Do I Regret My Decision To Go Freelance Now That We’re In A Pandemic?
If you follow me on Instagram, you probably already know that I decided to quit my nine-to-five job and start my own business as a copy and content writer. The day I handed in my notice, I wrote this:
“Guess what? After months of second-guessing, I’ve decided to trust my gut and take a leap of faith into internet idealism. This time next month, I’ll be waving goodbye to the corporate world and starting my own copywriting and content marketing business!
Being a pretty independent person, I always knew I wanted to choose my clients and manage my own schedule. I’ve been dreaming of going freelance for months, but there was one thing holding me back from ditching my day job: I kept thinking that I didn’t have enough experience or a wide enough freelance portfolio. The thing is, working full time in an unsatisfying position hasn’t exactly left a lot of time to reach those goals.
So, I’ve realised that the best time to start is right now. I’ve handed in my notice, and while I’m absolutely terrified, I also know in my heart that I’m making the right call. Wish me luck!”
Of course, the last thing I expected was that the whole world would shut down before I got a chance to wave goodbye to the corporate world. In the space of weeks, the entire economic landscape has changed. It’s harder than ever to be a small business owner. Some would say this is the worst time to start a business. Even if everything isn’t completely doomed, I know that I’m starting with a significant disadvantage.
But do I regret my decision?
A post shared by natalia (@whatnownat) on Mar 4, 2020 at 12:41pm PST
Six Weeks Ago I Handed in My Notice to Go Freelance
In the midst of a pandemic, I wonder if I made the right choice.
I had been waiting for this day for months. I had made the decision to leave my stable 9-to-5 job and venture out on my own. I’d built up the courage to hand in my notice to my unsuspecting boss. I showed up for work every day for weeks in that awkward halfway-out-the-door transition period.
The hard part was over. So why was I second-guessing my decision to leave now?
When the long-awaited time came to log off my work laptop (and, underwhelmingly, put it in the corner of my bedroom until it was safe to drop it back to the office) I had all these questions milling around my head:
Is it a bad time to leave?
Is my business doomed to fail before I even get started?
Am I going to get any clients now that the economy is down?
Is leaving my job a selfish move when millions are losing their jobs?
Could I have predicted this?
While I don’t know the answers to most of these questions, I do know the answer to the last one: no. I don’t think any of us could have predicted the state of the world right now.
When I was typing up my notice six weeks ago, the world looked pretty different than it does today. At the end of February, coronavirus wasn’t part of most people’s dictionary. There were echoes of it somewhere down the newsreel, but far too distant to be top of the agenda. The stock markets had just reached a record high.
We all know how the story has unfolded since then.
The truth is, it’s probably not the best time to start a business. It’s not the best time to be a business owner, period. But for me, turning back now is not an option.
And after some self-reflection, I’ve realised that I wouldn’t turn back even if I had the choice.
Controlling the narrative
When I was handing in my notice six weeks ago, I wanted to be in control of my own narrative.
On a practical level, I chose an end date that guaranteed a clean break, an easy transition period for my replacement, and some extra savings in the bank to tide me over at the start of my freelancing journey.
Being a typical Type 5 personality, I like having everything figured out before jumping into any new venture. I’m a rigorous planner, a trip itinerary curator, a knowledge hoarder. The decision to go freelance, therefore, was not a blind leap of faith, but a calculated jump over all of the hurdles my mind could throw my way.
Financially, I felt stable. Emotionally, I felt prepared to face both rejection and potential success. Practically, I had Asana boards full of ideas, strategies and business plans ready to action. My ideal client was coming sharper into focus every day. I even had my branding colours picked out.
By the time I handed in my notice, I didn’t just feel ready to go freelance — I felt as if it had already happened. My narrative had firmly taken shape.
Fast forward six weeks and any certainty about the future seems like a distant luxury reserved for a privileged few. Stores and public spaces have shut indefinitely. Companies are going into liquidation every day. Millions of people are losing their jobs or taking pay cuts.
Everyone’s neat narrative — framed in 2020 planners, Google Calendars and quarterly budgets — has been swept away, leaving room for fear and uncertainty. It’s the perfect environment for second-guessing any decision.
Suddenly, my clean-cut plan didn’t quite match its surroundings. And yet here I was anyway, logging off my work laptop and looking at my last paycheck.
So, what now?
It was never a matter of convenience
Here’s the thing: convenient end dates and savings aside, my decision to leave my job never stemmed from a mindset of timing, but of conviction.
I decided to go freelance so I could take charge of my clients and workflow. I wanted to fully dedicate myself to the work that makes me jump out of bed in the morning, my ikigai or genius zone: writing and creating digital content. I decided to pursue a drive that was missing from my day job.
I decided to go freelance because I knew I could do it, and do it well.
I handed in my notice with a sense of conviction: not just that the timing was perfect, but that I had to act on an overwhelming sense of self-belief.
And right now, my second-guessing has nothing to do with my ability to start a successful business and provide great services to my future clients. Taking a closer look at the questions I posed at the start of this article, they all undermine the timing rather than my ability to make freelancing work. These doubts come from the place of fear and uncertainty that so many of us find ourselves facing right now.
While my fears about money and clients aren’t unfounded, giving in to them would mean giving up my conviction. It would mean turning my back on myself and everything I know to be true about my skills. The coronavirus outbreak would not be the reason I couldn’t succeed — I would be.
So, would I have quit my job six weeks ago if I’d known we were heading for a global pandemic?
I like to think I would have, anyway.
Making room for conviction
Instead of focusing on the uncertain, here are some things I am certain about.
It will be difficult .
Yes, but I already knew that. The beginning of a freelance journey is most often an uphill stretch. While I might not have predicted starting off with an obstacle as vast as a global pandemic and the recession that will inevitably follow, there would have been other obstacles standing in my way.
Booking new clients, selling my copywriting services and making an income — these challenges haven’t changed. And neither has my ability to give 100% in order to tackle them.
I will need to be flexible.
A flexible mindset is the key to succeeding in an economic downturn. This is a lesson a lot of business owners learn too late, as demonstrated by the number of businesses scrambling for even a basic contingency plan at the moment.
While many of my goals remain the same, the wayI reach them might be different than first imagined. Starting a business in the wake of the pandemic will be an exercise in flexibility, testing my willingness to take new approaches, change my processes, reassess my service offerings to cater to a new business mindset. We are living in an era of change, and flexibility will help us adapt.
If nothing else, I’ve gained a practice run.
Six weeks ago, I had never worked a day from home and craved the freedom of it. Now, I’ve had a chance to work from home for four weeks. I’ve discovered my biggest vices and cultivated an environment that makes me feel productive. I inadvertently gained an opportunity to fine-tune my working from home habits, cut my day-to-day spending and learned to avoid Zoom gaffes.
And finally: I can do this.
I am confident in the reasoning it took to get to this place. I am confident in my decision-making. I am confident in my abilities to deliver great content to my future clients. I am clear about what brought me here: not perfect timing, but my belief in myself.
And if the timing isn’t perfect, so what? Now is the time to give it my best shot.
Follow me on Instagram for updates on how my freelancing journey pans out from here. And if you’re looking for some tips on staying productive while working from home during the coronavirus quarantine, why not check out my guide?
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