Next week marks my one-year anniversary of working as a freelancer. I've been working in entertainment PR since my first broadcast media internship during my sophomore year of college. I had dreams of working as the head publicist for a major network or personally managing an actor or musician.
For as long as I can remember, I always knew what was ahead of me and the steps I needed to take in order to achieve my goals. I had always wanted to start my own business, but I never knew it was something I could do as early as last year.
I was working in a small boutique PR agency, with walls that often seemed too close for comfort. The office was stuffy, the environment was stressful, but I loved the work. I lived and breathed the work not because I was always busy, but because I was doing something I loved.
My supervisors and co-workers were the best people to learn from. However, I found that the wrongdoings I witnessed were what inspired me to reevaluate and do the right thing. So eventually, I went off on my own.
My job as a publicist generally consisted of writing, pitching media and coordinating interviews for multiple TV programs at a time. I enjoyed watching the shows, getting to know the cast on a personal level and taking this information to the media. I had my own system of getting things done, and I maintained incredible relationships with the clients. When I thought I was doing well, I soon found eyes glued behind my back, watching every move around me.
Toxicity in the office grew to be unhealthy. Credit wasn't being given when it was due, major accomplishments were criticized instead of celebrated and simple conversations turned into interrogations. I was deemed inexperienced because I was young, so my job was to take orders from my supervisors rather than pitch in as a part of the team.
Despite the fact that I was hired to work directly with clients, I was assigned to handle the Twitter accounts and make sure the office was managed and taken care of.
I began to lose sight of my goals and the place where I wanted to be in one year's time. Suddenly, the career path I was on became foggy as I started buying lunch and bringing in coffee. My responsibilities soon became that of an executive assistant's, and my duties as publicist only surfaced when others didn't show up to the office.
I was always doing as I was told and always offered more. I came in early and stayed late, and I prepared my anxious self for the week every Sunday by doing extra work. No matter what I did, it was always wrong or not enough. It was always, “You should've done this, you should've done that,” or “Why did you do this?”
I came home every day with debilitating migraines that soon landed me in the hospital, and I took out all of my anger from the office on my boyfriend. I knew I had to make a change in order to save my career, my mental health and my relationships.
After talking to different people and doing extensive research, I realized I had the ability to start my own business. Just because I was young and wasn't a manager didn't mean I couldn't work for myself. I knew my strengths, and I certainly knew my weaknesses. I recognized that whatever problems I had at the office would also surface along the freelance route, but any issue I knew I would have was worth the risk.
My Type A personality put together a pros and cons list of self-employment, and it turned out that the pros knocked the cons out of the ballpark. I made arrangements with clients I had been reeling in for weeks, and I had the conversation of turning my full-time position at the agency into a freelance position.
As a Millennial woman, I understand that I'm young and inexperienced, and that it may seem like all I know is how to work different social media apps and the office printer. But since my college days, I have shadowed the best people in the business, and I have taken every lesson learned and applied them to the business I am running today. I have observed the different types of management I have come across in every internship, part-time job and full-time job after graduation, and I have molded them into my own standards.
I have seen what works and what doesn't work, and I have taken it all into account for myself. I have always put my work before anything else, and I have always accomplished a job to its fullest potential.
Millennials (women especially) are often disregarded in their professional potential. Just because we're 25 and on Instagram doesn't mean the most we can handle is answering the phones and making copies. Just because we snap photos of our lattes and make Pinterest boards for our dream weddings doesn't mean we don't stand the chance to become a high-level executive someday. It's true everyone has to start somewhere, but there is a limit to how much one's potential and will to learn can be ignored.
Today, more and more people are freelancing and I don't regret it one bit. I get paid what I deserve, I create my own schedule and most of all, I enjoy what I do. Sure, there's stress and there are days when I wish I could call in sick, but I can't. I am my own boss, and my freelance work is what pays the bills, puts a roof over my head and feeds my little dog.
When I look back at where I was one year ago, I'm proud to be where I am and of how much stronger I've become. I know what I can and can't handle and what treatment I do and don't deserve.
If I had never left that toxic job, I can guarantee I would not being saying the things I am now. I wouldn't have learned the same lessons.
I've met dozens of potential clients, allowing me to dip my feet in different waters of entertainment PR, from the music industry to independent film. I've taken business meetings in LA and handled high-profile clients in New York, and I owe it all to the risks I took for myself.
Despite the struggles, I thank every person I've ever worked with and all of the opportunities I've been given. I've been presented with endless possibilities, and I couldn't be happier with the outcome.
To all Millennial women out there, you can do it. Don't ever let anyone discourage you from chasing your dreams. Don't ever let anyone make you think you're not good enough or smart enough. Don't ever let anyone use your age as a handicap in business. We are the future of our industries and the workforce, and the world is at our fingertips.