Over the last couple of years, my eyes have been opened to all of the different ways that people generate income.
I used to think that the only option was to work full-time for an employer. You’d give them your best efforts (or at least 40 hours/week of them), and they’d compensate you with a salary and 2-3 weeks off/year.
After a while, this started to feel like a dismal existence to me. I had so many things I wanted to do that didn’t fit into this structure. I wanted to travel to 100 countries. I wanted to have time to prioritize my health and relationships. I wanted to not feel burned out every single day.
Since I’ve learned more about financial independence and particularly about people taking Slow FI paths, I’ve realized that there are so many more options. People are envisioning their ideal lives, and they are building the flexibility they want now.
Some people do that through working fewer hours or negotiating flexibility with an employer. Others do that by freelancing or starting their own businesses entirely. I’ve come to learn of many benefits of freelancing.
I want to introduce you to Laura Gariepy who I’ve learned a lot from over the past couple of years. Laura also previously worked in human resources. When a family tragedy struck, she decided to quit her job and take advantage of the benefits of freelancing.
I’ll let Laura tell you the rest!
1. Tell us a little bit about you.
Hi! My name is Laura Gariepy. I’m 35 and live in central Florida with my fiance, Brad, his mom, Sandy, and my cat, Buddy.
I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and my MBA. I spent ten years in human resources before becoming self-employed. (Yay for ditching that cubicle and hellacious commute!)
In early 2018, I founded my company, Every Day by the Lake, LLC. Initially, my business was solely focused on creating written content for busy entrepreneurs and online publications. I write blog posts, newsletters, web copy, social media posts — whatever clients ask of me.
While that’s still a big part of what I do, I’ve since started coaching new and aspiring freelancers. Mentorship and coaching have helped me achieve freelancing success faster than if I tried to figure it out on my own. So, I want to pay it forward. In October 2020, I launched my new website, beforeyougofreelance.com, to serve as a resource hub for freelancers. So far, the response has been great — and I can’t wait to see where things stand a year from now!
2. Why did you decide to quit your job and start your own freelance business?
In late 2017, my grandfather died. I had three days to fly home to Massachusetts for his funeral. I was out of the office on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for his memorial service. My butt was parked back in my office chair on Friday. The whole thing felt wrong. I was grateful to have any paid time off, but it didn’t seem adequate.
I decided that I needed to redesign my life.
Although my career in HR was decent, it didn’t let me show up in my own life the way I needed and wanted to. I’d been dreaming about quitting my job for years and had early retirement in my (distant) sights. But, that goal post was still 10-15 years away.
How many more loved ones would die before I hit that milestone? How many opportunities would I miss because I had to be in the office? I realized that I wasn’t getting any younger — and that any of us can go at any time.
Tomorrow isn’t promised. I vowed I would never limit myself to three days of bereavement time again.
Three months after my grandfather’s death, I quit my full-time job to figure out how to work around my life — rather than live around my work. I didn’t have a clear plan, but I had a deep desire. So, with a staggering amount of debt but a tidy nest egg, I went for it. Pushing three years later, I regret nothing!
3. Why did you decided to pursue freelancing after quitting your job? How did you approach it initially?
I fell into freelance writing by accident. When I quit my job, I knew I wanted to earn a living that was location and schedule-independent. Beyond that, I was pretty clueless. I gave myself 12-18 months to figure it out. At the time, I was calling this period of my life a sabbatical. It was a true limbo moment.
I started a blog because it seemed like the “right” thing to do when venturing into the online business world. My early posts were about quitting my job — including the financial preparation I took to do it. Slowly but surely, I immersed myself in the personal finance community.
A few months later, I wrote a guest post for a prominent website in the niche. When they paid me for it, I was shocked.
Then, I had an epiphany. If I could do this enough times in a month, I could pay my bills. Shortly thereafter, I landed my first recurring client, and I built from there. Within a year of earning my first freelance dollars, I replaced the income from my corporate job.
After a few months away from an office, I swore I would never go back. Once I was earning a solid cash flow, it was a lot easier to make that declaration with confidence!
4. How has your decision to become a freelancer impacted your quality of life?
How hasn’t it?! Although I’m the first to admit there are some not-so-sexy things about self-employment, going freelance is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I can work on my own schedule from anywhere with an internet signal. I can take afternoon naps, shop at off-peak hours, and play hooky during the middle of the week. I can do anything as long as I get my work done. The freedom and flexibility are incredible.
This sounds dramatic. But, in 2019, my freelance business saved me. In November, my father got very sick. On December 10th, he was gone at age 61. The last six weeks of 2019 and the first three months of 2020 were the hardest of my life. My dad was everything to me. He was my biggest entrepreneurial cheerleader. Watching him suffer and leave this world too soon broke me. I will never be the same.
But, I know those days would’ve been so much worse if I was still working a traditional job. Freelancing allowed me to hit pause on my professional life so I could tend to what mattered most. I was able to support my family, be there for my dad until the very end, and mourn his loss on my timetable. I did almost no work from mid-November of 2019 through March of 2020. What employer would let me do that? (Me! I’m the employer!)
Freelancing saved me from dealing with corporate b.s. It saved me from worrying about my employment status. It gave me the space I needed to choose my priorities — and then live my life accordingly. I’m forever grateful.
5. How has your decision to become a freelancer impacted your financial goals or timelines?
Going freelance has absolutely impacted me financially. When I was ramping up, I used much of my nest egg to pay my bills and make some initial investments into my business. I also lost my health insurance, so I’ve been self-insuring. (I’m spending less out of pocket than I would on plan premiums, but it’s definitely a risk). And, I no longer have an employer paying into a retirement plan for me.
I also relied on my savings to get me through another sabbatical after my dad died. Plus, I’ve recently put a lot of money into my company and my development as an entrepreneur. It’s been an expensive year!
While I don’t regret a penny of it, I’m definitely in financial rebuild mode. I have credit card debt to pay off (on top of my mortgage and student loans). I need to replenish my emergency fund. And I need to restart saving for retirement. Fortunately, my income is going in the right direction. But, it will still be some time before I feel financially secure again.
I’m very grateful that I had the resources I needed at key times in the last few years. I’m optimistically hopeful that they’ll be there when I need them again. And, I’m confident that I have the capacity to earn what it takes to finance a life that I love. Abundance mindset for the win!
6. I often see people in the personal finance space lean toward a scarcity mindset. Where does your abundance mindset come from?
I have teachings from my dad to thank. He was a big believer in the abundance mindset and encouraged me to view the world from that position. Over time, I’ve come to see it as true for myself.
Me winning doesn’t mean someone else has to lose. In fact, when I win, I can share the wealth. While there are people who unfortunately lack what they need, I believe the pie is large enough (infinite, really) for us all to prosper. How we all get our share is the bigger, harder question.
7. What enabled you to quit your job and start freelancing?
Although I had debt and no clear plan when I went freelance, I did have some important things going for me. I had a large emergency fund with 12-18 months of living expenses tucked away. I lined up some remote, part-time work to prolong my savings as I figured out my long-term gameplan. Since I was a student at the time, my loans were in deferment, which made my budget a lot rosier.
I also had a support system. My dad was an entrepreneur, too. He owned a business when I was a kid, and he adored working for himself. Even though he spent his last years as an employee of someone else’s firm, he never lost interest in the business world. He would get giddy when I updated him about my company (despite not quite understanding online business). His enthusiastic encouragement — and the entrepreneurial spirit he instilled in me — have absolutely helped me be successful.
I’m also fortunate to have the support of my fiance and his mom. While they were skeptical at first, they never pushed back. Now, they’re excited to see me continue to grow.
8. Were there things in your life that needed to shift when you became a freelancer so you could keep working toward your goals?
Good question. I really had to ponder on this one. I’d say I needed to work through my introverted tendencies.
Businesses are built by people, for people, and with people. So, to be successful, I had (and still have) to put myself out there to meet people that I can help and that can help me. As an introvert, that’s not the most comfortable thing for me.
Fortunately, it is easier to connect online than it is in person. And, with lots of practice these past few years, I’m getting better at it! While you won’t often see me in the middle of a large crowd, I’m more confident about who I am, what I do, and what my place is in the world.
That’s just one more amazing thing freelancing has done for me!
9. Why and when do you think someone might consider “downshifting?”
Someone could consider “downshifting” due to a major life disruption. I think there needs to be some sort of wake up call that makes one think, “gee, this way of life isn’t working for me anymore. There has to be a different path.” Then comes a lot of reflection on values, priorities, and legacy.
There’s a realization that the most precious things we have in this world are time and each other — neither of which are replaceable. When this realization happens, the drive for money and things get stifled in favor of enjoying experiences and flexibility.
That’s what happened to me. I still like stuff. As much as I see the benefits, I’d probably make a miserable minimalist. But, I’d rather make less money (and subsequently have less stuff) and have more time than the reverse.
10. How did your pursuit of FI help or hinder your decision to quit your job and start freelancing?
Pursuing FI absolutely helped me. If I hadn’t been on that path, I very likely wouldn’t have had as much money in the bank at the time I quit my job. I may not have even been financially secure enough to do it. Or, I might have had to delay my plans, which ultimately could have been an emotional disaster for me.
11. What advice do you have for someone considering a similar decision?
If you’re thinking of quitting your job to go freelance, here are the most important things you can do:
- Have a compelling reason why — your vision will carry you through rough times.
- Choose an in-demand service to offer — one that you can confidently provide and hopefully scale over time.
- Decide whether you want to go all-in at first — or initially build your business on the side.
- Network. A lot. All the time. People do business with people. The sooner you build a community of folks who know, like, and trust you, the sooner you’ll be successful.
- Hang your shingle loud, proud, and often. Folks can’t hire you if they don’t know you’re open for business.
Thank you so much, Laura, for sharing your story with us.
Like Laura, many of us are motivated to make life shifts when personal or family tragedies happen. For some, the death of a close family member or friend can serve as a catalyst. For others, health issues or a growing family can be a wake-up call.
Regardless of the motivation, there comes a moment in our lives where we start to see things differently. I love how Laura talks about this point in time as the moment where you decide to “figure out how to work around my life – rather than live around my work.”
How many of us actually do that? Do we optimize everything in our lives to be successful in our careers? Or do we have a vision for our lives that is bigger than that?
There are so many ways to make our work more flexible so that we can start to optimize our quality of life. Freelancing is one great option. There are many benefits of freelancing, including:
- Working on your own schedule: Taking time off when you want and need it, taking care of errands during the workday, and working when you are at your most creative.
- Working from anywhere there’s an internet connection: When you aren’t tied to a particular location, you can choose where you want to live. For example, Laura’s vision was to live on a lake, which may not have been possible with her corporate job.)
- Having more than a few weeks off each year: This allows you to be responsive when life happens, you want to spend more time with friends or family, or you want to travel the world.
I know many people suggest building up a freelance business while you are continuing to work and then making the leap. That’s a great idea if you have a job you don’t hate and aren’t currently experiencing personal tragedy. If you have a good-sized emergency fund, you might be able to take the leap and figure it out as Laura did.
The important thing I want to leave you with is that I now recognize that freelancing is a viable (and often lucrative) career option. Until I met quite a few people pursuing this path (including Laura), I had no idea. If you are looking for something with more flexibility, I’d encourage you to expand your thinking too!
If you are interested in freelancing, Laura has excellent resources on her website. I’d encourage you to take a look and follow her journey here:
- Website: https://www.beforeyougofreelance.com/
- Podcast: https://www.beforeyougofreelance.com/podcast-archive/
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauragariepy/
- Twitter: @EveryDayLake
- Email: Laura (at) everydaybythelake.com