the downsides. There are tradeoffs. Being able to focus on the work I want to do has meant taking responsibility for my own income stream. I’ve had to tackle what one of my clients calls “administrivia,” like selecting an insurance plan and submitting invoices. And sometimes I do have to rearrange family time to make the business run smoothly. But now that I have just passed my seven year anniversary as a freelancer and have four children, I have no regrets about going this route.
If you love your work but don’t love your job–or you love your work but can’t find a job in your chosen field–I’d urge you to do a similar analysis. It could be that it’s very possible to do the work you love if you’re willing to take on the responsibility for being your own boss. It’s not easy. But working in a job you loathe or getting sidelined in the economy is a lot more difficult.