When it comes to work, I’m not lazy. I should clarify that by saying that when it comes to working as a writer or editor, I don’t consider myself lazy. I’m happy working 40 hours a week when I’m doing work I enjoy.
But being laid off in August 2008 as an assistant metro editor at a newspaper in the Bay Area during another round of layoffs changed my outlook on working.
At first I was panicked, as anyone might be, after having steady employment my entire adult life and all of a sudden not having a job at all. I collected unemployment insurance, looked for full-time jobs for months, and took on some freelance work while telling myself that eventually I’d find a full-time job that I loved again. Being laid off wasn’t so bad.
New definition of being laid off
But I didn’t. I became part of a new term called “underemployed.” It’s a term that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finds difficult to count, and basically includes people who are looking for full-time work but can only find part-time employment. If you’ve given up on searching for a job, as I have for the most part, then you’re no longer considered part of the federal unemployment figures that get so much traction every time they come out.
Not having a job, I quickly learned, gives you a lot of time to think about how you spend your day, and how much of your day is spent at work. I’ve never been a commuter, thankfully, so I didn’t have a much shorter drive to enjoy when I was laid off. Going to my home office was much shorter than driving a few miles to work, but it didn’t add up to much extra time.
After getting some steady writing gigs and cutting our family spending so that the money I was bringing in would help meet our monthly bills, I found that I was making almost as much money by working 20 hours a week as I was at 40 hours a week at the newspaper before I was laid off. I got a lot more work done at home than I ever did in an office.
Extra time on my hands
I also discovered that having 20 extra hours in a week gave me time to do things that I either didn’t have the time to do before I was laid off, or did them in the rush because I had to be at work. I could now pick my daughter up after school, help her with her homework and cook dinner, among other chores, on my own schedule.
As any freelancer knows, an unscheduled day is yours for the taking, and taking a week or two off, or just a weekday off, is possible if you can work ahead of time and deliver your product early to clients.
I don’t want to go into all of the benefits and drawbacks of being a freelancer — at least not for now — but the main one for me was a look at how working 40 hours or more per week is something I don’t think I’ll ever want to do again. I don’t want to close the door on working full-time again. I may find a dream job where I’d love to work that many hours again.
But until then, as long as I can pay the bills, save for retirement and other things with the money I’m making as a freelancer, I don’t see why I’d go back. There are many more things to do in life, no matter how much you enjoy your job. Being laid off might have been one of the best things to ever happen to me.