Where did August go? This is a question I ask EVERY August, but this August the disappearance of the month had more significance than the typical summer conclusion. As you know if you’re a returning reader, I lost my job the first week of August this year. I showed up at work one day and was told it just isn’t working out, was given a month’s severance, an amicable parting, and I was one of the 6.2% of Americans out of a job. Going through the five phases of unemployment has been challenging for me as I sit and apply to job after job with nothing panning out yet.
I’m still keeping my chin up… after all, it has only been a month… but looking at my bills piling up and my measly unemployment check I know I have to find work stat. The way unemployment works where it penalizes you if you get a temp job that pays less than your previous job is really unfortunate. In fact, instead of encouraging unemployed individuals to work part time while seeking full time work, it effectively says that you will lose your benefits if you take on any work that isn’t equal to what you were doing before, at least in terms of pay.
That said, $1800 a month, pre-tax, is not going to cover my fancy lifestyle… you know, the one where I pay 1/2 of a $2350 one bedroom, 850 square foot apartment in the Silicon Valley suburbs… and $400 for COBRA… and $100 for car insurance… well, there goes all of the unemployment money and then some. In many regions unemployment income at least covers all the basics, but here it barely covers my rent. I really need work, stat.
Unlike last time I was unemployed many years ago, just a few years out of college, this time around at least I’m landing interviews. But they aren’t going anywhere. I am struggling to get past that interview stage, mostly because my experience isn’t focused enough. I’m really not sure what to do – other than keep applying. I’d like to freelance and build a consulting career – but to do this I will basically have to give up my unemployment income and likely earn less w/ self-employment tax and such on a few small gigs until I can get enough work to support myself.
In order to freelance successfully I’d need to bill $150 per hour and work 40 hours per week, with a little wiggle room for weeks without 40 hours of work. That actually is somewhat doable – I can bill $100 per hour to start and raise it as I build my portfolio of happy clients. I’m currently designing two friend’s small business websites (for free) to get some samples for a portfolio to show both my copywriting and design chops. But basically I’d want to get to the point where I was making $100 – $150/hr and working 40+ hours per week. If I could do that life would be perfect.
However, right now I’m focused on applying to FT jobs and seeing if I can land any that I’d want to do… all while building up a portfolio of design and copy work so perhaps I can get some actual paid clients when my unemployment runs out, if I don’t have a real office job by then.