The highs and lows of working for yourself.

April 18, 2013

I still haven’t gotten around to writing my “I quit my job” post and I just passed the 1 year mark. I am not sure why I’m dragging my feet.

I am extremely happy with my decision, but leaving a full-time permanent gig to test the freelance, consulting waters was a big risk. It is a risk  that has worked out well for me for so far. At least it looks that way when you look from the outside in. Let’s be honest for a minute, shall we? I had debt when I quit my job and while I was working really hard to eliminate that, I had also set up a emergency fund for when I made my exit.

You see, I wanted to travel and live in Argentina for 4 months. Learn the language a bit better, and just take in the sights and sounds of a different country. Having lived in quite a few different countries before the age of 12,  I was going stir crazy living in the same city for the last 16 years. Yes, I backpacked around Asia and Europe for a total of 1o months, but being a tourist is something completely different that being a foreigner in a city. The entire experience is different.   I wanted to be a foreigner. One of fondest of my most recent backpacking trip is from Santorini. We stayed on the coast for 2 weeks and it was as close to living there as we could get.

But I digress. This post is about the ups and downs of working for yourself.  And while I can write a list post like the best of them, I’m just going to focus on 1 of each.


I get to work for myself, and as such I get to pick and chose how much work I put in and who I want to work with (NOW). This wasn’t the case when I first the plunge a year ago. This time last year, I was working 70-80 hour weeks because I was afraid that I had made mistake and I needed to squirrel away as much as I could. What I learned from my experience so far is how important picking your projects and clients are.

Yes, our clients pay us, but we’re providing something very valuable in return. Compatibility is SO important. Not only does it make any project pleasant, but almost all of my clients are referrals. We get along well, and the work is completed on time, and either on or under budget. And once you make a enough of a name for yourself, clients start trusting your judgement.

Eventually everything snowballs into me being to work from home instead of the office. Best gig ever, right?


Working for yourself, or as a consultant,  is isolating. Part of what I do involves making staffing recommendations, so I do my best to stay away from the office culture as much as possible. This works out because I like working from home, but where it sucks is the fact that I have zero sense of a normal work day anymore. I wake at 7:00am everyday, and get to bed around 2:00am. The sad reality is that most of the freelancers I know do the same thing. Just ask Andrea, for example. You can find online at 2 am with me on any given night.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the work very very much, but I’m also an extremely social person. Going from a work environment of 500 people to being by myself every day is a strange feeling.

Is it worth it?

Yes. I love what I do. I wake up everyday with a plan. I know what needs to be done and how to get there. I have coffee dates with friends where I try to talk them into quitting there jobs, and utilizing their skills in a different way.  Working from home also makes it really easy to save money. I can make sounds decisions on things like  glasses or contacts. I research to see which ones are cheaper, or if I should pull the plug and just get laser eye surgery ( click here ). I get to online shop and price compare with the best of them. I get to take a 3 hour lunch break and make up for it by working till 3:00am.

My point here wasn’t to complain or to show off, but to present the facts. Working for yourself is a gamble, sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t but its new deck of cards everyday.


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  • David April 18, 2013 at 9:38 am

    Marissa- Great Post. For a while I also was working for myself and found that the greatest benefit of working for yourself is also the greatest curse. Essentially, every day, the responsibility of feeding yourself and your dependents all rests on your shoulders. This is a plus because it requires you to work hard every day! The negatives are all responsibility rests on you!

    • Marissa April 20, 2013 at 11:54 am

      Exactly. Keeping a schedule on a daily basis is rather than I thought it would be.

  • Budget and the Beach April 18, 2013 at 10:21 am

    WEll I’ve been working for myself for just over four years as well, but I was laid off from my job, which is how it started. I 100% agree that compatibility is really important. I’ve been working with a producer for 4 years who drives me insane, but is 95% of my freelance income. But I recently turned down doing extra responsibility for him. But unlike you and Andrea, I do not work long hours into the night. I can’t. I ned a LOT of daily balance, although I do have a tendency to WANT to work longer hours on my blog because it’s a lot more fun. But the downside is my freelance income is probably way less than most people’s. I still debate whether I should seriously look for full time. It just feels more in my nature, but I’m loving doing the blog stuff, and part of me hopes that grows more. My career is still a big debate…what I do love is working form home. LOVE!

    • Marissa April 20, 2013 at 11:55 am

      I truly thought I would have more time to spend on the blog but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
      Good for you for turning down more work, AND I respect your need/ability to maintain balance. Its a lot harder than I thought.

  • mochimac @ save. spend. splurge. April 18, 2013 at 11:04 am

    I guess it fits me because I’m a bit of an introvert. The less people, the better. Compatibility does matter. There are clients I never want to work for again, unless I get paid double my salary.

    • Marissa April 20, 2013 at 11:56 am

      I feel the same, although I would ask for 3x my salary.

  • John S @ Frugal Rules April 18, 2013 at 11:15 am

    I can totally relate to this Marissa. I’ll be coming up on my year anniversary of quitting in June and I often wonder why I waited so long. It does require balance and getting that social interaction, but many people don’t think about all the work you do. We’re commonly up til all hours of the night, but we also have freedom. That freedom is intoxicating once you get a taste for it.

    • Marissa April 20, 2013 at 11:56 am

      It is! Congrats on quitting your job, too! I didn’t know that!

  • William @ Bite the Bullet April 18, 2013 at 11:33 am

    So, Marissa, did you write that post from the summer shade of the jacaranda trees in Buenos Aires? You could, you know! 🙂 That’s one of the benefits of the technology revolution. J$ had a guest post this morning about a couple that house sits across the world… and they run a blog from wherever they happen to be at that time.

    The freedom to work from wherever is a big perk. But you’re right, if you’re not a geek who craves solitude, the lack of social interaction can be a bear. Maybe that’s why I took to this new thing like a duck to water… 🙂

    • Marissa April 20, 2013 at 11:57 am

      I wish I could be across the pond. Some of clients need me in office 1-2 week.

  • Anne @ Unique Gifter April 18, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Yay for Argentina!! That would be lots and lots of fun, I liked it there. It’s a huge country, too.
    I am also stir crazy at the moment.
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Marissa April 20, 2013 at 11:57 am

      Lets go travelling! 😉

  • Grayson @ Debt Roundup April 18, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Working for yourself is rewarding, yet very tiring. I did it a while back, but I enjoy my job now. I like what I do. Yes, I work online at night, but that is just for extra cash. It can be hard to take the plunge, but if you do it right, it can be awesome. Congrats on rocking it Marissa.

    • Marissa April 20, 2013 at 11:58 am

      Agreed! I go into interviews and shudder at the thought of a 9-5. I might change my mind, but haven’t yet.

  • KK @ Student Debt Survivor April 18, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    Congrats on a year of working for yourself. I’ve often thought about what it would be like to work for myself. I think at some point I’ll probably go that route (if it’s financially possible), but for now I’m OK with working 40 hours a week and collecting my paycheck, while still getting to blog and write and do the things I enjoy 🙂

    • Marissa April 20, 2013 at 11:59 am

      Hey, if you like your job then there is no reason to quit. You’re one of the lucky ones 😉

  • Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin April 18, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    Bravo on taking the plunge and quitting your job. My wife currently stays at home and i’m slowly opening her mind up to blogging. I think she would be a perfect fit! One of these days I might even take the plunge.

    • Marissa April 20, 2013 at 12:00 pm

      OOH thats a great idea for your wife. The people in the PF world are really friendly!

  • Michelle April 18, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    I didn’t love Buenos Aires but did love Iquazu Falls!!! I have been devouring posts on working for yourself obsessively for the past 6 months. I would love to be self-employed and am in the beginning stages of creating that vision. Thanks for such a candid and interesting post.

    • Marissa April 20, 2013 at 12:00 pm

      Sometimes it comes down to a leap of faith.

  • Jim April 23, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    Great post Marissa, I have yet to make the move to ‘self employed’, but hope to one day. I have to prepare for that financially and skillfully. It is great to see the freedom you have by working for yourself, to me that is of the utmost importance. I would love to travel to Argentina by the way, backpacking sounds like a thrill!!

  • HS @ SmartMoneyJunction May 4, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    I’ve been working for myself for a while now, it’s been a couple of years or so, and I love the freedom that it gives me but at the same time things start becoming a bit boring after a while and you start experiencing loneliness.