Freelance: Fear and Loathing an Uncertain Lifestyle

I remember years ago in grad school writing a script in which the main character didn’t want to quit a job she hated even though she had aspirations of being a writer and wanted to look into freelance opportunities. Her reason: freelancing is too unstable and the thought of being without a steady income is terrifying. This actually sums up my feelings about freelancing. I’ve been writing all my life and once dreamed of writing for music magazines, but I wanted to make sure I had a steady job that provided me with a source of income so that I wouldn’t have to worry about the bills.

It wasn’t until last year I realized I was living the life I so feared: I am a freelancer. I have an unsteady source of income with a part-time job that pays no benefits and provides as little working hours as possible. This only got worse when that small company I worked for was bought out by a larger one that cut hours even further and started trying to take even more out of my meager paycheck by signing us up for a retirement fund whether or not we asked. Before I found that job, I had already been working as a content writer. I didn’t realize I wasn’t working for the company but was considered a freelance, contract writer.

I now have a second freelance position writing web content that pays slightly better, so I favor this queue when work is available. I need all three jobs to stay afloat, especially since I technically do not work about two to three months out of the year with the PT position. However, since I decided to go ahead and pursue an old childhood dream of becoming a writer (I used to say author then), I have to negotiate the freelancing and PT job with making time for my own creative writing.

This is where the blessing and the curse occur. With the freelancing, I get to work on my own time at my own pace. However, this means I have to pace myself so that I have enough to cover the bills but not burn myself out by writing things that mean nothing to me. Sometimes the work is mind-numbing, but I have to do it.

Then there are the times in which the freelance work isn’t available, which is actually worse than performing monotonous work. I already know that without the freelance work, I won’t be able to make ends meet. This does more than slow me down; it paralyzes my creativity. I try to spend the time I’m not doing paid work doing my own writing, editing or revising. However, the thought of the bills not being paid at the end of the month often stops me from doing anything because that worry takes over and stomps my creativity into submission.

Right now I can’t complain. I had a longer work period with the PT job than I have had in some time and the freelance writing has produced enough work to keep me going until it is time to resume the PT gig again. I even got my first paid creative writing publication in Interfictions (yay!). And for the moment, I have the time to write this short blog post.

Perhaps this realization that I have been a freelancer for nearly four years will help me get over some of that fear and I know I’ll be able to work through it and survive. In the meantime, I have a manuscript to complete, another to revise and another to start.