Being a freelancer is like being in love with someone who doesn’t really love you. The other party calls all the shots and you can only comply or get dumped. Meanwhile, every time you work, it’s like auditioning for a full-time position, so the pressure is great. Co-workers are nice but sometimes get frustrated since the freelancer is not up to speed on changes that were put in place since she last worked.
The life of a freelancer is one of feast or famine. For example, I hadn’t any work for days and then in one day I was asked to work nine consecutive days which was excellent since it was December. The very next day I got a text for the employer saying “big changes, we no longer need you to work those days.” Apparently I was filling in for a writer who quit and then decided not to leave. Sometimes I’m asked to work immediately which leaves me scrambling to find rides for my son and preparing his dinner in the morning so he can zap it in the microwave when he gets home from school and I’m still working.
I feel like I never can relax. I’m constantly checking emails to make sure there isn’t a job offer I’ve missed. Most companies will ask several freelancers at the same time to work and the one that gets back first is the one who gets the assignment. I’ve missed several jobs simply because I didn’t have a cell signal and couldn’t call or text in time.
I always feel like an outsider or the new kid at school. When the staff casually arranges to go out after a shift or get together, I’m usually ignored and not invited. When the employees all marvel at the health club that is included in their benefits, I just silently think, ‘must be nice.” People are always planning their next vacation while I’m planning on how to pay the electric bill. True I have enough time to take a vacation, but without a job I can’t afford one. I hear about profit sharing, medical and dental benefits, retirement savings and other company perks such as free or discounted tickets to shows and sporting events and shopping discounts. I get to listen, but never share in the bounty.
Granted there are advantages to working as a freelancer. First, I can ignore a lot of the office politics and backstabbing. After a particularly draining shift I know when I walk out the door I my not have to return for several weeks. I don’t have to get involved in boring meetings and training sessions. No one sees me as a threat and I can acknowledge that this is not my only job when things go poorly.
People seem amazed that I could possibly have a busy schedule without the ball and chain of a full-time job. Being both a mother and father to my children takes time. I have a daughter who just started college and needs a lot of phone consultations and hand holding. My son needs to be driven to practices and tournaments. And if either child needs help with school work I need to learn the subject and become his tutor. Meals still need preparing since there is less money for takeout, ready made and restaurants. Laundry still needs to be washed and since I can’t afford the dry cleaners I have the ironing and hand-washing. Since I only can afford to get my yard mowed twice a month there’s still a lot of maintenance to maintaining two acres of land and gardens. Paying bills takes longer. I have to figure out which bills I must pay immediately or can delay every month. Forget household help or hiring tradesmen. YouTube has taught me how to plaster a wall, grout tile and unclog a toilet, repair lamps, the vacuum and the garage door opener. Shopping takes longer. I can’t just order what I need on the internet or buy at the store. I research items to make sure I’m getting the lowest price. And sometimes I have to go to several stores to get the sale prices. I also sell my kids outgrown clothing on eBay. On top of all of this, I have to stay current in my field, know what’s going on and teach myself new technology.
The next time you think of quitting your nine to five job and freelancing think twice. It may not be as relaxing as it looks. I’m are always looking for the next gig and worrying about money.
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