From Corporate HR To Freelancing with Laura Gariepy

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Table Of Contents

In this episode, Mike Gardon chats with Laura Gariepy about her journey from corporate HR to full-time freelancing. Laura is the owner of Every Day by the Lake, LLC, a freelance written content creation company that helps busy business owners stay top of mind with their target audience. She is also a business coach to new and aspiring freelancers and runs an online resource hub for them called Before You Go Freelance. In addition, she helps other writers get clear on their message, plan their content, and produce compelling written works.


  • Laura’s background
  • Laura’s thoughts on working from home and how the pandemic has changed corporate’s thoughts on working from home
  • How Laura transitioned from corporate HR to freelancing
  • How Laura made money writing for the first time
  • Laura’s thoughts on the biggest factors that prevent people from leaving their job or starting the journey of freelancing
  • Employee vs independent contractor taxes
  • What Laura thinks is the best thing about freelancing
  • How do you know if you need a coach to help you become a freelancer?


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Disclaimer: The transcript that follows has been generated using artificial intelligence. We strive to be as accurate as possible, but minor errors and slightly off timestamps may be present due to platform differences.

Michael Gardon (00:00):

Hello again, everyone. And welcome to another edition of CareerCloud Radio. I am your host Michael Gardon sitting in for Justin today. I've wanted to talk for a long time about this topic that is near and dear to my heart. And that is freelancing, freelancing. Something that we haven't really talked about much on the podcast, but I wanted to give our listeners a view into other career paths and career choices. And I couldn't think of a better way to start doing that. So today we're going to talk to my friend, Laura [inaudible] Laura is a full-time freelance writer. She even writes for a career and she's also a freelance coach helping aspiring freelancers make the leap into full-time freelance work. And she works with other established freelancers work through different issues within their business to get a much better performance. So without further ado, here is my wide ranging conversation with my friend, Laura. Laura, welcome to the Careercloud radio podcast. How are you?

Laura Gariepy  (01:07):

I'm great, Mike. Thanks for having me. How are you?

Michael Gardon (01:09):

Doing very well. We, you and I were chatting awhile back. I was down in your neck of the woods, Florida, a couple of weeks ago with my kids at Disney world. That was fantastic. Yeah, we had good weather. The lines were short due to some of the capacity restrictions. So that was absolutely fantastic. Thanks for joining me. You've recently started doing some writing for career cloud and you're a full-time freelance writer and an expert when it comes to freelancing. And that is a topic that I've really wanted to dive into because it can give our listeners a little bit broader view of career tracks and what people are doing these days for actual career work. So I'm hoping to really dive into that with you, but I wanted to first start with, I love backstories. And so I wanted to first start with, if you could tell me about the first job you ever had and what that was like.

Laura Gariepy  (02:05):

Well, I definitely have a long and winding career path, so I'm full of backstories, but my first job was when I was in high school. I think I started when I was 15 and I was part-time after school and weekends, I worked in a nursing home as basically kind of like a candy striper. You know, I didn't really have any official medical duties. I transport the residents from place to place within the building, keep them company, pass things out to them. It was, it was really great, you know, I'm glad that was my first experience instead of, you know, maybe working retail or at fast food or something like that, just because I got to connect so deeply with the residents there. And I learned a lot from him.

Michael Gardon (02:45):

That's really interesting. So you were, yeah, you were very young when that was happening. Do you think that influenced at all where you eventually took your career or influence anything along your path?

Laura Gariepy  (02:56):

Yeah, I mean, I worked in elder care again later on, you know, what I needed to make some extra money alongside of my then full-time job. I worked part-time at a different nursing home just because I liked the work and it was a good way to have another income stream. And now even as a writer, I have a client that is like a, a nursing facility. So I'm still transferring that knowledge and my soft spot for that population, even in my new venture as a freelancer. So it's definitely influenced me in that way.

Michael Gardon (03:30):

Very nice prior to becoming a full-time writer and freelancer, and really giving yourself all of that freedom, which we'll get into in a little bit, you had a pretty successful corporate career in HR, is that correct?

Laura Gariepy  (03:44):

Yes. Uh, I was in HR for about 10 years, you know, all the way from entry-level kind of admin work up to the director level with managerial and supervisory responsibilities.

Michael Gardon (03:55):

Yeah. That's great. What did you learn from that experience about how corporates maybe are evolving in their hiring processes or in how they're thinking about acquiring and retaining talent?

Laura Gariepy  (04:10):

Well, I think I saw that it was getting more competitive. You know, you couldn't just say we have this job and here's some money now come work for us. There has to be like a connection with the talent. There has to be something about your company or about the role specifically that entices them to work at your organization versus somewhere else. So that could be in the mission of the organization that could be in the form of special perks, that they couldn't get in a benefits package elsewhere. It could be in company culture where work-life balance is prioritize and there's flexible scheduling and things of that nature. So over those 10 years, I definitely saw the landscape get more competitive and skew towards the companies that were better able to meet the desires of the town.

Michael Gardon (04:58):

Okay. So it was really kind of like talent dictating because it's interesting. We have this, I actually have a podcast episode coming up where I'm interviewing the CEO of a telecom company in my area. And he has worked for one company, his entire career, right from the first job he ever took to. Now he's the CEO and that's just unheard of nowadays. And I really want to ask him about what he thinks are the influences there. And what you're kind of talking about is a little bit, uh, I think employees understanding their worth or understanding their options and being able to dictate or play companies off of each other. Is that kinda what you're seeing?

Laura Gariepy  (05:41):

Yeah. I mean, obviously when opportunities are scares, people will be more inclined to take a role. That's just okay, but if they're already gainfully employed and they're looking to make a switch, they have the opportunity to be super selective and say, this is what I want my next employer. And I'm not going to make a move until I get it. And I think companies are recognizing that and not only are they saying, okay, we need to retain our top talent. So we need to up the ante in terms of being able to keep our all star players, but we also need to go and attract them away from our competitors.

Michael Gardon (06:18):

Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. And if it feels like this is sort of being accelerated too, with the remote work push that kind of spawned by the pandemic, I mean, employees are really able to kind of move around a little bit more and are thus open to more, even more opportunities. So that's really interesting. I think it's something that we need to really keep an eye on going forward.

Laura Gariepy  (06:40):

Absolutely. And it's one of those deals where a sense, the pandemic being able to work remotely or to have a flexible schedule or both are pretty much expectations at this point now that so many people have been doing that for over a year. Now they're saying we're not going back, you know, and there's no real reason for us to go back. So I think companies that don't continue to offer that type of work arrangement are going to fall behind.

Michael Gardon (07:05):

Yeah, I totally agree. I've been on a couple of local news stations talking about the pandemics impact on remote work and hiring practices and all this kind of stuff and absolutely agree with you. It's an expectation. And on the flip side, I think really companies by and large have found not like it wasn't as feared, right? Like decrease in productivity and things like that really hasn't been seeing on a large scale, obviously that's company dependent and company specific, but by and large companies are kind of like, yeah, this sort of makes sense for a good subset of our workers. And it's showing up with better productivity because of employee's quality of life. Pressure's just off, but we're still getting the same amount of work done. So I think it's been like a big sort of positive for surprise on a lot of the corporate world.

Laura Gariepy  (07:58):

I totally agree. And then you also have the fact that if they're not bringing people into an office, they may be able to sell off properties or abandoned leases or just not renew them and add savings to their bottom line. So it's kind of a win for everyone.

Michael Gardon (08:14):

Yeah, for sure. I think there was a headline just yesterday. Google saves a billion dollars a year by not having employees in the office. So I mean that's, yeah, that's a real, that's a real number for sure. So super interesting. Well, cool. So going from kind of HR and your corporate experience, I'm really interested in your path to becoming a freelancer. Can you kind of start with how you even started thinking about making a transition?

Laura Gariepy  (08:44):

So four or five years ago, I came across a concept called early retirement. And that really appealed to me because I didn't want to just have, you know, a 10 to 15 year window before I died to do what I wanted. And so I started to save some money in pursuit of that goal fast forward a couple of years. And you know, I lost my, my grandfather and wound up having three days bereavement leave to fly from Florida to Massachusetts to handle all of that. And to be back in the office, like super quick, it just was completely inadequate. And I said, I'm not going to do this again. I'm not going to be able to retire early for another 10 to 15 years at this rate. And how many other tragedies am I going to have to rush through? How many other things are going to pass me by how many positive opportunities am I going to have to say no to, because I'm locked into this job.

Laura Gariepy  (09:37):

And so I said, Hey, I've got this money in the bank from amassing it for the last couple of years in the pursuit of early retirement. Why don't I just give something a go now? Like, why am I continuing to delay this? So within three months of my grandfather's passing, I had quit. My full-time corporate job. I didn't know what I was going to do. So maybe it wasn't the most calculated move on my part, but I said, okay, I have enough money in the bank to be able to take 12 to 18 months to figure it out. Worst case scenario. I go back to HR and fortunately through the creation of a website and starting to blog and networking, I realized I could make money freelance writing. And so once that realization hit, and once I started to make my first few dollars, that way it snowballed pretty quickly.

Michael Gardon (10:27):

Yeah. It's really interesting. I think there's so often two camps, right? There's the camp that knows they need to make a change and baby steps it in terms of maybe they're just dabbling, right? They're starting a side hustle, they're getting a client doing some freelance work and they build themselves up to a point. And then there's another camp that needs to just say no enough is enough and take that leap. And so you were sort of in that second camp, but you also made a really, I think, important risk assessment decision, which was all right. I did these activities ahead of time that gave me some extra flexibility in my bank account and I can live lean and mean, and it's worth it to me to spend that money on myself here now to see if I can make the step towards more freedom or a better situation for myself. I think like I come from a financial trading backgrounds. I always am thinking of what is my downside, what's my risk. How do I prepare for this? And so I think that's like a really important step, not just kind of flying by the seat of your pants, but saying, okay, I have enough here that it's going to give me some upside. I can take some risks here and do this without feeling vulnerable.

Laura Gariepy  (11:47):

Absolutely. And I'm the breadwinner for my household. So I knew that I couldn't do this recklessly. You know, I said, I've got enough runway to be able to safely try this out without compromising the stability of my household. And I also had a couple of part-time remote jobs, unrelated to freelancing early on, just so that I could preserve my nest egg a little bit more. So I did kind of shield myself from risk in that regard for people that are just thinking about starting to freelance, I would definitely say if you don't have a ton of money in the bank ready to go, you probably need to build it on the side until your income meets or exceeds what you're making in your day job. And you also need to have a cash cushion to support those lean months. So definitely respect people who want to make a snap decision and get going like yesterday, but you also have to be realistic and make sure that you don't set yourself up for colossal failure

Michael Gardon (12:48):

To pull on that thread a little bit. Tell me a little bit about the other side jobs. You may be cobbled together to make ends meet while you were figuring stuff out. Was that w were you taking little bets? Where were you trying to explore what you wanted to do next? Or did you know it was freelance and you were just cobbling some other things together in the short-term.

Laura Gariepy  (13:08):

So while I had those jobs, I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to do. And I did have a little bit of fear kicking in. So it's like if I can continue to bring in some cash, I know I won't drain my savings as quickly. I had three, I believe, different little side jobs. So one was continuing to support my former employer while they hired someone else. And I have to do that on two separate occasions because the first hire they made didn't stick. So that was good. You know, I had the familiarity there. It was really easy to just drop right in and go and make some money. I also had a connection with a regional staffing agency. And so I helped them source some talent. That was like a, part-time a few hours a week kind of thing. And then finally I did some social media ad rating for a large media company. And that was just gas money, basically. That was just something I could do watching TV essentially. Okay.

Michael Gardon (14:04):

Well, what, I'm what I'm kind of hearing, you were able to sort of leverage your previous skillset in HR to get a couple of income streams going at at least cover a gap, as opposed to going out, stepping out and just trying something brand new. You were able to really leverage that and that that's also a kind of a, a risk thing. I mean, it's, you're able to do that really easily and then take the rest of your time and really explore

Laura Gariepy  (14:31):

Exactly, you know, while I was working those part-time jobs, I started a blog. I started to make connections. I started to really think about the opportunities for making money, you know, from my laptop so that I could have scheduling and location independence. And so not worrying about my financial situation, definitely it a lot easier to focus on that.

Michael Gardon (14:53):

When did you realize that writing was the path? Like what prompted that

Laura Gariepy  (14:58):

I got paid to write a guest post? So there was a prominent personal finance website that was calling for a little short stories and I responded to the query, not even realizing I was going to get paid. I just wanted to be able to say, Hey, I got featured on such and such. And then someone from the company reached out and said, Hey, we need you to fill out a w nine and tell us where to mail your check. And I was just kind of floored and it wasn't much, but it was like, Hey, if I can replicate and scale this process, I can make a living doing it. And within a month or so of that, I got my first long-term client, which I still write for today. And within a few months of that, I was starting to make decent money. So it kind of took off quickly once it clicked.

Michael Gardon (15:44):

Okay. Yeah. Really interesting. That that first check is so important just to your psyche really. I mean, it might be a couple cents from ad words, even, you know, if you started a blog or a website, but it's such a powerful thing to realize that you, you actually can make money in a different way. That's sort of like, I mean, to me, that's the biggest blocker that prevents a lot more people from actually stepping out. It's just, it's, it's so hard to think about, Oh, I can actually make $1 doing something different. How do you see the biggest blockers or the biggest impediments to people trying to move down your path?

Laura Gariepy  (16:28):

There's fear of income insecurity. And then also the loss of company benefits. So having to go out and, you know, handle their own healthcare, their own retirement, that type of deal is very daunting. Especially if you have a family, you know, where the premium costs for health insurance are astronomical.

Michael Gardon (16:49):

Yeah. That's actually a really good point. It's something that I overlooked because in my career, whether it was consulting or running my own business, I have really not had to worry about that. Luckily because my wife's a doctor and she has great benefits and healthcare through that. But so I've always kind of overlooked that, but that is a major impediment. And it's also, it's just really hard to find good quality information. Do you have some tips or some good sources for people that are really trying to figure that part out?

Laura Gariepy  (17:21):

Yeah. I've actually written a blog about it on my website, but I recommend that people think through their situations. So if you're under age 26, maybe you can get on your, your parents' plan. Maybe you can get on a spouse's plan. If you're a veteran, maybe you could take advantage of VA benefits. You could go to and check out to see maybe if you qualify for a subsidy to offset some of those costs. If that's still too expensive, you could look at something like a health share through a Liberty health share, for example, where it's not quite traditional insurance, but it's a cost sharing program with other members that basically defrays the expense of care. And there are other options as well. You know, I actually self-insure and you know, I don't recommend it for everyone. You know, if you have chronic health issues or you're prone to injury or whatever, that's not the smartest move, but for me paying as I go and basically rolling the dice that I won't get some kind of major ailment is more cost-effective than paying an astronomical premium and a ridiculous deductible. So it really is case by case dependent. You have to kind of take a look at what options are available specifically to you, how healthy you are, how much medical care you require and what your risk tolerance is.

Michael Gardon (18:46):

Okay. Yeah. Really good points there. We'll make sure we link to your blog posts in our show notes and to some of these resources that you mentioned as well. The other one that I thought I was thinking about, that's really muddy and murky is the, his taxes. Do you have anything to say on the kind of the tax side of things and the differences between him being employee and being an independent contractor type situation? Yeah.

Laura Gariepy  (19:11):

Yeah. So when you work for yourself, you are responsible for your taxes. There's nobody withholding them or remitting them on your behalf. So essentially you have to pay what's called the self-employment tax. So not only are you covering the half of social security and Medicare that you used to while you were a W2 employee, but you're having to pay the company's portion as well. So that's, that's over 15% of your income right there. Then you have to worry about whatever income tax are subject to based on where you live. So that that could include federal state and local taxes. So my recommendation is to set aside a percentage of your earnings right off the bat. As soon as the money hits your account, transfer it into another account. That's earmarked specifically for taxes and don't touch it. Maybe if you've saved too much, which I've done in the past, you can then pull that back into your business or give yourself a bonus or something. But you want to make sure that you are not scrambling at tax time, which by the way happens four times a year as an independent contractor, as opposed to just having to file once as an employee. So you'll have to file. What's called estimated quarterly taxes to the IRS at set intervals throughout the year, because uncle Sam doesn't want to wait all year to get his money.

Michael Gardon (20:30):

So to somebody kind of like listening to this, that's thinking, Oh man, health insurance, Laura's telling me I might be paying more taxes. You know, this is complicated. What's the best part about being a freelancer. And, and why do you continue to, to pursue this path and continue to build your business?

Laura Gariepy  (20:53):

It's freedom. I mean, I work when I want to, yes, I have deadlines and client expectations to meet, but if I feel like working at midnight so I can goof off all day, then that's what I'm going to do. You know, I can roll out of bed at 10:00 AM and walk three feet across the room to my computer, as opposed to getting in my car and driving 40 minutes away to go sit in some dank cubicle, I have multiple clients. So if one of them decides to go away, I'm not scrambling. I still have income. And because I have multiple clients, if one of them really starts to get on my nerves, like if we're just not a good fit, I can end the relationship and not have to worry about my own security. So yes, I do have bosses in the sense that I have to please the clients that I'm working with and working for. But I definitely have a lot more say over who I work with, where I work, when I work, how much I work. It's just an amazing sense of autonomy that you can't get as an employee, no matter how flexible they are with you.

Michael Gardon (21:59):

Yeah. Couldn't agree. More freedom is the number one biggest word there absolutely a hundred percent. So you kind of talked about some of your clients. I also mentioned in the beginning that you're a coach to aspiring freelancers. I want to kind of get into a little bit of why does somebody need a coach? Who's a really good fit for coaching and what are the types of things that you go over and help people with on a freelance coaching journey.

Laura Gariepy  (22:27):

So I think you need a coach. If you kind of struggle to synthesize information that you find. So you can go online and read every blog post on my website, listen to every podcast and have the information. But if you can't weave it together, if you can't figure out how to take action on it in a meaningful way, based on your circumstances, that's where a coach comes in handy. They can help you put the puzzle together, see your own personal roadmap based on your circumstances in this moment and give you action steps to get you to where you want to be over time. It's cheerleading, it's accountability. It's a good old kick in the pants. If you need it. The best people for coaching are ones that want it. You know, if you go into coaching and you're close minded, it's not going to work.

Laura Gariepy  (23:23):

You need to want to be a sponge and take advantage of the knowledge that someone who's further along in their journey has acquired. In my coaching program, we tailor each session to the clients. So if you're struggling with how to put your finances together, to be able to make the leap, we'll talk about that. If you're struggling to set your freelance rates, that'll be the topic. If you are unsure or hesitant to promote yourself, we'll talk through that and work out some strategies that feel good for you. So it's really meeting you where you are so that each session helps you advance on that roadmap that we create.

Michael Gardon (24:06):

Makes sense. What are some of the biggest misconceptions about freelancing that maybe some of your clients come to the table with?

Laura Gariepy  (24:14):

Some folks feel like you have to do it full time to be legit quote unquote. And that's absolutely not true. If you write one freelance article, you're a freelance writer. So I think that's a big misconception. I also think people don't understand the full scope of services that they can provide. So people think, okay, freelance writer, freelance graphic designer, freelance web developer, but then they're like, what else is there that might be applicable to my skillset? And the answer is you can really freelance offering any legal service. You know, there's a market out there that's willing to pay you to consult for them. It doesn't matter what your background is. You can freelance use it.

Michael Gardon (24:57):

Yeah, absolutely. I've hired many freelancers to help in my business for I'm obviously working with you and other freelance writers to graphic design, to book design, to just data collection services, you know, any type of thing that I might need in terms of research. I hire freelancers all the time on an hourly basis, just for even research practices, a podcast editing, video, editing, social media campaigns. I mean, my businesses run with freelancers and there's really no limit to what can be done there if you have an affinity for it and a and a skillset for it. Yes. Well, excellent. Is there anything else that you'd like to add to what we've talked about? Is there any place I didn't take you that our readers need to hear?

Laura Gariepy  (25:48):

I think the most important thing before you go freelance is to understand your motivation to do so. So a lot of people say I'm going to quit my job and start a business because I hate my boss or I hate my commute or whatever it is going. Freelance may not necessarily be the answer. You don't want to start your business running away from something. You want to start it running towards your ideal lifestyle. So if you hate your job, maybe it's just time to get another job. But if you're really looking to create a new way of living, that affords you freedom and flexibility, then freelancing might be for you.

Michael Gardon (26:27):

Couldn't have said it better. It's fantastic. Laura, where can people find more about you on the web? I know I've come across a lot of your writings and stuff like that on LinkedIn, but tell our audience where they can find more about you.

Laura Gariepy  (26:41):

So my main website, before you go and as Mike said, I'm very active on LinkedIn and also on Twitter. So you can find me there at Everyday Lake.

Michael Gardon (26:54):

Everyday Lake. Fantastic. Thanks so much, Laura. We're looking forward to seeing more of your writing on Careercloud. Really appreciate your time. And thanks for joining us.

Outro (27:07):

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