I quit my finance job in 2015 and haven’t worked in corporate since. In fact, since graduating from university in 2012, I have only worked a total of two years in a corporate environment.
That life was not for me.
I am one of the millions of Millennials and Gen Z persons who have chosen to chart a different path.
Over the past two years, however, I have received some great career offers. These companies paid high salaries, offered unlimited PTO, provided excellent health care, funded retirement benefits, and allowed me to work remotely.
So, why haven’t I gone back to corporate life?
I have total freedom and don’t want to give it up.
Last week, an on-and-off again fever came out of nowhere and kicked my ass. I managed to power through my workday on Tuesday, but I had to call it quits on Wednesday.
One of my friends asked me how my clients let me delay work. Did I send them a picture of my thermometer as proof of my 102 Fahrenheit fever? The question seemed ludicrous to me initially, but then I remembered what working a regular job was like.
I explained that I didn’t have to give my clients any proof that I was sick and didn’t need to request time off. I could just take it. I typically give my clients notice, of course, but fevers don’t send forewarnings. Me? Give up my freedom? Nah.
I don’t want to work regular hours.
Most employers want us in the physical or virtual office for 40-hour weeks. However, I don’t work a 40-hour week. At least, not in the way one might expect. I spend roughly 20 hours per week on paid client work. Then, I spend another 20-plus hours per week on pet projects that rarely pay the bills.
If I worked 40 hours per week for an employer, I would have less time to travel, write fiction, blog, create Instagram Reels, make YouTube videos, and tackle all the other labor-intensive tasks I take on regularly.
I remember what it was like to be too exhausted from my workweek to work on my novels. I don’t ever want to be in that mental space again.
I enjoy location independence and refuse to pass that up.
Technically, most of my clients require their contractors to live in the United States. But me? I live in Mexico and have done so on and off (mostly on!) since October 2021.
I came with my RV for vacation and kept delaying my return to the United States until I stopped kidding myself about moving back. I returned for a few months and then came running right back to Mexico when things didn’t work out.
Do my clients know I am in Mexico? Yes, they all do. They sometimes ask for pictures and routinely check in to see what new adventures are afoot. Some have shared that their children are also in Mexico, whether as fellow digital nomads or as missionaries.
As long as they don’t need to file any special tax documents for me, where I work from is a non-issue, despite company policies.
I get judged purely by the strength of my work.
When you’re an employee, it’s easier to have your contributions disappear into the natural flow of work. I remember working in finance, and the payroll department lost tens of millions of dollars for a major airline carrier and an oil company.
The money poofed into thin air. No one knew where it went or who caused the trouble. I left while they were still digging through years of paperwork, trying to figure out where the money went and why.
As a contractor, my clients know exactly what projects I handle. Editors review my work, and some clients use a literal grading system. Yes, I can’t hide my errors or blend them into workflows. But, it also means that my clients know where good work comes from, so it is much easier for me to request concessions or higher pay for projects.
I think I mostly escape the gender pay gap.
I am the highest-paid writer for at least one of my biggest clients. I know this because when I told him my hourly rate, he laughed and told me that was an impossible ask.
I explained that he was right, which is why he should pay me a certain amount per word and let me worry about my hourly rate. He happily agreed to the piece rate. My actual hourly rate at that amount is almost three times higher than the hourly rate paid to the other writers.
For another large client, the account managers only reach out to me for higher-paying projects because they already know I won’t take the lower-paying ones.
That’s another built-in benefit of being a contract worker. I don’t have to work on anything I don’t want to ― especially when I’ve spent 16 years building a reputation and nurturing relationships in my field.
Is there any number or benefit that could get me to go back to corporate life?
I have turned down even six-figure jobs at this point. The most recent offer was $58 per hour, which works out to roughly $120,000 for the annual salary. The benefits were excellent too. It still wasn’t worth it.
Desperation is the only thing that could make me go back to corporate. But, considering that even losing 90% of my clients during the first month of the pandemic didn’t send me back to the office, I’m not sure what could.