Laurie Lewis ran Patagonia’s SoHo shop, the brand’s highest grossing store, for six years. She then built the retail operations for Organic Avenue, described as “the only organic plant-based grab-and-go brand in the U.S,” to 12 retail stores. But then the capital structure of the company changed, they restructured and she was jobless. Fretting over her sudden unemployment, she gratefully signed onto her first freelancing job, which soon led to multiple jobs. It’s been an exciting and also nerve-racking transition for her.
I hear desire in so many friends’ voices who want to learn how to freelance, and my heart burns for them. Money is freedom, and not feeling in control of how much money we can make on our own, no matter what changes in our lives, keeps us in situations that don’t allow us to design the lives we want to live.
“I’m a consultant now, and the freedom that it gives me is priceless,” Lewis told me recently. “I don’t have to settle. I am not in pursuit of just any job. I [know] what my value is as a retail executive specializing in building happy and profitable employee and customer experiences.”
I started freelancing in 2002 as a Web developer, and it was both easy and hard at the same time. It was easy in that there was always more work than I could handle. It was hard in that I had to deal with the pay cycles of my clients — do the work in June, for example, but not get paid until September. Cash flow was forever my enemy, followed close behind by the enormous tax bills resulting from how little I knew about self-employed quarterly tax payments.
But over the years I learned how to manage the work and build support teams. I could work when I wanted from wherever I wanted as long as my clients felt cared for. Mostly it gave me the peace of mind to know that I wouldn’t ever worry about getting a job or losing a job because I could always generate projects and make money when I needed to. Shouldn’t every woman be able to have that kind of security?