my decision to go back to full-time employment

my decision to go back to full-time employment //

Yesterday, Clementine Daily interviewed me and asked a very pointed question: How have you adjusted to the transition of living on the West Coast (again) and working full time in a office-like setting? So today, I felt like going deeper into why I made this leap. I feel like it’s really popular right now to proclaim ‘yay freelancing,’ but when it comes down to it, it’s not for everyone. I’m one of those people and I want to share my story.

The Hustle
I say this without hyperbole: freelancing is hard. It got to a point where I felt like I was hustling 24/7. I was always on, always chasing that next big opportunity whether it was a design client or a blog sponsor. I never felt like I could turn down a job because my mind was always wondering “What if you run out of money?” So I worked my butt off. I stayed up all night making pom poms. I learned how to fix plumbing when I clogged my drain with glitter at 3 am the night before a shoot. I also started to push back meetings later and later in the day so I could sleep in to catch up on all the sleeping I was missing. Now that was a vicious cycle. When I went on vacation in October, I realized that I was burning myself out and something needed to shift. I’d unwittingly created an environment that wasn’t healthy for myself at all.

Hello, is anyone there?
It gets downright lonely working solo, especially when your office is actually your kitchen table and your drawing surface is actually your sofa. Days would go by where I’d not get dressed, not wash my hair… you get the picture. I discovered also that I greatly value the feedback of others during my design process. When I worked in an office, it wasn’t uncommon for me to turn to my desk neighbor and ask, “Hey, what do you think of this?” You can’t do that when working from a cafe.

The Perks
I don’t know how to sugarcoat this: I missed a steady paycheck that I didn’t have to chase, health insurance, dental insurance… even 401(k) matching. So much of my time as a freelancer was also spent shopping for insurance plans and chasing invoices that it felt like I couldn’t even be creative during the day. Now that I’m back in an office environment, it is expected of me to be creative.

This probably goes against the grain, but I’m a creative who loves structure. I firmly believe that structure allows me to be creative. If I know all the superfluous stuff is being taken care of, I don’t have to worry about it… and therefore I can design some really rad stuff.

All of that being said, I am so unbelievably grateful for everything I learned while freelancing for 6 months. My biggest take away is that I now have more confidence in my skills, my voice, my talent than ever before. This wasn’t a decision that I entered into lightly and ultimately it came down to being offered a job that was so unbelievable that I just could not walk away. As I’m writing this, I feel like I could go on and on about how happy I am to have made the leap back into full-time employment, especially with the company I am so proud to be a part of now. While this may not be the “popular” decision among my peers, I am really proud of the decision I made.

photo by Jojotastic — that’s actually my desk!

  • Lesley Myrick

    Hey Joanna, found this post via Rebecca Buenik. Anyyyway…LOVED IT! I’ve been working both full time and freelance for years, and there’s always this perceived “glamour” of freelance and “settling” of being employed full time. I gotta say – I love my FT job, and also the nice steady paycheck. Plus, I get to freelance on the side and pick and choose projects I truly love. I really do think it’s the best of both worlds. I don’t think I’m cut out for the hustle of freelance if I were relying on it to support my family. I’m the sole income earner in an expensive city (my husband is a stay at home dad, and a writer, which will hopefully be paying off financially soon!) and I can’t risk not bringing in enough to meet our needs each month.

    So, all that to say, thanks for sharing your views on working full time. It’s nice to be encouraged by others who are on a similar path. I actually wrote a similar post right around the time you posted this:

    Hope you’re well – haven’t seen you since DBC 2013! xox

  • I am so happy for you Joanna. I have been “forced” into the freelance life (got layed off last year) , and it has been the most difficult 8 months. Trying to start a freelance business and blog at the same has been overwhelming to say the least. I’m like you and have a hard time turning my brain off. There is never time to relax. I am constantly hustling, because let’s face it this work is not easy in blogland or freelancing. Cheers to you for doing what makes you happy! I wish you all the best xo

  • Adrianna Adarme

    Girl, I love the flexibility of freelance, but I feel like I barely enjoy it. Haha. I need structure so I always have to keep some sort of schedule or else I won’t get anything done. I’ve thought about possibly going back at some point–to get a full-time job. Working for someone else sounds kinda nice–especially if it’s for an awesome company.

  • Lisa


    I wrote about this when I decided to take a full-time job too. It does seem to be pretty unpopular to talk about, but there are serious upsides to steady, permanent, full-time employment that should not be overlooked. Thanks so much for having the balls to say all this. When I went back to a full-time job, I felt (and still sometimes do) like I need to justify it to others and to myself. But I don’t. It’s just what works for me right now. And that’s ok.

  • clarkbar9

    I just went back into a fulltime office gig after four years of freelancing and I completely identify with this post. Having people taking care of the business, HR, marketing end of things (and people who are better at those things than I), has allowed me to do a much better job at my creative job. At the same time, having taken on all of those roles in my own freelance business has made me better at working with those departments in my new role. Congrats on the new gig. And good luck!!!

  • charles

    I feel you…I’ve been freelancing for the past 3 years and am sick of it. :-/

  • snowflaek

    I was just discussing this with a friend. Although I love my few freelance clients, and my art sales are pretty good – having my day job keeps me sane. I don’t think I could do only freelance – I need more structure than that. Thanks for sharing!

  • Erica

    I had no idea you were freelancing. oops, sorry! It’s definitely cool for some people, but I, like you, enjoy structure and the benefits of working full time, even if it means giving up some freedom. I still dream about it and think that maybe one day, but until that day comes, I will be enjoying that insurance and 401k match :)

    • exactly! enjoy those cheap copays ;)

  • This was really great to read. I often muse about the possibility of going freelance because there seem to be so many perks (mainly, not sitting in a cubicle the majority of your days), but many people don’t really touch upon its negative aspects. Thanks for showing us this perspective!

    • so glad you found it helpful. thanks for your encouragement!


    • you’re my favorite.

  • KleinSpace

    Hi Joanna, i am reading you already for sometime and I am also trying to do the blogging combining with full time management role. It is tough, sometimes not so cool, but for me it is correct. I am really looking forward your further posts and experience combining both blogging and work together:)

    • thank you so much for your encouragement and for sharing your own experience!