Writer and host Gabi Conti gets real about life as a full-time freelancer. Because it’s far from easy
If you deem yourself a “creative”—a writer, blogger, musician, artist, or all of the above—chances are, you’ve wondered what being a full-time freelancer would look like. Quitting your “day job” and taking the leap into full-time freelancing might sound terrifying, exciting, impossible, and exhilarating all at the same time. But jumping into the unknown world that is freelancing takes guts, and Gabi Conti is here to tell you what that jump looks like, from the moments that feel like you’re drowning to those when you’re finally floating (for the moment, at least.)
Conti began her career in video production and was blogging on the side to fuel her main passion: writing. The 32-year-old has worn many hats throughout her career, from writer to podcast host to comedian to talk show host to book author. However, for the past two years, Conti has tried on a new hat: full-time freelancer.
Although it might never feel like a perfect time to transition into full-time freelancing, Conti decided to take the leap when she found herself between full-time jobs and spending most of her time working on her creative pursuits (mainly her first book, Twenty Guys You Date In Your Twenties.) She figured that pursuing another full-time job that wouldn’t further her dreams just didn’t make sense. Though financially struggling and sacrificing a lot to be a full-time freelancer, Conti still believes the gig is worth it.
"If you can support yourself fully with your work and people are paying you to do what you want to do—to write and host [in my case]—then it's worth focusing your attention on that," Conti tells HelloGiggles. "You just have to listen to the signs, and when you’re doing something right, you’ll find out that you are."
So, you’ve taken the leap into full-time freelancing. Now what?
The transition from working 9-to-5, in an office surrounded by people, to working whatever hours you choose in an “office” of one (yourself) will be weird. Your entire day-to-day routine, or lack thereof, will change. Be prepared to adjust to this, and know that it will take some major hustle to become comfortable with your new lifestyle.
I’m finally in a place where I don’t have to do this anymore, but when I first started full-time freelancing, I was working seven days a week," Conti tells HelloGiggles. "You're juggling multiple jobs, and that’s the only way you can make deadlines. Be aware that being a freelancer isn’t like those people on Instagram who are somehow taking vacations every five days."
So, if freelancing isn’t all about paid vacations and sponsored Instagram content, what will it look like?
“It’s probably going to be you in your apartment (probably in sweatpants), glued to your computer,” says Conti.
“[Freelancing is] not that glamorous, but as long as you stay motivated, have backup plans, and are constantly hustling, it’s very possible to make it work,” she continues.
When Conti first began freelancing, she started her meal delivery service to make ends meet. Although the business was successful, she felt like it was taking her away from her creative work too much to be worthwhile. Learning which projects are worth your now-more-precious-than-ever time can be a slippery slope.
Case in point: Recently, Conti was ghostwriting for a marketing blog that wasn’t paying her adequately for her time and work. When she was let go, she initially panicked, but that fear quickly turned into understanding and motivation.
"I was like 'How am I going to make money?'" she says. "But now, I’ve been writing more for HelloGiggles and Cosmopolitan, and I just wrote my second book proposal. So, I think [getting let go] was a sign that I shouldn’t be burning my brain cells by writing propaganda for blogs. I think I was meant to just write in my own voice."
How to stay motivated as a full-time freelancer working from home:
1Treat it like a 9-to-5 job.
Without a set schedule or a timeline for when to arrive at the office (or without any office to go to, for that matter), it can be tempting to let days take you for a ride, instead of seizing them head-on. Conti avoids falling into an unproductive non-routine kind of day by treating her work as if it were an actual 9-to-5 job.
"I make sure I’m at my computer by 9 a.m. and that I’m working until at least 5 p.m." she says. "That's the big thing that helps me stay motivated and get work done when I'm working from home."
2Learn how to say no.
When you live in a big city like Los Angeles or New York City where many people don’t have 9-to-5 jobs, falling into the trap of unnecessary social outings midweek can be easy. Invites from friends for long lunches and happy hours are things Conti has to push herself to say “no” to doing to stay on top of her deadlines.
"It’s really hard to explain that to people," she says. "This year I’ve had to separate myself from certain friends who just don’t understand it."
3Have backup plans.
As a full-time freelancer, there’s never a guarantee of where your money is coming from—you never know how many articles you might write in a month, or how many hosting gigs you’ll get. That’s why Conti stresses the importance of having a backup plan (or two or three.)
"I just think you always need to have a plan A, B, C, D, and E," Conti says. "It’s stressful, but if you’re good at multitasking, or have somewhat of a short attention span, it can be a good thing."
Juggling different projects keeps full-time freelancers on their toes by having them seek opportunities they might not have reached for when they were otherwise tied down to a full-time job.
"You just have to have a lot of irons in the fire constantly," Conti says. "It's a juggle, but there’s also a lot of freedom in that. I never spend my day doing work that isn’t furthering my career and being authentic and true to my voice. I’ve had so many 9- to-5 jobs that just didn't feel right, or didn't feel like they were my passion. That can be numbing."
“I do feel the most creatively alive right now, which is exciting.”
Conti’s creative energy is apparent in her new book Twenty Guys You Date In Your Twenties, which hits stands in May (but you can preorder it on Amazon now!) The colorful, hilarious, insightful read turns 10,000 hours’ worth of dates into twenty stories about relationship patterns. From “The Guy Who Texts ‘sup’ at 2 a.m.” to “The Guy You Always Go Back To”, these stories describe the types of relationships women get into during this decade of life (or any time they’re single) and how to make these relationships work. Conti interviewed her exes, relationship experts, and couples in these types of relationships to create quizzes and charts, and penned witty advice about dating and relationships.
Despite the financial struggles, uncertainty, and overall stress, becoming a full-time freelancer means one thing: You’re pursuing your passion. And that in itself is something to really be proud of.