5 Reasons Freelancing Is Actually A Smart Way To Get Ahead In Your Career

by Molly Falco

I was incredibly #blessed to land an amazing job right after college. I interned for a boutique branding agency in New York. I eventually became a project manager, and then, I became a senior project manager.

I hung around for two sweet years while enjoying a regular paycheck, free beer and coffee and the companionship of some seriously badass co-workers. All in all, I loved my job. I was doing the right thing. I had a great boss, and I worked with my best friends.

We had great clients. I was paid heartily, my hours weren't crazy and we went out for dumplings basically twice a week.

After two years, however, I started getting the itch: It was time to move on. Because I truly adored and respected the company I worked for, I couldn't see myself going to another agency. My other option was transitioning into marketing for a singular company, but it seemed like it would be a boring downshift.

So, I did what any other totally insane, unprepared and spontaneous Millennial would do: I quit to go freelance. In the seven months I've been working on my own, I've learned a lot about my strengths and weaknesses. I've cried for what seemed like weeks due to a lack of funds. I've sat in my apartment, night after night, contemplating my whole life and where I went wrong.

But despite its rough patches and unpredictability, freelancing has infinitely changed my life for the better. Here are the reasons why:

1. You get to work the way you work the best.

While they may be out there, I think I would struggle to find a job in which the workday started at 11 am, and where lunch time consisted of a two-hour walk to explore the neighborhood.

I know what you're all thinking: “Sleeping in? Sign me up for some of that.”

Yeah, catching some extra Zs is great, but it's about so much more than that. Working when I'm rested, awake and inspired increases my productivity tenfold. I don't have to feel guilty about sitting around and reading random websites for three hours in the morning before inspiration kicks in.

When I start feeling the afternoon sleepies, I take a long walk and draw inspiration for my work from sights, people and the world, instead of drudging through my emails while slowly hating my life more and more. Yeah, taking breaks and starting late means I also work late to get enough hours in my day. But, it's how I work best.

For some people, the way they work best could mean starting at 7 am, grinding hard until 1 pm and taking the rest of the day off. For others, it might mean hunkering down at midnight and working until sunrise. If that's how you produce the best work, go for it. That freedom is priceless.

2. You learn to be alone.

Working for yourself means spending a lot of time alone. Even in a crowded cafe, you're the only one there for you. That feeling scares the sh*t out of you at first. After a while, however, you start to jive with your aloneness. You allow yourself to do weird stuff, try new outfits, explore the world without makeup, play music out loud and take dance breaks.

Once you've tackled cafes, libraries and bars with no one but your laptop beside you, you start to realize there are a lot of other things you can do by yourself, too. Your BFF doesn't want to see the new Tina Fey movie? Go by yourself. Your boyfriend is resisting trying the new taco place? You don't need him.

It's liberating to feel independent, and you quickly find yourself becoming more and more of a person all on your own.

3. You become the master of your finances.

Getting a regular paycheck, for me, meant spending my money however I wanted and ignoring the number in my bank account unless I got a low balance alert. Money was so liquid, I stopped paying attention to it. I allowed myself to spend an entire check before the next installment came in two weeks later.

First of all, being solely responsible for your income gives you some serious respect for money. When it stops being a given and starts becoming a privilege, you start really treating it well. When you're low on cash, you master budgeting. You find out you can easily live on less than $100 a week by doing seriously simple things, like making your own lunch or skipping one of your afternoon lattes.

When you're flush, you still have all the budget sense that comes with being poor. You understand the importance of saving what's left. That's not to say you won't still splurge every once in a while, but you'll do it consciously. You won't be blowing $80 on a dress that looks almost exactly like one you already have or a pair of shoes that actually really don't fit you right.

Feeling in control of your bank account is liberating in its own sense. You'll feel like you're adulting harder than you ever have before.

4. You discover new passions.

When I started freelancing, I planned to do much of the same work I did at my agency job: generating marketing copy and materials, writing brand strategy, positioning pieces, naming and doing graphic design.

When work was slow, I started writing for my own blog. I eventually applied to contribute to Elite Daily, just because I loved doing it. Soon, I was writing more and more. My personal pieces were gaining traction, and my Elite Daily pieces were getting published.

Now, I spend more time pitching for copywriting jobs, and I find that when I'm writing, I really, truly love what I'm doing. It's given me so much inspiration, and it's showed me where I really want to take my career. This is an insight I may never have gathered had I continued in my strict marketing role.

5. You learn to own your skills and accomplishments.

Trying to convince strangers on the Internet to hire you and give you money is not the easiest thing in the world. In fact, for me, it's one of the hardest. There is nothing scarier than calling up some random dude from LinkedIn and telling him, “Hi there. You don't know me, and you've never seen my work. But, I'd like you to let me run your company's social media accounts.”

The process becomes a lot easier if you're really comfortable with telling people how great you are. I'm pretty sure this doesn't come naturally to anyone (except maybe politicians gunning for presidential candidacies).

Eventually, you get into the groove of it. Listing your achievements starts feeling less like you're bragging and more like you're just selling a product. Coming to terms with how great you are really pays off in a number of ways, from networking events to dreaded family Christmas parties.

So, the next time your great aunt Tina starts shaming you for your lack of a boyfriend, you'll get to be like, “Yeah, but I boosted sales for X company by 200 percent last year. What did you do, Tina? Huh?”

Your confidence will never be this high again. Even on the days when you don't see any money in the pipeline and have nothing to work with, you'll be able to carry on while knowing you're a badass. The feeling that comes with owning your success is incomparable.