I like to play poker occasionally. I’m usually not very good, because whenever I get a good hand, I burst into a fit of uncontrollable laughter, immediately giving my position away. It was during one of these laughing sessions that I learned about “pocket aces.”

In Texas Hold ’Em, you’re dealt two secret cards. You use these to try and win the game, and when you’re dealt two aces, it’s almost like an automatic win, as long as you play them correctly. This got me thinking: How could I guarantee that I would always hold a couple of aces in my hand in real life?

A Bad Hand of Cards: My Journey to Freelance Writing

I hadn’t been dealt the best cards in life, and I hadn’t been playing the ones I did have very well, either. I had graduated with an M.S. degree nearly two years earlier. However, there were no permanent full-time positions open in my field that would pay the bills. Instead I was forced to work in a job that wasn’t even remotely related to what I wanted to do.

I hated my job, and I still didn’t make enough money to cover the bills. I was miserable, and so I started doing freelance writing on the side to help bring in some extra money.

Eventually, I got better and better, and I started making real, meaningful amounts of money each month. I reached a point where I realized that if I wanted to, I could switch to freelance writing as my full-time career.

A Job Opportunity

Right about the same time that I came to this realization, something unexpected happened: A job opened up that I really, really wanted. It was perfect. The job description fitted almost exactly what I had done for my master’s thesis. On top of that, it was with an agency that I really wanted to work for.

There was only one problem: It was just a temporary, three-month position.

A sane person would never have applied for the job. I already had a permanent position with a full benefits package. Why trade that in for a temporary job with no benefits? But I sucked it up and applied anyway. I was ecstatic when I received an interview, and was later offered the position. I just started this job a month ago, and I already completely love it.

Without freelance writing as a backup, I never would have had the freedom to pursue what I really wanted to do.

Freelancing turned into the real-life version of a pocket ace: a career that I can always keep hidden in my back pocket or develop on the side as insurance against being forced to do something I don’t want to do.

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Freelancing Is on the Rise

I’m not the only one who’s discovered freelancing as a backup plan or even a full-time career. A 2017 study by Upwork and the Freelancers Union found that 47 percent of millennials are actively working as freelancers in some capacity.

As time goes on, experts predict that traditional full-time, permanent jobs with benefits will become even harder to find than they are now. The Upwork study predicts that freelancers will “be the majority of the U.S. workforce by 2027.”

How to Become a Freelancer

If you’re not a writer, don’t worry; there are all kinds of opportunities to become a freelancer, whether full time or part time. Web developers, social media managers, graphic designers, and accountants are all in high demand as freelancers. Even just starting a small side hustle making crafts, selling items on Amazon, or watching pets could potentially be lucrative.

The bottom line is that you should start thinking of alternative means of income now. The more options you have, the better insulated you’ll be from unexpected events. Plus, you’ll have a better shot at reaching your long-term goals.

As for me? My three-month position was extended to last until next year. After that, I hope that there will be a full-time job available. But if not, I’m not worried. I’ve always got freelance writing as my pocket aces.