Freelance

This is My Story

May 3, 2017
my story | biography | aleia walker | aleia walker biography | freelance story | career changer

I’ve told bits and pieces of my story the past year or so but never from start to finish in one place. So today, I’ll do that. Warning, this is long. Very long. Stick with me.

I graduated college in 2011. The market was really strapped – there were no career jobs for new grads. My options seemed to be working at Lush in Dadeland Mall Macy’s (I knew a 2009 grad from my school who worked there because of the depressed economy) or going back to school. I choose getting my master’s in International Studies – a subject I love! But then I moved to a super not international city. And I didn’t want a county job with a glass ceiling. So I flailed around until my parents told me that I had to get a real job. Enter the biggest time suck of my life. In October 2014 I took a job at a call center working in insurance claims.

OMG. OMG. OMG. I hated it.

I know there are tons of people who are in the situation I was in. Working at call centers. Admins at corporate businesses, paralegals, receptionists at doctor’s offices. From Day 1 of the 60-90 minute commute (#AtlantaTraffic) I realized it wasn’t going to work for me for very long. And I desperately needed to find something, anything that would make this job I hated go away. I realized I needed a career that I controlled, and not just wait for the right opportunity to be handed to me. I could not go back to school…I had just finished 6 years worth of university.

I didn’t have the time, energy, or money to start over by traditional means. So I went hunting for something that could turn into a new career and I ended up in the funniest place. A place I know I should have started in. A place that was creative. Web design and development. When I was in school, I played with being an art major but was told I could never make a career out of art.

But “creative” was not a job description to my family.

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I had already dashed away my family’s dreams of being the first doctor in the family by dropping pre-med so I pushed my art dreams to the side. I ended up with a really healthy art minor and stacked every computer based graphic design course into that minor.

So, back to graduation. And the master’s degree. Fast forward through my flailing time and time I was forced to labor in insurance claims. I started looking for that new career and fell in love with web design and development.

The important thing to note is I didn’t fall in love with building sand castles or pantomiming on the boardwalk. I fell in love with a profitable potential career opportunities. Careers that I could find my way to without a brand new four-year degree.

They required a lot of work and a lot of effort and I found a ton of blueprints to get me from call center employee to full-time freelancer. But kind of like a choose your own adventure, I set out to make my own plan. I took courses online and in-person. I figured out my adult learning style, built a tribe, increased my visibility, and started hacking away at my checklist until my new career was within my fingertips. When I met people, I was no longer in insurance claims…I was a web developer. I had learned enough to be dangerous and I was ready to do so.

So I switched gears. Learning was no longer my main goal – getting paid was. I was all about getting in front of the right people I networked with instructors from previous courses, hung out on Twitter with other creatives and females who wanted to be in charge of their financial freedom. I shared resources – sooo many resources (I’m still the go to freelance resource expert among friends and colleagues). I just made it known “Hey! I’m here, I’m new to this space and I can get things done.” Hire me.

It was not an overnight process. The entire process from “I hate this new job I was forced to take” to quitting day was 18 months.

But of course the hard part wasn’t over.

I still had to tell my overbearing, super protective family that I was quitting my “stable” 9 to 5 job.

Cue all the damn fireworks.

There was an actual hour-long, screaming match where they told me how appalled they were that I was leaving my 9 to 5 with health benefits to take a part-time hourly job at a four-year old startup. 

This was them:

  • “Why couldn’t I do both?”
  • “Why was I making a lateral move?”
  • “Why was I going to a job where I was not using my degrees?”

This was me:

  • “I’ve been miserable at that job since Day 1.”
  • “I had spent months working at a new career and could finally see it.”
  • “I didn’t want another full-time job as a drone.”

I “lived in their house” so they thought they still had a right to an opinion on my life. But the job they pushed me into didn’t allow me to ever use my degree (I tried but bureaucracy stopped that) and I couldn’t afford to live elsewhere on peanuts. But I still left.

BTW, this part of my story is the hardest to share because it misrepresents my family.  I love them and they really love me.

And I found out that corporate job wasn’t as stable as everyone thought it was.

  • Within 3 months of leaving, I doubled my take home pay.
  • Within four months, I moved into my own place.
  • And I’ve taken 5 workcations in the year since I left my day job while others I know are begging for time off their jobs, or sitting at their cubicles.

Don't Work Alone, Find your Tribe

You're new to the freelancing game and struggling with working alone in a bubble. But you don't have to, you just have to know where to look for others like you.

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I was now in a position where my effort determined my financial worth. I asked for what I wanted and didn’t just bide my time waiting on the corporate system to hand it to me. I’m on track to triple my income within a year after leaving my 9 to 5. And I’m not a unicorn or a fairy or some other mythical creature who is the only one who ever experiences these things. I have an alternative story but that does not mean that it cannot be someone else’s story. And I can show you the path to go from admin to work from home virtual assistant. Or from receptionist at a doctor’s office to freelance writer. Or call center employee to developer.

So I have two opportunities for you:

  1. Subscribe to the Freelance Library, a subscription library of resource guides for freelancers covering everything from DIYing your branding to managing clients. The library is going to go live June 3rd but by subscribing now you’ll lock in early-bird pricing.
  2. If you’re really ready to skip steps and make the plan to quit your day job, make your Freelance Plan and join my mentoring program.

And you can start writing another chapter in your story.

Don't Work Alone, Find your Tribe

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You're new to the freelancing game and struggling with working alone in a bubble. But you don't have to, you just have to know where to look for others like you.

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