- April 13, 2011
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Sticking to freelancing full-time was a decision that did not come easily. It was one of those hold-my-breath-and-jump sort of things. My heart was telling me to work for myself while my head was saying, “What are you CRAZY?? Just take a full-time job somewhere for the stability.” But last summer was fantastic – I worked hard and made just as much as I ever did at an office but I also volunteered for a number of months at an old folk’s home, I went to the pool every day, I met 9-to-5 friends for lunches, and I’m really looking forward to this summer, especially if we get a house.
But there are definitely cons to being self-employed. You have to “prove yourself” a lot more, not only to banks and financial people but to yourself. It can be a lonely existence without the company of co-workers. It can be really hard to put yourself on a schedule and not stay up until 4am watching infomercials and eating Ben & Jerry’s fudge brownie overload ice cream. You constantly find yourself reassuring loan specialists and mortgage brokers and yourself that you’re a valuable asset.
There’s no one there to bounce ideas off of (at least not directly – my Facebook and Twitter friends know how often I use them as sounding boards). What should I charge for a contract? Does this picture illustrate the article properly? How would you paraphrase this quote? Is it complement or compliment?
Unless you live in a space with extra rooms where you can set up a home office, your workspace is wherever you happen to be. I’ve worked on my couch, in bed, on my balcony, in a park, at a cafe, on the bus, at restaurants, at friend’s houses, and on vacation. There’s no giant desk calendar that’s always handy so you can set appointments, and no corkboard to hang mementos and pictures and other keepsakes (and anyone who has ever worked in an office with me knows my cubicle is always littered with toys, memorabilia, and more). You find yourself relying on an agenda as much as you do air. If I ever lost my datebook I would also lose an address book, all of my birthday reminders, a cookbook, and an “Aunt Flo tracker.”
Your personal and professional life inevitably become one. You have to give out your home address so PR companies can send samples (because the samples are one of the best parts of journalism! I kid, I kid…), while editors and interviewees have to leave messages on your home voicemail (where you’ve possibly recorded a corny personalized message… not that I’d ever do that).
And finally, your fashion sense disappears. You find yourself living in sweatpants and wool striped socks with your hair in a scrunchie. You change from PJs into, well, PJs. By the time you go somewhere that calls for a little makeup, you pull out your glitter eyeshadow only to learn that that look went out of style three years ago. Don’t get me wrong – I still shower and brush my hair and teeth and keep up with my personal hygiene… that’s not what I’m saying. But why would I go to the trouble of picking out an outfit with accessories, etc. if the only person who is going to see me is my landlord when I run down to get the mail?
Self-employment has been the most rewarding part of my professional career, but it doesn’t come without challenges. When you’re crammed into a cubicle and dream of working from home, you don’t think of the long days where editors on east and west coasts keep the assignments coming in well past 5pm, or making major career decisions completely solo, or staring at a computer screen for hours lost only in your thoughts and work – you can imagine my surprise when I answer the phone at 4pm and realize that it’s the first time I have spoken out loud all day (ME!).
But I still wouldn’t have it any other way…