For many full-time employees, millennials in particular, joining the gig economy is an alluring prospect. Understandably so.
Being a member of the gig economy, while potentially risky, affords many of us the opportunity to quit our “real” jobs and travel the world while earning a living with unparalleled flexibility. Or, it can create a more appealing work-life balance of collaborating only with the clients we choose.
To shed more light on why so many of us are making this shift, I recently reached out to ten millennials who left their jobs to join the gig economy and asked them to share exactly how (and why) they made the leap. Here’s what six of them had to say.
1 & 2. Selena Slavenburg & Jacob Taylor
In 2016, Selena Slavenburg and Jacob Taylor left their jobs in Los Angeles and set out to travel Europe for what they thought would be a few months. They used their writing and photography skills to document their adventures on Instagram. Fast forward nearly a year later, the couple now live in Amsterdam where Slavenburg is a part-time marketing consultant and Taylor freelances remotely as a videographer and photographer.
With more than 36,000 Instagram followers, they’re now confident in their decision to leave Los Angeles, but it wasn’t that easy at first. Slavenburg shares, “We love traveling and knew if we had the opportunity to move abroad or travel and be financially secure, we’d take it. I was working full-time out of an office in Los Angeles, so it was a scary thought for me to just up and leave. Finally, we both reached a point where we said, ‘Let’s go for it.’ My biggest fear was putting ourselves in a situation where we’d be desperate for work, but that never happened. I truly believe if you’re passionate about a lifestyle change, you can make anything work.”
The need for new skills has been their biggest hurdle, shares Taylor. “Growing our blog, Instagram brand and freelance work has required learning new skills that were at one point completely foreign to us. Things constantly change and develop, so we’ve had to redo a lot of the original work that we spent long hours on. We’ve had to find a balance between wanting things to be perfect and being pragmatic — it’s a lesson we’ll carry as we continue to grow our business.”
3. Talia Koren
This influencer marketing consultant, freelance writer, and former Elite Daily staff writer is based in New York — not a cheap city to live and work in. She writes about personal finance, healthy habits and content trends.
Unlike many other freelancers, Koren didn’t land herself in the gig economy completely by choice. “I started freelancing after my whole team was cut from a large online publication last year. I plan on freelancing for as long as possible because I now have the freedom to choose my clients, the work I do, and set my own pace. Freelancing also allows me to help my clients in the best ways I can, without the restriction of a job title or department.”
As Koren puts it, her biggest struggle since making the shift to the gig economy last year has been, “Learning how to manage my time! I have no problem sitting down, focusing, and getting to work. The problem is knowing when to take a break. I have to force myself to get out of WeWork or my home office (my bed) or else I’d just never stop working to go above and beyond for my clients.”
4. Brittany Ann Cool
By creating highly shareable short films, gifs, and visual content for global brands like Alaska Airlines, Lord & Taylor and Subaru, Brittany Ann Cool has built an impressive list of clients since starting her journey in the gig economy at the age of 21.
Choosing to go freelance wasn’t just about the lifestyle flexibility for Cool. When she was 21, she made the conscious decision to take photography seriously. “At the time, it was also an act of rebellion — mostly against the steady, secure, pigeonholing career track my parents insisted I go on. I was determined to make a living solely on individual creative endeavors. Photography is also a very physical job at times, and being at a desk all day did not interest me. After all, growing up I was the kid that couldn’t sit still for very long.”
There’s been a lot of hard work, adaptation and learning along her path to building her brand as a photographer over the years. Cool explains, “I’m proud to say my clients have come to me specifically for my artistic direction, not because they need any run-of-the-mill photographer. I’m continuously staying up on trends and new software, and this has allowed me to expand the services I offer. I’ll admit, I still struggle with networking. My advice for freelancers is to get out there and meet people. It’s important to not only meet with potential clients, but to meet other people within your industry and share information face-to-face. Working for yourself is often very isolating. The benefit of learning a new skill from co-workers does not always exist in the day-to-day life of a freelancer — go out and make valuable connections!”
5. Zina Kumok
After graduating college with around $28,000 in student loan debt, Zina Kumok paid it all off in three years—on an annual salary of just over $30,000. She’s been featured in Time, USA Today, and LifeHacker and now writes and speaks about personal finance.
Kumok started freelancing on the side of her day job and didn’t join the gig economy because she wanted to travel the world as a digital nomad. She explains, “Once I started making as much freelancing as I did in my full-time job, it made more sense to quit and see what I could do with a full 40-hours a week. I typically have between a dozen and 20 writing and content marketing clients in the financial space. Each month is different, so the hardest thing has been predicting where my business is going. I’d recommend that anyone interested in freelancing create an emergency fund so they don’t go scavenging at the bottom when times are tough.”
Related: 11 Habits of Truly Happy People
6. Justas Markus
For half of the day, Justas Markus is the CEO at Just&Tom, a content marketing and branding consultancy. The other half of the day, he’s a blogger for publications like Entrepreneur.
Markus can’t imagine working for someone else ever again. “I was working for a bank, and I didn’t like it. So, I decided to start working online. I prefer to plan everything by myself. I can choose my own clients and it allows me to travel a lot. I’ve been to more than 40 countries, and now I’m skipping winter in Lithuania by living in Bali.”
Business wasn’t great in the beginning, though — Markus had a bumpy road to where he is now, collaborating with companies like GoDaddy and Smashing Magazine. “The first year of freelancing was kind of hard because income was unstable. But after pushing through that difficult time, it was much easier. The more you write, the more people see you, and it’s easier to get a job after putting in enough hours.”