Stop Working, Keep Earning

Susan Kelley

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Carrying a briefcasePhoto thanks to Marten Bjork on Unsplash

If The Pandemic Has Taught Us Anything, It's To Value Our Time

Millions of Americans spent weeks or months out of work in 2020 and early 2021; some are still struggling. But others have seen the benefits of waving goodbye to the traditional workplace because it's simply no longer worth the sacrifice to continue a career that doesn't fulfill more than a bank balance. And truth be told, many jobs weren't doing a spectacular job at that, either.

But then, there's the mortgage. So how do we give up work without heading for poverty?

Most of us don't have some cushy columnist job where we get paid an incredible amount of money to write something once a week or once a month. To make money in the current environment, it takes much more than a single stream of income, or even focusing on the job you have at present.

Very few people can do it and make a living.

No matter what your passion, if it’s not going to pay the mortgage and put food on the table, at some point it only makes sense to stop following that path and seek something more practical.

But you can still follow your passion and pay the bills. True statement.

The best way to get paid to follow your passion is to consider what you do well and what you enjoy doing.

Consider your current job.

If you work for a traditional employer, could you do the same thing, or something like it, on your own time and on your own terms?

Are there similar versions, or even side-gigs of what you do for your current job — that you do well and enjoy — that you could reshape into something of your own?

Do you have skills or talents in your current job that you could translate into another context, which could then be done as a freelancer or as an independent business?

Is there something unique or special that you bring to your current employer that you could sell back to them on a freelance basis once you leave?

If you've got a hobby, or a professional skill, that can translate into a saleable resource, you can either work independently or add to your current income sooner than you think.

Here's how to start reframing how you think about work:

Check out your hourly, or project-based, worth. A waiter or bartender, for example, often earns more than the shift manager, by virtue of those lovey add-ons called tips. Although service workers in those areas are typically underpaid at the hourly rate, the gratuities add up. A manager or supervisor making a flat rate gets no slice of that pie. So if you are working a salaried job now, but you could offer the same types of services at an hourly or daily rate that benefits you more financially, see if you can start with a side hustle and move your way to a full-time gig.

Moderate, and monitor, your monthly fixed expenses. It's easy to take an add-on gig and then begin spending like you just got a raise. Instead, use any side gig as the springboard to your full time status by paying down debt, keeping car an house payments low and on time, and controlling your fixed costs. Sure, other things will come up - they always do in the freelance world - but if you have a solid plan for all of your controllable expenses, this won't be such a big deal when you have the fluctuating income of a true freelancer.

Create and maintain a cash reserve. In order to jump off the work treadmill and be your own boss, even if you are just planning to go part-time and earn your money drawing caricatures while you host an Air BmB, you need to have some savings accrued. Financial advisors aren't joking when they recommend 6 months of living expenses. I myself was laid off from a large company for a couple of months during the height of the pandemic, and those unemployment benefits were very slow in coming. Having enough savings to last a few months made all the difference while I got by on freelance writing and editing alone.

Before you know it, you may be on your way to saying goodbye to the 9-5 office grind, and saying hello to flex time and flex spending.

As always, financial advice should come from a financial advisor, but life advice should come from those of us who have lived it.

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Susan is a runner, avid traveler, mom of three grown children, and a newly-transplanted Baltimorean who follows tech trends, especially at the intersection of health and the public good. Sound intriguing? It is. Often, technology is at odds with the "earthy-crunchy," but sometimes, it is a real boost. Susan is an avowed supporter of women's and human rights, so that situates well here.

Baltimore, MD
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