So this new job of mine officially became A JOB this month, and by all caps, I mean I went on payroll in November. Big stuff around here considering I haven’t been on payroll anywhere in 11 years. And the thing that clinched it? Health insurance.
Obamacare hasn’t worked out well for families like ours – middle class, freelancers, a family of four in NYC. When ACA rolled out this time last year, I largely ignored it because I quickly realized that the health insurance that I had through Freelancers Union, a plan that I had switched over to 4 years ago to save on skyrocketing premiums, was still a better deal than the plans that were on available on the health exchange. Our insurance was far from the best (high deductibles and a frightening out-of-pocket max), but it worked for our healthy family and our premiums were relatively low (“relative” being the key word here since most would still balk at the number). What I didn’t know, however, was that Freelancers Union negotiated a year extension to keep their plans while most of the other trade plans that existed were eliminated because they didn’t comply with ACA. I was blissfully unaware.
During the summer, however, I somehow caught on to the fact that our insurance would end this year and that we’d have to purchase a new plan through the marketplace. So I went and searched around and quickly became despondent at what I was facing; the plans weren’t affordable at all. A letter from our insurance company in October confirmed my fears: an end to our plan and a significant increase in premiums for worse coverage.
I always made a deal with myself that if freelance no longer worked for our family I would go get a job, but a freelance career did end up being the best option for us while the kids were little because we were able to save on nanny/daycare costs while juggling flexible schedules and tag teaming on childcare. If you’ve been reading here for the past 6 years, you know all this. It wasn’t always easy and I feel like we paved our own way in somewhat uncharted waters back then, but it was the best of both worlds in a lot of ways.
But getting back to the deal I made with myself…well, I never really had to make that decision because freelancing went great for so many years – 11 years, in fact. Sure, there were dry spells like every freelancer experiences and it was in these moments of sheer panic that I’d promise to look for a full time job if I couldn’t support the family anymore, but work always managed to come down the pipeline.
The truth is, I was also afraid of looking for a full time job. It was a terrifying thought in a lot of ways. How would I adjust to commuting and working in an office everyday? I LOVED working from home and was lucky as a freelancer to never have to work onsite. The flexibility and freedom meant everything and I fought so hard to build and protect it. Whenever I turned a job offer down in the past – even jobs that I would have considered “dream jobs” – freedom over my time would always win out. I couldn’t justify the huge change in lifestyle, not even for a steady paycheck and benefits.
But sometimes you have to see the writing on the wall and I recognized for the past few years that the industry that I was working in was changing. Technology, media, design – it all moves so fast. We’d be foolish to think that the jobs that we could rely on will always be there. While I did have one of the best years as a consultant this past year, the work that I was doing was shifting – less web and more print. The big web projects that used to be my bread and butter projects were less frequent and harder to come by. Parallel to all this is my complicated relationship with design. I think one of the hardest and truest things you can do in life is to recognize and acknowledge when something has run its course. Maybe that’s leaving on your own terms when you’re still on top. Maybe it’s about letting go when it’s time. Whatever it is, it’s not easy acknowledging when something is over.
So it’s true that The Job sort of just happened. I didn’t decide to look for a full time job, there wasn’t a formal interview and this all came down during one of the most difficult times in my life. But sometimes things just fall into place, you know? And then it all started happening really fast, and I found myself helping to set up health insurance for the company and deciding on a job title for myself. And this is why it feels right. I’m helping to build a company and a product from the ground up and it’s going to be wild ride. I’ll admit that I had a moment of panic when I signed papers the other week. It sort of felt like I was signing my freedom away (though part of the deal is I get to keep some flexibility and only go into the office 3 days a week so I can still run our business and work on some freelance on the side. Look, if you want something you have to ask). When I made a little announcement on Instagram about this new venture, it all felt too real. But I’m ready to step into this new role and I realized that the promise that I always made to myself about finding a job if I couldn’t support my family any longer as a freelancer was only half true. I’m not only doing this for them or the health insurance or a steady paycheck; I’m doing this for me.