How I Make a Living Without A Real Job (Legally!)

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Repeat after me: It’s up to me to live the life I’ve imagined.



Believe it or not, I’ve never had a real job aka traditional 9-5. And it’s not because I can’t find one. I don’t want to work a typical day job and I don’t think I ever will. Yet, I’m still able to make a living. Here’s how I do it.


I’ve never had a “real” job. I know that sounds crazy since I’m trying to do everything I can to pay off my student debt asap, but it’s true.

Actually I’ve never had a permanent 9-5 job. And honestly, I don’t want one. That means I don’t get paid vacation time, benefits from an employer or even a 401k or even maternity leave. And I’ve never had that stuff provided to me. And I’m ok with that.

But it does mean that I have the ability to take vacations as I see fit without fighting coworkers to get days off  first. It means that I can take a nap in the middle of the day. And I never have to take on work I don’t want to do. Though it’s got it’s own challenges, I’m fortunate enough to earn an income at home with my toddler by my side.

On the flip side, it means sometimes chasing paychecks, never knowing when the next gig will come by and having to constantly promote myself. But still I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve worked a temporary position as a a ghostwriter for a few months that was the typical 9-5 schedule and it only confirmed what I already knew.  That I want no part of that life. Of course, I’m not knocking those who enjoy the traditional desk job, but it’s just not for me. I love having a diversified resume resulting in diversified income.

So what do I do exactly? I’m freelance writer/journalist and fitness instructor. That is my career. Additionally, I work sporadically at the front desk of a gym and work as a brand ambassador to help pay off my student loan debt. And can you believe my husband doesn’t have a “real job” either? He’s a pro cameraman, editor and producer specializing in events and live action. Other than we he edits footage, he’s rarely behind a desk and picks up gigs as they appear.

Despite neither of us having full-time jobs, and steady paychecks that are a consistent amount we manage to live and provide a happy home for ourselves and Little Prince. Here’s what we do to make it work:

  1. Look like you have a real job.

So I know you may not have a real job, but that doesn’t mean you should act like you don’t have one. Not taking your gigs, side hustles or whatever you want to call it, seriously, is a surefire way to be unsuccessful. So instead, do what you can to act and look the part. That means drafting business plans, building a website or create marketing materials like business cards.  I was able to score unique business cards from Zazzle at a great price. Zazzle makes it super easy to create and personalize different marketing paraphernalia. Everything you would have if you worked at a real 9-5 job are the same things you should have with your “not a real job”

2. Determine how much you need to make and want to make

The good thing about not having a real job is that you get to decide when and how you work. However, that just makes it all too easy to not work just because you’re in a mood. Take advantage of that luxury too much and you’re sure to end up in the poor house.

I’m not gonna lie. It’s not always easy covering expenses when our paychecks are somewhat unpredictable. However, we make it work by adding up all our bills and expenses to see how much we need to make that month to get by and divide that weekly. Then we calculate how many days we need to work in order to make that amount. For example, my husband who films events and edits athletic highlights may know that he will be working 4 days a week making $500 per day. So if his is goal is to make $2,500 per week he can do what he can to secure additional work for that week by marketing and networking. Or he can also just take those days off and vow to make up the difference in the following weeks. We can also collaborate and see if there’s anyway I can pick up extra writing opportunities that week to make up the difference.

It helps to have predetermined days where you know you won’t work aka choose holiday and vacation time in advance. And of course setting work hours can help to. Since I’ve got little prince home with me, I stick to a work schedule of about 5 am to 8 am when he wakes up and then go back to work around 2-5 when he takes a nap. Of course, it doesn’t always work out this way. And I still have to throw in the 3 fitness classes I teach week. Regardless, I always do what I can to reach our weekly or monthly income requirements.

3. Get organized

Being organized isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do when you work such sporadic hours and can be different places on a daily basis. It’s definitely not like having a typical 9-5 schedule where your boss tells you exactly what needs to get done and your checks come in at the same time like clockwork. Making a living without a real job is impossible if you don’t have a system in place. My husband and I keep track of invoices, schedules and income all in excel. However, you can also use apps. (We’re actually looking for a good app to track business expenses. Let me know if you have any suggestions.) Having carefully detailed spreadsheets, helps us know who has paid us and who hasn’t so we can pay bills on time. It also helps you know who to hunt down if a payment is overdue. Further more, it allows us to see what months were more profitable than others and track trends.

3. Know where to Find Work

This one is a biggie. When you try to make a living without a real job, that means recognizing there is no guarantee for work. (There’s no guarantee of work with a real job either but that’s a whole different story) You can’t wake up 5 days a week and know there’s work to get done that you’ll get paid for. That luxury is non-existent if you live without a real job. Remember, before when I mentioned my husband I know how much we need to make each month and work accordingly? Well on those weeks you feel like you’ll come up short, you need to know ahead of time where to get the money. For example, there are several Facebook groups I’m apart of that list last minute opportunities for Zumba instructors. I also have several contacts at businesses I frequently write content to reach out for projects and my husband has the same for video content. If I’m really really desperate (which rarely happens if ever) I turn to cashing out my earned money from Ibotta, Mypoints, and Swagbucks. Because I’m so consistent with with using these cash back apps, I usually have a decent amount in there saved up.

Have you ever thought about ditching your real job and making a living without one?

TERRIfic Quip: Don’t choose a job based on vacation time. Choose a job you won’t need vacation from.

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  1. I think another important point is to set boundaries with friends and family. Often times when they don’t view our unconventional work as real work they over step boundaries and think you should be available for their phone calls, drop ins, and ever other request.

    1. So so true! Thats a good point. Though my family supported me, I think it took them a while to respect what I do and understand my lack of a conventional didn’t mean I was available to them at all times.

  2. I was diagnosed with epilepsy my senior year of high school, so for years working a 9 – 5 wasn’t even an option. Like you, I worked from home – and I appreciated the ability to work when I please and from my house. But now that my condition has gotten better, I’ve decided to work a 9-5 to see if it’s the type of career I want. I must admit, I enjoy going to work and socializing; but when I do have kids I may appreciate the ability to work from home

  3. I’ve done a lot of freelancing in my day and I think you were on point when you said to be organized. That makes a huge difference.

  4. I am so not a 9 to 5 person. I haven’t had a “real job” for years but I definitely did pay my dues years ago. And yes, I know all about saving those MyPoints. 😉

  5. First off, kudos to both you and your husband for having the courage to go out and forge your own work path. I have played with the idea and perhaps this year will be the year I finally have the courage to take that leap into the unknown.

  6. Man I’ve always wanted to start a business, I’ve had plenty of super small ones growing up but now that I’m a mother I desire it even more so that I can be able to be around in my Childrens lives as much as possible!

  7. I’m not going to lie to you, I miss the consistency of my “real job.” Out here hustle for freelance work is the equivalent, in my world, to starving artists. I’m happy and grateful to hear that its working out well for you though.

  8. You guys sound like you have a great system in place. I think that is the most important part of it. I’m not disciplined in that area, so I need work on that if I want to work for myself full time.

    For now, I’m thankful to have a very flexible 9 to 5 that affords me the best of both worlds for now. You gave great insight on how I need to tighten up if I want to make a change.

  9. This is a great post. Your perspective is spot-on. I am currently not working a 9-to-5 job and appreciate the breakdown you presented. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  10. I feel like not having a “real job” is the NEW JOB! Those days of aspiring to have a 9-to-5 are almost the wonderyears and dated. Being an entrepreneur and not having to fight for time off or a freaking nap is the best lifestyle!

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