Ellen Stoehr Design
freelance creative director \\ designer


Thoughts become things


This is an opinion blog

about typography, design, and the challenges or innovations across different projects as entrepreneur but it also hosts personal challenges, wins and opinions.

May you learn from my findings and lessons. Proceed with caution.


Saving money and job interviewing

Miss anti-nine-to-five.
Miss anti-corporation.
Miss "you can do this."

You're NOT going to believe what I did last Wednesday.
I went to a job interview.
For a position at a large company.
Working 9—5.

Before you gasp, here's some context
The reason this event transpired was because I applied for what I thought was a freelance design position — you know the kind — short term, hourly rate, 1099, working mostly from home. Turns out they advertise the role as "freelance" to ensure that the fit is right (which is how I think they should treat every new hire at any job in the world, but that's another story), and if the fit seems right, the freelancer is offered the role long-term.

Now, here's even more important context
Days before the interview, I met with my financial advisor with an intention to deposit a chunk of change into a Roth IRA, but after a long conversation, he advised against it. He thought that due to this entrepreneurial endeavor and its risk, it would be wise for me to keep the money as buffer. His words, not mine, and they are wise words, but it made my brain start to go into this risk-and-fear-factor mode. Am I saving enough? How do I save enough? How can I start a retirement fund when I'm not making enough? How can I put 10% of each paycheck into an account when I'm living paycheck to paycheck? What IS ENOUGH?

Naturally, this left me in a really dark place.

Then the interview happened. It went really well, I thought. My interviewer was genuine, transparent and eloquent. I returned the favor. It was evident this person has big love for the company even after 10+ years, which is rare to find. When someone speaks so positively about their job, I do what most strong sales victims do: Put my blinders up, blocking out any negative curiosities. I can't help but drink the Kool-Aid at that point. That's why taking time to process a decision is so important. Then came my question of hourly rate or salary. "Do you have a number in mind?" I asked. Yes and it was way too low. I know this because I crunched the numbers. Here's what I have to factor in order to be a sustainable adult:

Low end, monthly 

  • Groceries $300

  • Dining out $100

  • Rent $455

  • Gasoline $60

  • 20-25% Roth IRA $200

  • 10% Emergency fund $200

  • 30% Tax pay-in $333

  • student loan debt $150

  • fixed costs $485

Full circle
I need $2290/month in order to start saving ANY money. That said, I composed an email to my interviewer and simply said: My career priority is happiness. After thinking everything over, I know what I need to do to be happy, to stay true to my values, and it's not taking a job with this company, full time.

Today I received an email from the interviewer asking if I'd be interested in freelance project, work from home, due in a week. Hey thanks universe. You bet your sweet ass, I do.