For the past 15 months, I’ve been sharing my personal stories and advice on everything from saving for retirement to avoid dumb investment mistakes. One of my favorite posts during that time dealt with how to get a raise without asking for more money; but even though I was doling out the advice, I wasn’t able to take advantage of it. Why? Because as a freelance worker who received a 1099 from my contractors – and no benefits – I had scant little to bargain with when it came to making more money.

And that, in a convoluted way, is how I got to the announcement I’m making here today:

I’m returning to work in a W-2 job.

It’s actually an opportunity I didn’t see coming, and one I wouldn’t necessarily have wanted even a few months ago. The fact is, I love freelance work: the freedom of setting my own hours, of accepting projects that appeal to me (and rejecting the ones that don’t), not having to deal with the politics of a formal work structure – all these gave my once-floundering career new life. I found inspiration and motivation I never knew existed in the midst of my freelance work; ultimately, I found financial independence and true security for the first time as an adult. And I did it all with a 1099 instead of a W-2.

But there were complications. My taxes have been brutal the last few years as I’ve taken on multiple contractors and received multiple 1099s. Applying for a mortgage was nearly impossible, and even negotiating for an increase to my credit limit (because I wanted to boost my credit score, not because I actually needed the money) turned out to be a journey to the seventh level of hell.

I also found myself missing out on some of the perks of a W2 job and the benefits that come with it: paid vacations, a matching 401(k), employer-sponsored health insurance.

So when one of my longest-running contractors offered me a full-time, salaried job… well, it seemed like a no-brainer.

One of the themes of Financial Highway has been how to maximize your career – and ultimately, that’s what this move is all about. It’s not just about the added benefits and security of a W2 job compared to freelance work; at its core, my decision to return to a full-time job where someone else determines what I do instead of making that determination for myself is about challenging myself in ways I’d never dreamed. It’s about making good on the promise of my tony education. It’s about meeting new people and encountering new situations and solving new problems, and being involved in all those processes from the ground floor. That’s what this opportunity represents: opportunity to grow, to challenge, to change.

I realize that by accepting my new job, I’ll be giving up some of the things that made me happiest about my old one. I’ll be losing a lot of the personal independence to structure my days, weeks, and years, but I hope that loss will be balanced out by the things I’ll gain.

What factors do you weigh when making a big career change like the one I’m embarking on?

Libby Balke
Libby Balke