Stuck at a Career Fork in the Road – Now What?

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Fork in the Road

The following is a contribution from my good blogging friend, Tonya, from Budget and the Beach.  If you’re interested in contributing to Frugal Rules please see our guidelines and contact us.

I have bi-polar disorder…career bi-polar disorder (CBPD).

I wake up in the morning and spring out of bed, excited to get over to my computer and start interacting with the PF and healthy lifestyle communities related to my blogs Budget and the Beach, and Healthy, Fit, and Frugal (respectively).

I start to get ideas of things I want to write about, and when I begin writing, the words just flow from my brain to the computer screen. I’m loving life, and then…

…I get an email from my producer who I work with on 99% of my current projects. He has changes that he needs me to do NOW, because our main client (a major medical/beauty corporation) has changes on a project that they should have signed off on weeks ago. Never mind the fact that I’m not officially booked for this time…they just basically assume I work for them full time even though I don’t. I sink into a depression, and I feel that angry fireball ignite in my stomach. The one that sends the message to my brain, “you really need to stop working for this producer and client.” The words I often use are “soul-sucking.”

I’ve been video editing for literally just over 25 years. I started when I was a senior in high school in 1988 when I took a television production class. Back then you had to use big, expensive machines that weren’t portable to do the kind of work anyone can pretty much do on a laptop nowadays. If I’d known that then, I would have chosen to make video-making a hobby, not a career.

It hasn’t always been that bad though. In fact, I really enjoyed my eight years as lead video editor at a video game company before I was laid off in 2008. But the perks outweighed the satisfaction I was actually getting from the projects I worked on, which were just kind of meh.

I had an amazing boss who is still my good friend and like a father figure to me, a great paycheck, a totally bitchin, huge office, and many other perks like the office being close to where I lived in Los Angeles. That last part is huge! I also had more knowledgeable people to help me fix technical problems when they arose, something I’ve always hated and have never been very good with.

To not make this a 3,000-word post, I’ll just get straight to the point, and share what I need help with.

While it’s true that the producer I work with and this particular client kind of make my life hell, it’s grossly exacerbated by the fact that I just don’t enjoy video editing as a living anymore. I just want THAT to be my side hobby where I can make silly little videos on my own time.

The problem is it’s my main source of income.

I never want to complain for the sake of complaining. I’ve always been a person to take action, and I took action a year ago when I started working on side hustle income, especially trying to “make it” as a blogger. While I’m so proud of how far I’ve come, earning 10k in side income last year (a lot also came from being a personal assistant and teaching beach volleyball), I simply can’t live on that kind of money, especially in Los Angeles.

And believe me, I spend as much time as humanly possible (without turning into Howard Hughes) working towards making a full time living from blogging/writing, but it still doesn’t feel like enough, and the video work is probably the biggest sore point in my life right now. I don’t even care that I’m not dating (and haven’t been for awhile). I’d much rather sort this job thing out first.

So I’m not exactly sure what to do?

Do I keep doing what I’m doing and hope that eventually the side hustle income will pick up to a point where I can live solely off that?

I would be open to looking for full-time or part-time jobs in something social media or writing-related, but do I have enough experience? What exactly do you look for in job searches? What am I really qualified to do?

I think one thing that makes these decisions even tougher is that I’m FINALLY on a decent path financially, meaning the freelance income overall I brought in last year was an OK amount to live on here in LA, and I was able to put money towards retirement. I’d like the same thing to happen this year, since I’m a little behind where I should be for my age. The reason I say this is because I have had some people in the past suggest I just quit the video part of my freelance work and work at Starbucks. That’s not going to happen.

I’m not above working at Starbucks, or waiting tables, or cleaning toilets if I HAD to, but to quit jobs making $65 and above per hour versus $12…kind of a no-brainer.

So I would really love your opinion on what to do about my fork in the road. OK, actually I’m a bit scared to get your opinion, but maybe I do need a reality check. I’m just trying to make my life the best it can be! 🙂


Editor’s note: I want to thank Tonya for sharing her thoughts and feelings with us, as well as for being transparent about what she’s going through. As I’ve shared in my Taking the Plunge series, I can certainly relate to a lot of what she shares and know the difficulty it can present. As I shared with her, my encouragement is to look for ways to use her skills to broaden the services she can offer to clients – especially those not related to video editing. In addition to that, I would also encourage Tonya to work to gain more video editing clients so she can begin to push back on this current client – though I know how that is truly easier said than done at times :-). Pushy clients are never fun, so it certainly makes life a little more palatable for those of us who are self-employed. 🙂

Photo courtesy of: I_Yudai

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I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. I'm also a freelance writer, and regularly contribute to GoBankingRates, Investopedia, Lending Tree and more.


  • I agree with John here, Tonya. Also, is there a way you can kick your e-fund up to a year’s worth of expenses to give you time to quit your job and start working on picking up more side hustle stuff or part-time video editing stuff? What about doing videos for weddings, or bday parties for some of the fancy pants people out there? You are SO gifted in so many areas, and have such a wide variety of interests and skills, I’m confident you can make it without your rotten client. 🙂 Also, having that client off your back will likely open up your creative thinking big time and allow you to create more ways to bring in income. Good luck with this, Tonya – I know you can do it!

    • I’ve been slowly building up my e-fund but it’s like getting out of debt. I have progress, but my income is not high enough that I can make huge strides, so it’s been slow and steady with the exception of december when it was super busy and I and socked aways a lot. Birthdays and weddings are the nightmare of most editors. It’s a TON of work and the pay is always low. It’s almost better I stick to my main client where I can make more, as much of a drag that is.

  • Catherine says:

    That’s tough. I agree that given thale variability of your income having I would say at least 6 months er fund on hand before deciding would be key. Good luck with your decision!

  • As John suggested, I would keep pursuing more video work so you have a bigger client base and can be picky with who you take on. Hmmm if you added to your freelance writing and increased your website income each month you could afford to be pickier, too! Unfortunately I’m already realizing after only being in my ‘career’ for 3 1/2 years that there is no easy decision when it comes to career choices.

    • I’ve been working my butt off to try and increase my writing gigs and making more on my blog, as well as other side hustles. I’m going to try and take on some more beach volleyball students to teach in the summer when I tend to be slower with video work. LIke a lot of other things, time is a huge factor in making it all work. There is only so much bandwidth in my day. As far as pursuing more video clients, again time is a factor, but I also really want to try and move away from video editing.

  • Kay says:

    It sounds like this one client is a problem. Are you able to get another video editing gig with smaller clients that would be more of a true part-time deal? That way you could have a good side income and then work on your blogs more which is what you really want to do. I’m sure I’m not bringing up something you haven’t thought of before. I wish I had better advice! I do know that you seem to be doing a great job as a blogger – I have to imagine you are on the right track with that.

    • Thanks Kay! Im not sure if I should be looking for video stuff part or full time or something else, like social media/writing if that’s what I want to move towards. But I’m not even sure how to create a resume around that. Or what I look for specifically. It’s hard because there are so many variables at play. I wish I more single-minded so I could focus on just one thing! ugh! lol!

  • How rapidly is your side hustle income growing? Could you stick it out with this video editing job long enough to build up a 6 month – 1 year emergency fund? As others have suggested, maybe that would give you some breathing room to pursue your other interests. Don’t doubt your skills and level of experience. You’ve accomplished a lot already!

    • Not fast enough! But I’m working my butt off to try and make things happen. I don’t think I’d ever quit doing this work unless I had another money source like a new job in place. Ive been building up my e-fund and have no debt, so I’m on my way to a nice cushion, but it would be a long time before I could ever save enough to walk away completely.

  • You said you really enjoyed your time as a video game editor. Are those doors completely closed? Sounds like the only issue there was that the projects were ho-hum. And you still have connections in the industry. You may not be able to find 100% satisfaction in that career but how many of us do? Maybe it’s an avenue to re-explore. And perhaps you could find life satisfaction in the other activities you’re involved with (i.e. blogging, working out, freelancing, etc.). Just some thoughts…

    • Thanks Brian! Up until last year I pursued this avenue quite aggressively with little success. What happened in my industry after the recession is they started looking for “kids” who knew a lot more programs than me and were willing to work for half the price I used to work for. I’ve become quite the dinosaur, and the only way to compete is to learn more programs and spend more money doing that. Because I have lost my interest in my field, it makes it tough to want to do that…and I accept responsibly for that. There are a couple possibilities that could come up, but I’m not holding my breath. For instance my old boss MIGHT have something, but i’ve heard that promise before. But I’d work for him in a heartbeat…at least until I built up my skills in other areas that interests me more.

  • I feel your pain. I am torn in a similar way. I just started to blog full time and while I love it, part of me thinks I should find another full time job that pays better. I say this because my wife and I want to start a family soon and I see the benefit of earning a decent amount of money for at least a year until we decide who stays home with the kid. Everyday I have a different reason for wanting to or not wanting to go back to full time employment.

    • Yeah, I think you can totally relate to the dilemma. There are so many factors at play when it comes to decisions like this. I wish life was like the movies like Eat, Pray, Love and I could just up and quit and travel and everything is rosy, but of course it’s not the movies. 🙂 Good luck with your decision!

  • E.M. says:

    Pushy bosses and clients are not fun. I second trying to build up your emergency fund so that you can slowly decrease your video editing work and increase blogging efforts. If you’re not happy with how things are it will be worth it to be able to wake up and keep the happy energy flowing!

  • Well, it sounds like you have your decision. Life is too short to do something you hate, but you can’t walk away until you find an alternative. My original plan to was to leave private practice and go to work full time for the public health service, and I spent about 6 months making that happen until I realized it wasn’t the job per se, but the amount of time at the job I had to spend and all the outside things that I had to deal with besides just doing my job. When I figured that out, I found a way to make it work. Would you continue with editing if you could work for someone else or is editing something you want to give up? It’s much easier to continue to do what you know and what you’re good at, but maybe find a way to do it differently instead of how you do it now. Pretty vague, but answer the main question of whether you want to continue in this career and the rest can then fall into place.

  • “but you can’t walk away until you find an alternative” Exactly. I’m not longer a 23-year-old who can just “explore” and live with 10 roommates while I decide what to do. I would like to move away from video completely, but if something great came up and I enjoyed it, it could be a game changed. What I failed to admit in the post was that I actually have worked for several different clients over my freelancer time, and most I haven’t enjoyed, which makes me believe the common denominator here is me, not them. The exception would be jobs I’ve done for my old boss, who just makes everything enjoyable, so I hope that there might be something with him in the future if I HAD to stick with video editing.

  • Could you scale back your video editing work? Maybe take on gigs that don’t require so much of your time, so you can still bring some money in that way to supplement your freelance work?

  • It’s hard when your one main client is a bit of pain and kind of takes advantage of you. I can see how that would be soul-sucking. Right now you’re obviously not in a position to “fire” the client so I guess it comes down to which would make you happier – growing your blogs/social media/freelance writing or adding more video client so you weren’t reliant on that one client? I know you can’t just snap your fingers and new clients in either area but it at least will point you in the direction you should invest your time and energy. I also think if there are small business owners that you know – not necessarily finance related – you could approach them about helping with their social media. Most small business owners don’t have the time or knowledge to do it and it’s probably hurting them. Stay strong, my friend. The pieces will fall together!

  • Soul-sucking is the same term I use for my job. It’s almost as if my boss finds reasons NOT to promote me and I can’t understand why. I keep rising to the challenge but she’ll find the tiniest of errors (few and far between) as reasons to hold me back. When my superior co-workers make the same or worse errors she just shrugs it off. Anyway — back to your question. I’d say do as much as you can to expand the freelance services and push back on the rude client before taking the big leap. Then you’ve got some steady income for a bit longer before making the move. It sounds like all you need is that one break that I’m sure is on its way!

  • I am at a similar crossroads, so I can’t really offer any advice. I can, however, relate! My current job has great benefits, an amazing pension, 5+ weeks of vacation each year, good pay.. but I wanted more for myself and my career. It’s a hard decision!

  • Hi there, Tonya. I’m late with a response as I just got back into town. I can only offer what I did when my last job was causing me crazy, wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-dry-heaving stress. I went to a counselor and, right in the first meeting, he told me I needed to quit my job, and right quick. Stress is a killer, he said. They’re not paying you enough for this shit, he told me. Which was funny, since they were paying for that counseling session as an HR benefit.

    Anyway, that was the push I needed to start really searching for another job. I’d recommend the same thing if your work is your main source of stress. I like a change of scenery every now and again and find that a fresh start provides its own stress relief.

    At least until your side hustles grow to the point of covering your expenses & savings goals, maybe a new ‘formal’ gig is a good bridge to that future.

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