3 Things That Made My Transition To Freelance Easier

But first…I’ll step up on my soapbox. My first tip to anyone who is considering going freelance (or take any risk in your career) is to build up your Freedom (or FU) Fund. At its baseline, money is choice.  If you have $1, you can: spend it, save it, invest it, or donate it.  You have the choice of how to use your money.  At the next level, money is freedom.  When you have a freedom fund, you can leave a toxic job, relationship, or lifestyle.  You have the freedom to take more financial risks. Okay, onto freelancing!

In February 2017, I made the official leap from full-time employment to the freelance life.  Here are three things that made that transition easier.

1 – I turned my last full-time job in my first client.
I loved my last full-time job.  I wanted to keep my clients but work half the time.  It turned out to be a win-win for my agency and me.  My biggest client was about a year out of retirement (or commencement as he liked to call it).  I would stay on that project and spend the next year transitioning all my other projects. It gave me predictable income and very little admin, like onboarding a new client.

2 – I hired a career coach.
Investing in a career coach, Katy Flatau, was scary at first (it was a big commitment and a good chunk of change as I was reducing my income) but it one of my best investments. Katy’s positive energy was a perfect balance to fear. Katy encouraged me to emotionally disconnect and leave on incredible terms. Katy also led a March webinar for us, Dream Bigger: Your 10-Year Career Strategy.

3 – I surrounded myself with other freelancers.
I quickly found some great mentors, threw myself into planning Freelance Business Week, and joined communities like The Riveter, RISE, TARRA, and Denver Marketing Mavens.

One thing that I wished I had more help with was understanding my numbers as a self-employed woman.  I feel like it’s something that I will always be improving and learning.  This is why The Pledgettes is committed to hosting events specific to the self-employed woman.  Head over to our events page and check out our upcoming events and join us!

Way more of a career path than climbing a ladder

My first job out of college was my dream job!  I worked in the music industry doing artist management and marketing.  I thought I would be in this job forever.  I thought I would work with my coworkers forever; this mindset maybe my biggest career mistake.

During my tenure with this company, I didn’t expand my network at all.  I was actually invited to a “Women in the Music Industry” networking group.  I didn’t feel like I belonged, everyone was at least a few years ahead of me in their careers and I didn’t believe I had much value to give.  I also depended fully on my manager to carve out a career path for me.

I loved the company that I worked for and the people that I worked with.  I had so much autonomy and was able to create the position I wanted.  I was developing skills and gaining experience at this small company that my peers at large companies weren’t getting opportunities to.

Then, at age 27, I was burnt out.  My dream job wasn’t going to be a forever job.  I quit without having another job.  When I quit, the CEO asked what I was going to do.  I didn’t know.  He gave me some books advice, and my last bonus: told me to travel and figure it out.  I didn’t want to travel; I needed to find a new job.

I was unemployed for about three months (side note: nobody has ever asked me about the breaks in my career when interviewing for new jobs).  The first month I was antsy.  And I had quite a bit of free time to blame others for my unhappiness in my job.  The anger then turned to fear that I wasn’t going to be able to figure out what to do next, I wasn’t going to get a job with a good salary, I wasn’t going to be able to pay my mortgage.  It sucked, it was scary.

I did find a great next job that was so different from my first job but also allowed me to use my skills and experience. After that almost two years in that job, I took 7 months off to live in Peru and work for a non-profit.  I loved the digital nomad life and would love to do it again!  Returning the state and full-time work, I came up with a few dream jobs.  I printed off job descriptions and looked at the network, skills, and experience I would need to be an executive director at a non-profit.  I worked towards that goal for a couple of years and while that’s not my dream job anymore, I was grateful I had that north star.  The network, skills, and experience effort I put in at that time made me into the person I am supposed to be at this moment.

I never dreamed that I would be a freelancer, a business owner, a side hustler, an entrepreneur, or a founder.  But here I am, learning, growing, and dreaming bigger about what’s next.

What are your dreams for your career?

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou

At The Pledgettes…

We believe Black Lives Matter.
We believe there are inequitable systems that must be changed.
We believe the racial wealth gap needs action by everyone to improve.
We believe the gender wealth gap includes every womxn and we are committed to taking action to change it.

We are committed to a wide array of programming to meet womxn where they are on their personal financial journey and share diverse perspectives on money with: budgeting, estate planning, negotiation, investing, and more.
We are committed to continuing to learn about the inequitable systems and using our voice to talk about them.

We are a community of supportive womxn making money moves to achieve individual financial wealth goals.

This Maya Angelou quotes repeats in my head over and over.  I launched this community for women (yup, -en) and was asked, “Is this for women or womxn?” I didn’t know what womxn meant. When I learned, the answer was easy. The Pledgettes was (and is) for womxn.  The gender wealth gap is not only for cisgender women.  *UPDATE* When I had ongoing conversations, I learned that womxn was also a term that makes some feel excluded, so we went back to women.

When I created my branding for The Pledgettes, I used the same colors as my coaching business, switching the primary and secondary colors. Dusty rose, anyone else? My pinky promise icon was an emerald green circle with dusty rose hands. We went with dusty rose hands and I received a few comments about it. “Is this just for white womxn?” No, The Pledgettes is for every womxn.  We have updated our pinky promise hands to represent multiple flesh tones.

I’ve said in the past that I’m first a champion for the individual womxn who wants to improve her relationship with money, increase her financial literacy, and achieve her wealth goals. Secondarily, I will advocate for change: listen to multiple perspectives, call out certain policies, share what I learn, and talk to my elected officials. In conversations and research over the past week, it’s clear that there is a difference between enacting a law and enforcing a law.  We must hold our officials accountable to both.

Finally, I’m here to be better. Since launching The Pledgettes it is this community that pushes me to be better. I appreciate everyone who is helping me do better. Want to talk more? Send me a message.

– Jenn Uhen, Founder of The Pledgettes

Why I’m remaining financially confident during a global pandemic

Experts say that about every 10 years, there is a disruptive market event (the World Trade Center bombing in 2001, the housing crash of 2008/2009, and the global pandemic we’re in now).  I remain financially confident because I’ve been through a couple of these…and other “financial fails” to know that I won’t be defeated by any market event.

In 2007, I thought I was ready to upgrade from my starter condo.  I wanted a cool loft, closer to my job.  I wanted a new neighborhood and a new scene.  I called my mortgage broker (he was definitely on my Financial A-Team in Chicago).  He said, “I don’t recommend you buy anything over $250k but the craziest thing is that I could get you qualified for a loan for $417k!” Yes, that was crazy and I didn’t take it.

A few months later, I quit my job.  It was my first job out of college and my dream job where I thought I would work forever.  I quit without having a new job.

I was unemployed for about three months (side note: nobody has ever asked me about the breaks in my career when interviewing for new jobs).  The first month I was antsy.  And I had quite a bit of free time to blame others for my unhappiness in my job.  The anger then turned to fear that I wasn’t going to be able to figure out what to do next, I wasn’t going to get a job with a good salary, I wasn’t going to be able to pay my mortgage.  It sucked, it was scary.

I did find a great next job that was so different from my first job but also allowed me to use my skills and experience.

I also sold my starter condo and bought another property in June 2008.  A brand new townhouse in a new subdivision in the burbs for $259k with 5% down.  It was an upgrade and I was living large.

In 2009, I went on a mission trip to Peru.  It was my second trip there.  I loved being there and the work they were doing.  While I was down there, they asked if I would move to Peru and work with them.  It was the chance of a lifetime and I wanted to make it work.  I had to sell my townhouse and the market was softening.  It took me two months, a $30k price drop, and I had to bring $5k to closing.  I was completely stressing out.  Real estate was supposed to be this solid investment (and I do believe that it is a solid long-term investment).  I was competing against a developer selling brand new townhouses, the auto industry was going through bankruptcy, and the housing market hadn’t recovered.  I took the hit and brought $5k to closing.  And left to go work at a non-profit in Peru for 7 months at the beginning of 2010.

I also remember seeing my 401(k) drop in half from $39k to $21k.

So…unemployment, a retirement account that was decimated, and a loss in real estate.  It was scary and stressful.  But looking back, I learned great lessons.  I was also appreciative to have that lesson in my 20s instead of in my 50s or 60s.  I knew I would have the time to rebound.  I would make money back in real estate (I definitely have), I would build back my retirement accounts (I have).  I would get more jobs with better pay and greater responsibilities (that happened too).  I felt confident I was smart enough and had enough time to still hit my retirement goals.

Now, in 2020, my retirement goals are bigger and sooner.  And, if you look at my memo from last month, you’ll see what hit me in the first week of shelter in place (from the immediate loss of income to a real estate transaction in limbo).  I’m confident I’m going to get through this.  We all are going to get through this.  I’ve been through a recession before.  I learned lessons and was better prepared for this one.  I am going to keep learning and be even more prepared for future market events and confidently go through them with my solid emergency fund, money mantras about being a long-term investor, and confidence that I can make the right money moves at the right time for me.

Do you remember the recession of 2008 and want to share your experience?  Drop a comment below.  Anytime you were out of work for a while and bounced back?  Any other scary financial challenges you have overcome?  Sharing our experiences is powerful.

My current financial journey & predictions

The Pledgettes community was built to share, learn, and grow.  With these uncertain times, I felt it would be appropriate to share my current financial situation. Sharing may help others not feel as alone.  Sharing may help you feel a weight lifted off your shoulders.  After I share my situation, I’m going to share a few predictions (nobody really knows) about some possibilities for the near future.

Life felt normal enough last Wednesday.  My partner and I were planning a 5-day trip to Chicago and we were in the camp of “don’t let fear-mongering change your life.”  Wednesday night, the news stories continued and we thought there was a 90% chance we were going to Chicago. Then Thursday morning a 50% chance.  We considered driving to Chicago. A few hours before our flight we canceled our trip.

CDC Recommendations for events went from 1000 attendees to 250 attendees to 50 attendees to 10 attendees over the weekend.  I knew I had to change The Pledgettes business model for the next few months and began working with speakers to move to webinars and start working on more webinar topics.

As most of you know, The Pledgettes is not my only project. Here’s where I’m at with the rest of my life.

REAL ESTATE: On 3/10, we accepted an offer on our townhouse that my partner and I are currently living in.  The close date is 4/17.  It’s a cash buyer and we are confident they are still moving forward.  So hopefully, as long as we are not in a shelter-in-place, that will move forward.

Our other two properties we are working through contingency choices if our tenants can’t pay rent.  What does that look like?  How long can we go?

FREELANCE WORK: I do work in the events industry and my partner does work in restaurant accounting and finance consulting.  Our projects ended or were put on indefinite hold until we get on the other side of this.  This was the majority of our income and it was gone overnight.

RESTAURANT: Yes, we own a restaurant.  We are grateful that we have incredible employees.  We shared the profits in the good times with them and hope they will stick it out in the rough times with us.  We hope we can hold on for a while and keep our employees.

RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS: I already had a pretty conservative risk tolerance so mine is not dropping as significantly as others.  A Pledgettes member shared her manta is “I am a long term investor.”  The recent gains we’ve had over the last couple of years were far above average.  And whether it was coronavirus, Saudi/Russia oil, or another factor, it wasn’t going to remain at that level.  It’s frustrating to see such a drastic drop.  While, nobody has a crystal ball, most historical data says to keep investing (but also don’t invest more than you are willing to lose) because the marketing should return.

EMERGENCY FUND: I’m grateful to have an emergency fund since our income is near $0 right now.  And if ever there was an emergency…this is it.  While it’s hard to take money from an emergency fund, this is what it’s for.  We’ll only take what we need and get to our “ramen budget.”  What’s the least we can live on right now?

SIDE HUSTLES: My partner and I started shopping/delivering for Instacart, doordash, Postmates, and Shipt.  At least we’ll have so money coming in.  I feel pretty safe and as soon as we come home, we shower, change our clothes, and start a load of laundry.

NOW….PREDICTIONS.

This is an unprecedented downturn.  In 2008, the recession impacted the stock market and the housing market.  Everyday life continued close to normal.  This is hitting everyone at the same time.  Everyday life is disrupted drastically.  There is talk of stimulus checks.  I do believe those are coming.  There are banks and creditors providing relief, I anticipate seeing more of that.  We’ll need to work together as a community, do our best to keep money flowing through the economy and helping each other out.  If you need help, ask.  If you need essentials like medicine or toilet paper, ask.  Someone has some to share.  If you need financial support, post a Member Question and we can all share resources we’ve heard about.

Information is being shared hourly.  There are always more updates.  Nobody knows how to navigate this perfectly or has a crystal ball to see the future.  Take care of yourself, your family, and your community.  Try to stress less and act more.  And please turn to this community for help or venting or support.  We will make it through this.

– Jenn