A 34-year-old freelancer who quit the job she hated and now makes $200,000 a year debunks 5 of the biggest myths she’s encountered about becoming your own boss
- At 31, Morgan Overholt found herself stuck in a job she hated, feeling underpaid, overworked, mistreated, and creatively stifled.
- Today, she's a full-time freelance graphic designer earning $200,000 a year, working out of a corner office in downtown Miami.
- She describes her journey to career satisfaction, as well as the five big myths she encountered along the way.
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I've always dreamed of having a high-profile corporate career. I knew that if I just worked hard enough, one day I'd have my name on the door of my very own corner office in some beautiful, big-city high rise.
However, at just 31 years old, I found myself stuck in a job that I had grown to hate. I felt underpaid, overworked, mistreated, disrespected, and creatively stifled.
And so, one rainy April morning, I walked into my boss's office, told her I was done, and sought out to achieve the success I so desired — on my own terms.
Today, I'm a full-time freelance graphic designer earning $200,000 a year, working out of my own corner office in downtown Miami.
Although perceptions of freelancing are becoming increasingly positive as more professionals adopt this lifestyle, I find that there are still a host of misconceptions about this career path.
Here are a few of what I have found to be some of the most popular myths, debunked, and how freelance has helped me create the kind of career that I never would have been able to achieve with a traditional employer.
Myth #1: "Freelancing is unstable, and there's a lot of uncertainty"
My income is much more stable than that of a traditional "9-to-5" worker.
People lose their jobs every day due to circumstances beyond their control — recessions, layoffs, or simply being on the wrong end of bad office politics. If you haven't been through it personally, I am sure you know someone who has, and it's heartbreaking.
When you work a "regular" job, your employer holds your fate in their hands. It's like having all of your eggs in one basket. I, on the other hand, have multiple sources of income, and no one is in charge of my fate except me. I've procured several large contracts and I know what to expect each month.
Worst case scenario, if I lose a contract, I simply replace it with another. Who knows, my next contract might have a bigger budget with even more hours. Career opportunities for freelancers are seemingly endless.
Myth #2: "You can't earn enough money to make a living"
As a salaried employee, I was making $75,000 a year and regularly being denied raises. In my last job, I was told I would have to wait years before being considered for a pay increase.
Today, I average $200,000 a year and am seeing constant, steady growth.
And I'm not the only one — according to new data from Upwork and Freelancers Union, 82% of freelancers say they earn more than their peers with the same or similar experience level in the same line of work.
Clients want quality and are willing to pay for it; a professional freelance graphic designer can command rates as high as $200 an hour (or more!).
Myth #3: "Freelancing is a fad"
Freelancing is not a fad. As a freelancer, you're running your own small business, and I have no plans of ever returning to a "regular job."
Like many other freelancers and small business owners, I am proud of the career that I've built — and trust me, once you get a taste for that freedom, there's no going back.
According to the same Upwork and Freelancers Union study, 76% of freelancers say they feel happier now than they did in a traditional job. Even more telling, 54% say there is no amount of money where they would return to a traditional job.
After all, who wouldn't prefer setting their own hours, setting their own pay, and being their own boss?
The number of full-time freelancers has grown by 11% in the last five years, with over 3.7 million US workers opting for this nontraditional career path.
Today, I work with nationally recognized clientele on a regular basis, like the CDC Foundation (CDCF), Kimberly-Clark, and the National Library of Medicine (NLM). I truly believe these kinds of opportunities would have never come my way had I remained a salaried employee.
And the fact that more and more well-known companies and organizations are looking to expand their workforce with freelancers suggests that freelancing is more than a fad and instead here to stay.
Myth #4: "Freelance is too competitive, I won't win enough work"
I stay so busy that I turn down job offers nearly every day — and I'm not alone. According to the same study I referenced earlier, 72% of freelancers claim that they currently have "the amount (or more) of work that they want."
In fact, I would argue traditional jobs are much more difficult to secure than freelance gigs.
Traditional job seekers are often limited by location and the opportunities their area market has to offer. Freelancing gives you access to a global marketplace with millions of possibilities, spanning hundreds of industries.
Additionally, winning over a potential client isn't like playing the lottery. Your odds of winning isn't a simple "luck-of-the-draw"-type scenario. You have control over your own outcome.
In my experience, many freelancers are simply not qualified for the job at hand or lack the ability to sell themselves and their services — which is why I am able to consistently stand out in the crowd and win quality gigs.
Spend less time worrying about the competition and more time thinking about what you can do to be a rockstar in your field and write proposals that potential clients won't be able to resist.
Myth #5: "Online freelance marketplaces don't work"
This myth seems to be perpetuated by droves of scary internet articles that are happy to tell you all the reasons why you should give up before you even try freelance sites like Upwork, Freelancer.com, and Fiverr.
But I am living proof that the haters are dead wrong.
I credit a large part of my success as a freelancer to online marketplaces — and they still comprise about half of my total revenue stream to this day. I've made over $200,000 on Upwork alone in just two years on the platform.
It's like fishing in a pond where you know the fish are biting. I cringe to think about the income that I would have given up had I listened to those dissenting voices that told me it "wasn't possible."
And yes, some of these sites charge "fees" to use their service or take a percentage of your earnings as commission. But even a 20% commission means a 80% profit margin for the freelancer. Most retailers would kill for those kinds of numbers.
Treat your freelance career like it's a small business, get your head in the game, and use every available tool in your arsenal to get out there and start earning.
If you are feeling stuck in your current situation and considering making the leap to the freelance lifestyle, don't wait like I did. Do your research, hone your skill set, and utilize every tool in your arsenal. Put yourself out there and see what happens.
Remember, nothing worth having comes easy — but with the right amount of hard work and dedication, success is absolutely possible. Freedom awaits.
This article has been revised since it was originally published on Business Insider July 16, 2019.