Anyone have experience going from full-time to freelance?

Currently, I work as a technical writer for a large Silicon Valley firm. It’s a good job, I like my boss, I like the work, and best of all I’m able to telecommute. As jobs go, it’s about as good as I could ask for. But I’ve been doing it for about 27 years now (over 15 of it at the same company, or one it acquired) and I’m starting to feel the leading edge of burnout.

The thing that’s really been feeding this burnout is that my writing (I self-publish an urban fantasy series) is starting to take off now. I’ve got five books out plus a box set, and while they’re not earning me enough that I can quit my job yet, the possibility exists that they could, and in the not too distant future (like the next couple of years, if they continue to do as well as they have in the last year).

I’m really starting to feel like I should take the plunge and follow my dream. I’m 51, the spouse has a great job (thought not enough to support us on one income in the Silicon Valley) and is totally supportive, and I’m thinking that in addition to writing fiction, I could also look into taking on some freelance editing job (I’m a good fiction editor) and maybe a little gaming work to supplement the writing income. Moving isn’t an option, nor is cutting expenses to the bone–I don’t want to live like a monk, and It’s not fair to ask my spouse to do it either. We have a lot of expenses we can cut (eating out way more often than we need to, extra vehicles, etc.), though.

It’s alluring, but it’s also very scary. Leaving a secure job with a good income to follow a dream at my age–do people do that? I’m curious to hear from others who’ve done the same thing–what did you have to think about (tax implications, etc.) and how did it work out for you? Any hidden gotchas that might not occur to me?

This isn’t something I’m looking at doing right away. I plan to see how things go in the next year or so, (I’ve got three more books in the hopper and ideas for several more, so the series has a path), talk to a financial advisor and some friends in the industry, and try to be as much of an adult about the whole thing as I can. But I really feel this pulling at me, and I wonder if I will always regret it if I don’t take the chance.


Look at the tax situation in California. My husband quit his job as a QC at an electronics firm to launch his own electronics business. While it has done well, we are undeniably paying a *ton *more taxes than we used to. Even though we moved to a state without a state income tax, and a county without heavy taxes generally. I am not the financials person in the family, so I can’t explain it to you piecemeal, but yeah. It’s different.

Also consider the cost of health insurance.

Another thing to take very seriously is the fickle nature of Amazon’s sales algorithms. You’re in a sweet spot now, probably sweet enough that they would never screw you over completely, but things could change on a dime. I went from a couple hundred dollars a month to absolute zero when they did their latest algorithm shuffle, for example (obviously that was much smaller change than you, and change they were willing to sacrifice. Bastards.) If you’re going to quit your day job, be pretty-durn-sure you can get another within a couple months if Amazon tanks.

Since you’re considering this, I guess you’re fairly confident you’re the kind of writer who could do it full time and make good use of that time. Some people work best when they only have an hour or two a day. Others can sit down for eight hours and stonk out 10K words every day.

As to doing for-pay fiction editing … do look into that. I know there are conferences and workshops professional editors go to, to get better at editing. Since you’re a technical writer, I assume you’re familiar with the various styles etc.

Thanks, Sattua. Definitely all things to think about. Fortunately health insurance isn’t one of them–I can get on my husband’s insurance, which is every bit as good as mine, for not too much additional cost.

The whole Amazon algorithm thing is something I do worry about, since I have no idea why they do what they do. But if I can keep up my pace of putting out a book (or something, like an audiobook) every three months, I think I can keep the series riding high enough that it will stay on Amazon’s radar. I’ve got three more books in various stages of completion now, and ideas for a bunch more. And given that I can turn out a book in about a month now, with a full-time job, I should have no trouble doing it with eight extra hours in a day.

But yeah, this is definitely a long-term plan, not something I would do tomorrow. There are a lot of variables to consider (the biggest one being the tax implications, I think. That’s pretty much a black box for me at the moment, so I have a lot of studying up to do, or at least consulting with an accountant.)

Your situation has a lot of similarities to me, except I was recently downsized out of my tech writing job, and I didn’t have a side gig going. Burnout had already been full on, though. We were fortunate in that we could pay off debts with my severance package. Any chance you could get laid off? So much better than just quitting. :grinning:

Is your retirement fully funded? Are you close to paying off your house? Can you go part-time to see how that feels? There seem to be quite a few writing/editing jobs in the Midwest now, including short-term ones. I’m planning to job hop for a few years, and then retire.