I decided to change my life again.

Once, back in 2005, I quit my job in order to freelance full-time. I learned a lot during the next seven years — including a lot about what not to do as a freelancer — and then in 2012 I decided that the security of a steady paycheck was worth giving up the feast-or-famine gamble of seeking out freelance work (and hunting down freelance paychecks).

For two and a half years, that was mostly true. But lately I’ve felt the opposite.

Granted, my day job wasn’t bad.

I learned a lot, I met some great people, and I contributed to the company’s success… but I also felt like the pace of a salaried office job may not be the best match for how I think and work.

So, on November 1st, I left the 9-to-5 scene to return to the world of freelance.

Why?

Mostly, it comes down to time, desire, and fulfillment.

On a professional level, I get motivated when I see that I’m having a visible impact for a client. And while I know I was having an impact at my day job, I also came to realize that a large company is naturally going to evolve more slowly than I’d become accustomed to as a freelancer. When the turnaround time from “we need this” to “this is complete; what’s next?” is weeks or months instead of years, that’s a pace I can embrace.

On a personal level, my motives are a little more complex.

As wonderful as a regular paycheck is, I feel more productive when my work fits my schedule, rather than trying to be productive on cue within the constraints of a 40-hour week. If trading in my job security gives me the freedom to work on what I’m interested in at the times when it suits me, that’s a trade I’m willing to make.

My desires have also changed over the past 2+ years. I’ve had a long love-hate relationship with social media, and with digital marketing in particular, throughout my whole career. Lately, I’ve felt like redirecting my efforts and pursuing a different kind of career. (As such, you may notice that all of my old blog posts have been hidden. Some of them may return, but my overall focus is starting to shift, so the purpose of my site may change as well.)

And perhaps the most arbitrary, indefensible, and selfish reason of all for me leaving my day job is this:

Since I started working 9-to-5 again, I haven’t created anything.

Yes, I was “creative” at work, within the constraints of a corporate marketing role. But I wasn’t personally creative at all in that time. No matter how inspired I would be to create something of my own after work, by the time I came home every day I was physically, mentally, and emotionally spent — even on the “easy” days, when I had no deadlines and no conflicts. So much of my time and energy was allocated to building something for others that I had no resources left for myself.

You might think a creative rut is a small price to pay for the safety of a salary and benefits. I thought that too, for the first year.

And maybe the second.

But by the third year, I was getting worried.

Would I ever create anything again?

Had I lost it?

Even worse: I was starting to be okay with the idea of not creating anything again.

“Maybe being creative was something I did when I was young,” I thought.

And the day I thought that, I realized I had to make a decision:

Safety, or singularity?

If I only get one life, is this how I want to spend it?

What would I regret more: never making anything again, or…

No, that’s the thing. That’s what I’d regret more than anything else I can think of.

I’d regret playing it safe.

As someone who considers himself more of a maker than a marketer, I made up my mind that the only way I was going to make the life I want for myself is to make bolder decisions.

So I jumped.

Now let’s see where it leads.

Categories: Social Media

14 Comments

Abedrossian · November 4, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Creativity needs you to have freedom to move. Find your room to move and make your stuff. Good luck.

matthewforr · November 4, 2014 at 2:16 pm

Awesome Justin! Let me know when you decide on what kind of consulting work you want to do–glad to send people your way.

    Justin Kownacki · November 4, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Thanks, Matt. I’ll definitely be in touch. Hope all is well in your world.

Amani Channel · November 3, 2014 at 7:57 pm

Congrats Justin. Glad to see that you’re following your heart and passion. All the best to you brotha!

Jessica Fenlon · November 3, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Hooray! Very happy for you.

Donald Giannatti · November 3, 2014 at 1:58 pm

As someone who finds that most groups move at half the speed I like to, and sharing that need for MY schedule to reign supreme I salute your decision. Great luck to you and I look forward to see what you make.

Julian Summerhayes · November 3, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Good luck Justin. I’ve been out of paycheque land for four years and whilst I’ve skirted with the certainty of the monthly pay cheque, I’m still hanging out there. I keep asking myself why. The best explanation I can come up – I prefer the coffee at home. Julian.

Chel Wolverton · November 3, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Love this. I missed creative Justin

Teresa Trich · November 3, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Bust of Luck! What a brave decision made for all the right reasons!

Matthew Ebel · November 3, 2014 at 10:20 am

Let me know if you want to collaborate on something. I don’t know WHAT… but something. :)

    Justin Kownacki · November 3, 2014 at 11:31 am

    I don’t know what either yet. I’m still sorting that part out too. I feel like I’ve been uncreative for so long, I need more practice before I do anything too public. Otherwise it’ll be like, “oh… THAT’S the best he could do?”

    Then again, I think every creative person expects that reaction throughout his or her whole career.

      Matthew Ebel · November 3, 2014 at 11:46 am

      Well there are a couple of options… you work as a side-man on a project that interests you (I played in cover bands for five years in Nashville), or you just crank up your output with no pretense of “polished work” until you find something that sticks- sort of an open laboratory approach.

C.C. Chapman · November 3, 2014 at 10:03 am

I wondered what was going on when I saw the LinkedIN update.

VERY happy to hear you are getting back to making! Good luck buddy.

    Justin Kownacki · November 3, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Thanks. It’s thrilling and terrifying at the same time — which seems to be the way I like it. Onward and upward.

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